Tuesday, February 16, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 7 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“Half the fishermen we meet out there are committing some kind of offence.”
- Andrew Gustavson  
- on Fish and Wildlife   
enforcement issues   

 

Looking Back - John KinnearFixing an Old Black Eye
I went back to Fernie shortly after moving back here, in October of 2005 in search of an appropriate sized boulder. It couldn’t be just any boulder you see as it is destined to carry a very important message on one of its faces.
I knew from my twenty five years of wandering Fernie's Coal Creek valley where to find the one I wanted. I decided its composition should be that of a pebble conglomerate from the Elk Formation. The Elk conglomerates are a marvelous fusion of cobbles of all different sizes in a sandstone matrix.  The one I picked had rolled down to the valley bottom and was sitting on the edge of the old road that once led to the Coal Creek Mines football (soccer) field.      
There was a reason for me picking that conglomerate monster. It was to symbolically represent our early Canadian society, a cosmopolitan mix of dozens of nationalities. Immigrants invited to come and be part of the forging of this great nation.
The message this ancient marker was to carry came in the form of a trilingual bronze plaque, similar to ones that have been placed or will be placed in locations such as Banff, Drumheller, Victoria, Lethbridge, Spirit Lake, Amherst and so on. The commemorative plaque placement and ceremony are part of a program of acknowledgement and education mandated by the Ukrainian Canadian community through the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The UCCLA is there to bring the issue of acknowledgement and redress to our Canadian government. What is it they want recognized?
 Over 5,000 of the 8,759 so-called enemy aliens interned in 26 camps across Canada during the early part of World War One were in fact Ukrainians, not Austrians or Germans. They were Ukrainian immigrants who had been coming to Canada since the 1890’s at the express invitation of the Canadian Government. They came here to be a part of our grand plan and to escape being subjugated (exploited and pauperized) in the Austrian Empire. Therefore they had Austrian passports!
They’re only desire was to work hard in this land of opportunity and make new lives for themselves.
Yet in a ruthless bit of twisted logic and using the War Measures Act our government instead stripped them of all rights and possessions and forced them to work in camps across Canada in oft time’s miserable conditions. There were also a further 80,000, most of which were also Ukrainian, that were required to carry identity papers at all times. The penalty for noncompliance was arrest and possible imprisonment.
So why did the UCCLA come to Fernie? Because Fernie was part of this mass detention program. Between June 1915 and October 1918 almost 200 so called Austrians were detained first at the old Fernie skating rink and then at Morrissey (just west of Fernie) at a then abandoned three story hotel. The 153 that were eventually moved to Morrissey were in fact mostly Slovaks, Croats, Ukrainians, Czechs, Poles and Slovenians. Only 8 were of German descent.
As World War One drew to an end the remaining so called POW’s at Morrissey were transferred to the camp at Kapuscasing in Northern Ontario and on October 15, 1918 the barbwire fenced compound at Morrissey was shut down.
 
So the UCCLA came to Fernie for a three day annual conclave in October 2005, which ended with the dedication of the plaque on my handpicked boulder at the old skating rink site down by the Elk River.
On a very wet Saturday they, along with two Ukrainian priests from Lethbridge and Calgary, the local MLA and MP and other dignitaries stood and acknowledged this black eye of Canadian history.
The unveiling ceremony and formal church blessing was performed principally in Ukrainian and was a remarkable event to behold. As a witness to this profoundly moving ceremony I can tell you it was a moment in time I will not soon forget. Nor will the rest of the onlookers who were, as the ceremonies closed, treated to a rendition of the Ukrainian National Anthem sung in perfect harmony and with a gusto that only comes with true cultural pride.
 It was suggested by more than one speaker that day that the weather conditions, as oppressive as they were, were entirely appropriate to the occasion. We were reminded that interned prisoners endured years of harsh weather conditions in both camp and working environments. The most moving speech there was made by a woman from Edmonton by the name of Anne Sadelain. Anne belongs to an organization of children of camp survivors and her father; Vasyl (William) Doskoch was a Morrissey internee. Anne spoke about her father's harsh treatment and what an impact it had on the family to have their father imprisoned in such an unjust fashion. She explained also that Vasyl was eventually moved to a camp at Kapuskasing in Northern Ontario when Morrissey was finally shut down. There he was forced to remain in what only can be described as deliberate post-war slave labour until he was finally released in 1920, 1-2 years after war's end. It is a matter of record that the internees labour was deliberately exploited for government profit be it federal, provincial or municipal.
 A private members bill was put forward by Inky Mark, MP, Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette in 2004 to address this injustice. It is Bill C-331 and states that the Minister of Canadian Heritage shall see that commemorative plaques are placed at those sites not already commemorated. Is also states that they will negotiate a restitution of confiscated property and other assets taken from Ukrainian-Canadians which will be applied toward: "the development and production of educational materials that cover Canada's past internment policies and activities and their distribution to schools, colleges and universities, with the objective of widening the understanding of the harm of ethnic, religious or racial intolerance and discrimination, and the importance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in protecting all Canadians from such injustice in the future."
The bill was passed in November 2005 and has yet to be implemented. No surprise there!
 One would do well to drop by and visit this plaque. It is at a place where men who worked with pick axe and shovel in our mines, forests and railways in freedom found themselves doing the same work from behind a barbed wire fence.
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