- Enemy Aliens, Prisoners of War: Internment in Canada during the Great War, and: A Bare and Impolitic Right: Internment and Ukrainian-Canadian Redress
Between 1914 and 1920, during Canada's first national internment operations, thousands of Europeans were needlessly imprisoned as 'enemy aliens.' They suffered the confiscation of what little wealth they had and were forced to do heavy labour under trying conditions in the country's frontier hinterlands. Many more were disenfranchised or subjected to other state-sanctioned censures. These indignities were endured not because of anything they had done but only because of who these people were, where they came from. Most were Ukrainians, although, officially, they were registered not by nationality but according to their status as Austro-Hungarian citizens. As pedestrian accounts of the home front in Canada during the First World War still often misidentify these men, women, and children as 'Austrians,' the two books under review are especially welcome for treating what was, until recently, a relatively forgotten episode in Canadian history and for ensuring that the reality of who these people were, and what they went through, is fixed.
Although it is not readily discernible from a simple reading of either book, Bohdan Kordan is one of the initiators of the Ukrainian-Canadian redress movement, having coauthored a 28 October 1988 opinion-editorial, 'And Who Says that Time Heals All?' in the Globe and Mail, thus propelling this issue into a national forum. And Craig Mahovsky was, for a time, involved with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the group that has, for some two decades, called upon the government of Canada to negotiate acknowledgment and redress. While both writers have withdrawn from active involvement in that ongoing campaign, Kordan recently organized the installation of an impressive monument in rural Saskatchewan, near a work site where internees were transported in from adjacent Alberta. That plinth complements the nearly two dozen trilingual plaques and statues installed across Canada since 1994 by the UCCLA, at locations familiar to many Canadians for their natural beauty or historical [End Page 368] significance but unknown for what they also were - places of detention and hard labour for internees whose civil liberties were sacrificed on the altar of public order. Only in the past decade have Cave and Basin, in Banff National Park, or Kingston's Fort Henry, to name but two, been recognized as once having been concentration camps.
The coauthored book is, in essence, a reworked briefing paper prepared originally for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which has since joined the UCCLA in its ongoing negotiations with the federal government over redress. Those particularly interested in the legal issues arising out of the internment operations will certainly find Mahovsky's contribution informative. The more substantial book, authored by Kordan alone, comprises six thoughtful commentaries having to do with various aspects of this historical injustice, rather than being a coherent history of what happened during the internment operations. Thus Kordan's chapters deal with themes such as the responsibilities of the state to the 'enemy within' in times of domestic and international crisis, the exploitation of forced labour in the creation of many of western Canada's national parks, and a comparative assessment of how 'enemy aliens' and pows were treated differently within the dominion and overseas. These reflections give evidence of the author's abiding interest in understanding the sociological and philosophical implications of what happened to people who were lured to this country with promises of free land and freedom only to find themselves suddenly branded as the enemy and then partly excised from the national project.
While welcome additions to a growing body of scholarly literature on this troubling episode in our country's ethnic and immigration history, neither book is up to date or entirely accurate when describing the Ukrainian-Canadian redress movement. Thus Inky Mark's Bill C 331 - The...