Americas and Oceania Collections blog

Exploring the Library’s collections from the Americas and Oceania

18 February 2011

Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund

View of Vernon Military Training Camp, 1915 (by the Vernon Photo. Co.). Vernon was also the site of one of the war’s internment camps, operating from September 1914 to February 1920.

In October 2004, private members bill C-331 was presented to the House of Commons of Canada to ‘recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Ukrainian descent and other Europeans who were interned at the time of the First World War and to provide for public commemoration…’.  Under the War Measures Act, and against the advice of the British Foreign Office, several thousand men were interned in twenty four labour camps across the country, and around 80,000 enemy aliens were obliged to report at police stations.  Those in the camps were forced to give up their possessions for the duration and were obliged to undertake hard labour (although many were paroled into private work by 1917); many women and children also accompanied their husbands and fathers. Many of those not sent to their camps lost their jobs as a result of the stigma attached to their situation. Survivors and their descendents have since sought official acknowledgement and redress for this historical wrong.

The 2004 bill marked an agreement between the Ukrainian Canadian Community and the Government of Canada to set up the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. Since 2008 this fund has supported projects that commemorate those affected by Canada’s first national internment operations. 

This project also provides an opportunity to award funding grants for primary research into this largely ignored episode of Canadian history.  Here in the Americas team we became aware of the Fund through their donation of the 2010 Annual Report which we recently received and which will find its way into the catalogue for general consultation. There are other material records of the internment camps in the Library’s collections, notably in the Canadian Colonial Copyright Collection which contains photographs of many of Canada’s wartime camps and exercise grounds, including a panorama of the internment camp at Valcartier.

[P.H. & J.J.] 


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