June 20 marks the 100th anniversary of the close of Canada’s first national internment operations. Under this policy carried out between 1914 and 1920, 8,579 men, and some women and children, were interned as “enemy aliens” by the Canadian government, acting under the authority of the War Measures Act. That number included 5,954 Austro-Hungarians, most of whom were ethnic Ukrainians, although they were not recognized by that name at that time. Most often they were referred to as Ruthenians, or by the region they came from, as Galicians or Bukovynians.
That the majority of the internees were Ukrainian was no accident. They were singled out because they were considered the lowest of the low in Canadian society at that time. As a clergyman, Father Moris, stated in Calgary’s Daily Herald on January 27, 1899: “As for the Galicians I have not met a single person in the whole of the North West who is sympathetic to them. They are, from the point of view of civilization, 10 times lower than the Indians. They have not the least idea of sanitation. In their personal habits and acts [they] resemble animals, and even in the streets of Edmonton, when they come to market, men, women and children, would, if unchecked, turn the place into a common sewer.”