BY COLETTE DERWORIZ, CALGARY HERALD SEPTEMBER 13, 2013
A new exhibit at Cave and Basin National Historic Site explores the dark chapter in Canadian history when during the First World War, more than 8,000 immigrants were deemed enemy aliens and interned at 24 camps across the country, including two camps in Banff National Park, at Cave and Basin and Castle Mountain.
Photograph by: Courtesy Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff , Handout
BANFF — Under a clear blue sky in the middle of the Rockies, dozens of people gathered next to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site to mark a dark chapter in Canada’s history.
On Friday, Parks Canada opened a 1,000-square-foot exhibit about the country’s internment operations in Banff National Park.
“As we look around, we see a place of unspoken beauty,” Jason Kenney, minister of employment and social development and minister for multiculturalism, told those in attendance. “Yet, we know this site is also one of unspeakable sadness.”
The site, which once housed an internment camp, now includes the exhibit called Enemy Aliens, Prisoners of War: Canada’s First World War Internment Operation — a museum funded by the federal government’s national historical recognition program.
It was initially scheduled to open June 19, but it was postponed after the floods washed out highways and cut off access to the park.
Many, however, have been waiting much longer than a few months for the past to be recognized.
“This is not only a beautiful day, it is truly a historic day,” said Ivan Grbesic, chairman of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.
The exhibit, he noted, explores a tragic chapter in Canadian history.
During the First World War, under the War Measures Act, internment camps were set up across the country.
More than 8,000 immigrants, many of them Ukrainians and other Europeans, were deemed enemy aliens and interned at 24 camps across the country as prisoners of war from 1914 to 1920.
They built many of the roads and cleared forest at the four mountain parks — including Banff.
The internees were held at two camps: one at Castle Mountain from July 1915 to the following November and the second at Cave and Basin until the camp closed in July 1917.
Kenney said it’s an important part of Canadian history that was nearly forgotten.
“This small museum is one of the many projects we are funding to preserve that memory of what happened,” he said, noting it will help to educate Canadians. “You can never go back in history and undo a terrible injustice, but what you can do is at least recognize that it happened, express regret and teach future generations about it to avoid its repetition.”