A ceremony was held at Holy Transfiguration Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Yorkton Friday with sadly limited participation.
Only about a dozen people attended a brief, but poignant ceremony at the church as part of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation initiative to remember Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920. The Foundation made it possible for more than 100 plaques to be unveiled across Canada on the 100th anniversary of the War Measures Act, 1914.
The plaques were unveiled simultaneously at 11 a.m. (local time) in Ukrainian, Croatian, Serbian, German and Hungarian churches and cultural centres, as well as in local and regional museums and other public venues across Canada, including the church in Yorkton.
The unveiling of the plaques serves as a stark reminder of the lasting scars of an injustice which was perpetrated on a group of people far more out of fear and prejudice than any real threat to this nation’s security at the time of the war.
“This is a first-event event in Canadian history with over 100 plaques recalling an historic injustice being unveiled on the same date (Friday, August 22, 2014) and time, 11h00 (local time) from coast to coast, fittingly starting with Amherst, Nova Scotia and ending I Nanaimo, British Columbia, two of the 24 internment camp sites of the Great War period,” stated Reverend Father Mel Slashinsky', reading from a prepared speech in Yorkton.
“With Project CTO, we hallow the memory of all of the internees, and remind all Canadians of the need to remain vigilant in defense of human rights and civil liberties, particularly in times of domestic and international crisis.”
Decades after the fact it remains worthwhile for us as Canadians of all ethnic backgrounds to remember those impacted by the injustice.
Hopefully by pausing to remember, we will rededicate ourselves to not making such bad decisions in the future.
It is also important that we use the occasion of the plaque unveilings to remember first and foremost we need to be tolerant and understanding even in times of crisis.
At the ceremony Yorkton Mayor Bob Maloney said the experiences of the past are moving.
“When you listen to the story … it really is an eye opener,” he said.
Maloney said the story on the internment camps is an example of our need for “understanding,” especially as we see the current strife around the world, including Ukraine.
“It will cause us to reflect,” he said.
And in that regard our Mayor drew the greatest hope from the unveiling.
We can look to the Middle East, to Eastern Europe and other ‘hotspots’ around the world and see a cloud of threat, but if we can just find the common ground needed, there remains the hope that we can avoid the encompassing strife of the past.