The CTO project
Something extraordinary happened in Canada on Monday, August 22. On that day, progressing from east to west, at exactly 11 a.m. local time, 100 plaques were unveiled in various public venues – from Amherst, Nova Scotia, to Nanaimo, British Columbia (both sites of first world war-era internment camps) – to mark the 100th anniversary of Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920 and the 100th anniversary of the War Measures Act.
Called Project “CTO,” this “wave of remembrance,” as the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation described it, recalled the heinous government operation that labeled more than 80,000 immigrants to Canada as “enemy aliens” and interned some 8,500 in 24 camps throughout the country. Why were they considered “enemy aliens”? Simply because of where they came from and, therefore, the twisted thinking went, could be suspected of allegiance with the enemy. There was no evidence, no due process afforded these immigrants. The majority were Ukrainians who hailed from the Austro-Hungarian crownlands of Halychyna and Bukovyna. Others were of German, Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian and Armenian descent.
The project to commemorate the internment operations and its victims – the brainchild of Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk, professor of political geography at the Royal Military College of Canada – aims to educate the people of Canada about a little-known episode of their history. Indeed, as Dr. Luciuk, who heads the CTO project, told The Weekly in an interview published on August 17, he himself first learned of the internment operations in 1978, while doing research for his master’s degree. Many of the internees’ family members were not even aware of the grave injustice done to their kin. Not odd, given that the Canadian government at first denied that such operations had taken place.
Dr. Luciuk went on to write a book about those operations, and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, of which he is a leading member, pressed the campaign for recognition and redress for this historic wrong. It took many years of effort, but the campaign finally succeeded with the establishment in 2008 of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, which was endowed with $10 million from the federal government. But it was never about money or compensation to those once tarred as “enemy aliens” and their families – only about memory. Mary Manko Haskett, one of the victims, underscored that all she wanted was for Canadians to remember what had happened. “Remember. Learn. Never forget them…” – that’s the theme of the CTO project.
In Toronto alone, home to a huge Ukrainian community, there are 10 venues where the bilingual – English and French – plaques were unveiled on August 22. One of them, as correspondent Oksana Zakydalsky reports, was installed in the headquarters of the city’s branch of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization. Thanks to the CTO project, new generations of Canadians throughout the land will be informed and will perpetuate the memory of those who came before them.
Also on August 22, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement “in remembrance of those interned in Canada during the first world war,” which read, in part: “Governments have a solemn duty to defend against legitimate threats in wartime, but we look back with deep regret on an unjust policy that was implemented indiscriminately as a form of collective punishment and in violation of fundamental principles of natural justice, including the presumption of innocence. In Canada we acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and we learn from them. We are also steadfast in our commitment to remembering those who suffered. …let us also remember to celebrate the achievements of the internees and their descendants, who overcame this hardship and contributed so much to the building of our country as loyal and dedicated citizens.”