OF IMMIGRANT WORKERS
"Ukrainian and other internees at the Castle Mountain Alberta internment camp in 1915"
PM reaches out to Ukrainians
Ottawa to spend $2.5-million to mark internment of citizens in First World War Thursday, August 25, 2005
It's been a long time coming, the UCCLA has been lobbying for two decades to get this wrong addressed. Chretien could have done it back in 1997 or 98, 99, etc etc.
"The Liberal Party understands your concern ... we support your efforts to secure the redress of Ukrainian-Canadians' claims arising from their internment and loss of freedoms during the First World War ... we will continue to monitor the situation closely and seek to ensure that the government honours its promise." Jean Chretien, Leader of the Liberal Opposition, June 8 1993.
Request to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister
of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Sheila Copps, MP
by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
24 January 1997
Before they interned the Japanese, the Canadian Government interned first and second wave Ukrainian immigrant. They did this creating the War Measures Act supposedly because Ukrainian immigrants were from Austro-Hungarian Empire and thus 'enemy aliens'. The real story is that they were interned for being communists, socialists, and labour radicals.
To this date it has not been determined what was the driving force for the Internment. Was it due to wartime xenophobia and war fever, or the Economic benefits of a forced-labour system, or bigoted-driven emotions against Canada's first non-Official language speaking immigrants? The truth is that it was probably due to mixture of these reasons. Unfortunately, the War Measures Act formed the basis for future government incursions on the Civil liberties of Citizens and immigrants to Canada. This act was used as the basis of the internment of the Japanese Canadians in 1941 and the French-Canadians (or Quebecois) in 1970. This act was always implemented via an Order in Council, rather than through approval via the democratically elected parliament. This Act was first implemented during World War I where Ukrainian Canadians were primarly and unjustly made it's first victims.
Internment of Ukrainians in Canada 1914-1920
The internment and arrests coincided with the Canadian Government banning the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW, as an illegal alien organization set to overthrow the government. The War Measures Act was used against the Wobblies and other labour activists. While in the United States, they passed the Criminal Syndicalist Act to ban the IWW, who were in outspoken opposition to Imperialist War.
Anti Immigrant rhetoric was used to cover up the fact that immigrant workers in Western Canada were organizing for their rights, whether those workers were Ukrainian, Italian, German, Slovian, Jews, Icelanders,English, Scots or Irish, etc. Racism against non-English speaking immigrants was virulent, all dark skinned Eastern and Central European workers (being peasants or farmworkers) were called 'niggers', by their English bosses. Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans were called 'Bohunks'.
In Alberta many of the Ukrainians along with other new immigrants, Italians, Finns, Hungarians, Germans, etc. worked in the the dark primitive coalmines in order to get wages to clear the homesteads they farmed. Homesteads that they had been promised by the CPR and Canadian government in order to open up the West. They had also been promised NO TAXES and NO CONSCRIPTION, both of which were reneged on by the Borden Conservative Government in 1917. This was why Peter Kropotkin advised the Russian Anabaptist Community, the Duhkobours to come to Canada, as pacifists they were being persecuted by the Tsar for refusal to fight in the Cimean War and WWI. The Duhkobours moved to Saskatchewan and B.C.
Between 1906-1919 Alberta along with B.C. was a hotbed of labour organizing in the mining and forestry industries. And it was the 'foriegn workers' who organized usually under the leadership of English trade unionists.
Established trade unions under the American Federation of Labour discriminated against them as unskilled immigrants, with the same racist attitudes as the bosses. The Ukrainians and other immigrants found a more sympathetic union in the IWW and later in the One Big Union (OBU)
In addition, many coal miners saw their conditions as the direct result of capitalism and the systemic exploitation of the working classes. This group of militants envisioned “One Big Union” (OBU) to protect their interests. Thus, labour organization would shift from one based on a “craft” or trade to one based on all workers in all industries coming together. At the forefront were the coal miners of District 18 of the UMWA, which comprised western Canada. They wanted to withdraw from the UMWA and set up their own district—District 1, Mining Department, OBU. The UMWA tried to crush this splinter movement and in the period 1919-20 there were a number of strikes and lockouts. It was an idealistic attempt to get workers to see their commonalities rather than differences but was doomed to failure by entrenched craft and trade thinking dating back to the Middle Ages.
In addition, the Winnipeg General Strike, which began in May 1919, set off other strikes in support. Edmonton and Calgary both saw strikes and, in August 1919, violence broke out in Drumheller. Strikebreakers, drawn from returning veterans, attacked the miners and their homes. The miners, largely immigrants, were OBU supporters. When Coal Was King
This was the first interment, after the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, anti- immigrant anti-bolshevik editorials advised the government of the day to deport the foriegn born Bolsheviks, 'enemy aliens'. Again Ukrainians were deported.
Shortly after the strike began, Winnipeg's most influential manufacturers, bankers and politicians created the Citizens' Committee of 1000 to oppose the action. Winnipeg's leading newspapers published allegations that the strike was initiated by a small group of "alien scum"—European workers and Bolsheviks. Thus, management waged a public relations war by stereotyping the working class as dangerous foreigners—a ploy that proved successful.
The Famous Five.
In the 1920's the Communist Party of Canada was declared illegal, and again Ukrainians, Finns, etc. were deported as foriegn agents of Bolshevism.
The Internment and deportation of Ukrainians was poltical, tinged with the usual anti-immigrant rhetoric. The reality was it was an aspect of the class war in Western Canada that threatened the ruling class and its government in Ottawa.
The practice of Internment was introduced during the Boer War, which Canadian Military Historians see as Canada's first real involvement in a Foriegn War, usually with great fanfare and cheers of our coming of age. The British developed the internment camps for the Boers in South Africa but Canada perfected it.
The Boer War was a first in many ways for Canada. It was the first time we sent troops abroad. It was the first time French and English Canada fought over sending troops overseas, and it was a time when the Canadian military discovered Canadians are not born soldiers, but must be trained like everyone else."For the first time Canadians realized that war is destructive, chaotic and messy. In wars people do get killed," says Granatstein.
Canada's first war a fading memory
Internment was used as an economic measure as much as it was a political one, without the 'slave labour' of the Ukrainian internees there would be NO NATIONAL PARKS IN THE ROCKIES. Banff and Jasper as national tourist resorts were built by the slave labour of the Ukrainian internees.
Life in the internment camps was often harsh, and the lives of the prisoners were often considered expendable to many of their guards. In Canmore and Banff the interred prisoners were used to help build roads, create the golf course in Banff , and work the mines in Canmore.
Two camps were set up between 1915 and 1917 in what is now Banff National Park . The Cave and Basin camp area near the Banff townsite was used in the winter, and the other at Castle Mountain , was used during the summer months.
INTERNMENT CAMPS PART OF BANFF HISTORY
BY JACKIE GOLD FOR THE BANFF CRAG & CANYON
For a great labour/social history of Ukrainians in Alberta see:
Potrebenko, Helen, No Streets of Gold: A Social History of Ukrainians in Alberta (1977) New Star Books. out of print
In the Shadow of the Rockies / As I Walk Through Canada
© Maria Dunn, 2001 SOCAN / Traditional Ukrainian, Public Domain
Growing up in Alberta with the Rockies as a favourite holiday destination, I only learned about the WWI internment of Ukrainian Canadians in the national parks on a trip to Jasper in Spring 2000. There, I came across Bill Waiser's book, Park Prisoners. Shortly afterwards, I read In the Shadow of the Rockies: Diary of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, 1915-1917 by Bodhan Kordan & Peter Melnycky. When war broke out in 1914, Galicia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Ukrainian immigrants (often referred to as "Galicians" in the early 1900s) became "enemy aliens" in Canada, the very place that had actively encouraged their immigration. Ironically, most of them viewed their former Austro-Hungarian rulers not with loyalty, but as occupiers and exploiters of their Ukrainian homeland.
For more information, see the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association website: www.uccla.ca
Young stranger, as you walk these trails of beauty
And you feel the mountain air caress your face
As you play in the shadow of the rockies
Remember who toiled in this place
Please remember who toiled in this place
They courted our labour and called us to settle
The great Canadian plains
But how fickle the love of a fair young Alberta
For her enemy aliens
Oh pity the young man in 1914
Who hadn't a job or a trade
And doubly so the man from Galicia
For he was soon detained
Our invisible hands worked in nature's cathedral
For the pleasure of tourist and town
Six days a week at slavery's wages
Still we were not wanted around
In a camp that lay beneath Castle Mountain
Rotten food and sodden tents
The most glorious place in the world is ugly
When seen through a barbed wire fence
Our footsteps and voices have long since faded
From these pristine forest paths
Yet many's the mile and the hour we trudged here
To our place of labour and back
If you listen, young stranger, the wind in the pines
Or the water over the stones
You may hear the songs we sang to each other
To remind us of our homes
Ethnomusicologist and musician Brian Cherwick chose the traditional Ukrainian tune that follows the CD version of In the Shadow of the Rockies and performs it on tsymbaly. "As I Walk Through Canada" is taken from a field recording made by Robert B. Klymasz of a song sung by Mrs. M. Baraensky, Mrs. G. Kuprowsky and Mrs. S. Stjaharj in Sheho, Saskatchewan, 1964. It was published in Klymasz's An Introduction to the Ukrainian-Canadian Immigrant Folksong Cycle, Folklore Series 8. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada. Brian has provided an English translation of the lyrics here:
As I walk through Canada, I count the miles, (2)
Wherever nightfall finds me, there I bed down.
Hej-ja-hej, there I bed down.
I spent the night in a wood, in a green wood, (2)
Over there my young wife is crying for me.
Hej-ja-hej, my young wife.
My young wife and my young children, (2)
I came to Canada in search of happiness.
Hej-ja-hej, in search of happiness.
On a high hill the grass does sway, (2)
Somewhere my beloved is writing a letter to me.
Hej-ja-hej, is writing a letter.
She writes it in fine, delicate script, (2)
When I read it, I washed myself in tears.
Hej-ja-hej, washed myself in tears.
I waited for a letter for a month and an hour, (2)
I never received the letter from my family.
Hej-ja-hej, from my family.
O Canada, Canada, how deceitful you are, (2)
You have separated many a husband from his wife,
Hej-ja-hej, from his wife.
Photo in CD Liner Notes: Prisoners of war at internment camp, Castle Mountain, Alberta, 1915, Glenbow NA-3959-2
Written as part of an Artist Residency with the Edmonton District Labour Council; funding support from Alberta Foundation for the Arts
Kordan, B.S. & Melnycky, P. (1991). In the Shadow of the Rockies: Diary of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, 1915-1917. Canadian Institute of the Canadian Studies Press: University of Alberta, Edmonton.
Waiser, B. (1995). Park prisoners: The Untold Story of Western Canada's National Parks, 1915-1946. Fifth House: Calgary.
Doskoch, W.H. (2001). Oral history interview by Alberta Labour History Institute. Unpublished.
Doskoch, W.H. (1993). Strait from the Heart: Biography of W (Bill) Doskoch, 1893 - 1941. Self-published.
At the same time as the internment was happening to the Ukrainians the Canadian Government and its mercantilist ruling class which owned the CPR were using Chinese labourers to finish building the railway. They imposed a head tax on Chinese workers, to stop them from immigrating to Canada. They were ok for forced labour at cheap wages, another reason the IWW attempted to organize these workers on the railway, but they were not good enough to become Canadians. And like the Ukrainian Internee campaign, the Chinese Redress campaign has been going on for over two decades.
The Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, 1900, and 1903 were a series of anti-Chinese legislations in Canada that were meant to discourage Chinese from entering Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. These legislations are examples of institutional racism against the Chinese in Canada.The Government of Canada collected well over $23 million from about 82000 head tax payers, some of the money were used to support Canada's war effort in World War I.
Chinese Head Tax & Exclusion Act Redress in Canada
In 1909, Dere's grandfather arrived in Canada only to hand over $500 to the government for simply being Chinese. Now, a special United Nations rapporteur is urging the Canadian government to pay back the money owed to Dere and thousands of other Chinese immigrants and their families who were forced to pay the so-called Chinese head tax.
It was July 15, 1921 when the "Controller of Chinese Immigration" clerk scrawled his signature on the head-tax receipt for Mah Ming Sun, who would take the Canadian name Wally. He and his uncle had just disembarked a steamer from Canton, China. Wally's father had scraped together enough as a labourer building the railroad near Revelstoke, B.C., to pay their passage and the tax. The white children taunted him at school in Kelowna, B.C. "Chink-Chong Chinaman," they would jeer.
The labour movement in Canada never forgot the internment and exploitation of Canada's immigrant working class.
When the depression hit in the 1930's the Government of the day, again the Conservatives this time under Prime Minister R. B. Bennet from Alberta, used internment camps to deal with mass unemployment. They called them 'Relief camps' and rather than providing unemployment benefits all able bodied single men were shipped out of Western Canada's cities, to once again work in forced labour camps under the watchful eye of the Canadian Army and RCMP.
Mass unemployment affected every advanced industrial country in the world, and in response the most radical activists in the labour and farmers movement, usually the communists and anarchists, organized mass Hunger Marches of the unemployed demanding unemployment payments, veterans payments, and farm subsidies.
In Western Canada Hunger Marches were held and were brutally repressed by police assaults ordered by the provincial governments of the day. Including the famous battle of the Evergreens in Edmonton in the winter of 1932. The outrage of the citizens at being attacked by their own government, the United Farmers of Alberta, with the support of the Mayor and city council who were all trade unionists and members of the Edmonton Trades and Labour Council, led to the defeat of the electoral left in Alberta and the rise to power of the Social Credit party.
See:Labour/Le Travail 16, Fall 1985. Special Issue on Labour in Alberta
Alberta law cases #3-5 - "The Hunger March of 1932"(audio mp3)
In December 1932 unemployed men from all around the prairies congregated in Edmonton. The purpose? - to participate in a ""Hunger March"" to the Alberta Legislature to raise awareness of their desperate situation. A clash between marchers and police resulted in the arrest of 29 participants.