UCC Calgary commemorates 25th anniversary of internment monument

Ulanna Wityk (UCC, Calgary Branch) provides an overview of the internment operations

Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Calgary Branch.

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of the end of Canada’s First National Internment operations of 1914 to 1920, which saw more than 8,000 immigrants – the majority of whom were of Ukrainian origin – imprisoned as “enemy aliens” in 24 internment camps across the country. We mark another important milestone on August 12th: the 25th anniversary of Canada’s first statue and trilingual bronze plaque, placed near Castle Mountain, Banff National Park, in memory of those held at that internment camp from July 1915 to July 1917.

The Castle Mountain camp was the first of the camps to be located in a Dominion Park (National Parks, as they are known today). Internees were exploited to complete forced labour, including the completion of the road to Lake Louise, landfilling and draining of recreational grounds, the clearing of bison paddocks, trail cutting, reclaiming land for recreation activities, rock-crushing and the quarrying of stone (to be used for the building of the Banff Springs Hotel and public works infrastructure projects).

Due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), Calgary Branch, held a private, invitation-only ceremony to commemorate these milestones. Fr. Greg Faryna (St. Stephen’s Protomartyr Ukrainian Catholic Church), Fr. Roman Planchak (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church), and Fr. Patrick Yamniuk (St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor), all of Calgary, conducted a Panachyda in memory of the 600 internees of Castle Mountain Internment Camp at Banff National Park. Master of Ceremony Ulanna Wityk (UCC, Calgary Branch) provided an overview of the internment operations and spoke to the camp’s establishment, as well as the meaning behind the monument on the site. The sculpture – by artist John Boxtel and titled “Why?” depicts an internee and signifies symbolic redress for the mistreatment of the internees at the Castle Mountain Internment Camp.

Fr. Greg Faryna (St. Stephen’s Protomartyr Ukrainian Catholic Church), Fr. Roman Planchak (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church), and Fr. Patrick Yamniuk (St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor), all of Calgary, conduct the Panachyda

Borys Sydoruk, a member of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA), conveyed the organizational challenge in negotiating the installation of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp statue and plaque, emphasizing the continued need for raising awareness and providing education on Canada’s First World War internment operations within school curriculums.

Halya Lyps’ka Wilson spoke of UCC’s efforts in fundraising for the statue and plaque. Finally, Donna Korchinski spoke about her step-grandfather, Harry Levitsky, who was interned at Castle Mountain, but who spoke very little of that experience throughout his life. She movingly underscored the importance of forgiveness and education. The ceremony continued with representatives from Calgary’s Ukrainian Canadian organizations laying wreaths at the monument, and concluded with the singing of the Canadian and Ukrainian national anthems.

The 25-year-old monument encourages us to remember and educate those unaware of the victims of this injustice 100 years ago. Our community is committed to continuing ongoing efforts to educate Canadians about WWI internment in this country, and to commemorating the victims of this dark historical chapter in hopes that the bitter lessons will forge a brighter future.

Eternal Memory. Вічная пам’ять