In Pictures: Commemorating an unfortunate episode from the past
By David F. Rooney
A dark and shadowy episode of the past, the imprisonment of thousands of immigrants the start of the First World War, was thrust into the light on Friday, August 22, as a plaque marking the passage of the War Measures Act that permitted it was unveiled at the Revelstoke Museum & Archives.
The plaque was one of 100 unveiled across Canada last week, including 24 in BC alone, to mark the passage of the Act and the arrest of thousands of so-called “enemy aliens” of Ukrainian, German, Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian, Turkish and Armenian descent. These men were rounded up and herded into Canada’s first internment camps at the start of the Great War. They were later released but lest you think this was an anomaly, you should know that we did it again in 1941 when Japanese-Canadians were arrested and interned in camps across BC and Alberta.
The War Measures Act was invoked again during the October Crisis of 1970 when 497 people were detained in Quebec following the kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross and the murder of Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte by terrorists from the Front de libération du Québec. All but 62 of the people scooped by the RCMP and the army were later released without charges. At the time, opinion polls throughout Canada, including in Quebec, showed widespread support for the use of the War Measures Act. The Act remains a tool the government can use to safeguard the country from potential threats from aboard — and within.
Guests at the unveiling of the Revelstoke plaque included many members of the Ukrainian community. Ukrainian-Canadians from across the country have for decades lobbied Ottawa to acknowledge the internment of their fathers and grandfathers.