OFFICIAL OPENING OF SPIRIT LAKE INTERNMENT CENTRE
La Ferme, Quebec. On November 24, the Camp Spirit Lake Internment Interpretive Centre was officially opened before a crowd of over 100 people from the Ukrainian Canadian Community, the Government of Canada and the local community in a moving and historically significant ceremony.
The interpretive centre provides information on the Spirit Lake Internment Camp, one of twenty four which were established by the Government of Canada which interned over 1200 Ukrainian men, women and children who were unjustly interned as “enemy aliens” during World War I. The Spirit Lake site was the second largest internment camp in Canada and sadly many Ukrainians died there.
The opening of the interpretive centre was organized by Mr. James Slobodian of Camp Spirit Lake Corporation who has shepherded the project to completion over the past decade. The interpretive centre is located in the La Ferme church which the Corporation purchased in 2007, near Amos, Quebec.
The event was attended by representatives of the three groups who successfully concluded the negotiations with the federal government on the establishment of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund: The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) , the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko (TSF) and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA).
The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, was one of over a hundred guests who attended the opening, along with Members of Parliament Christine Moore, James Bezan, Bernard Trottier and Peter Goldring.
“Our Government was proud to establish the Canadian Historical Recognition Program which has sought to teach future generations of Canadians about the often forgotten aspects of our past that, while unsettling, are important to remember,” stated Minister Kenney. “I am pleased that this interpretation centre, funded in part by the Government of Canada, embraces this mission.”
The evening began with guests viewing the interpretive centre’s displays and artifacts. The official opening was addressed by Mr. James Slobodian, Camp Spirit Lake Corporation, Minister Kenney, Mr. James Bezan, M.P., local M.P. Christine Moore, and Andriy Hladyshevsky, President of the Shevchenko Foundation and Vice Chair of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.
“The Camp Spirit Lake Internment Interpretation Centre will serve as a permanent memorial to those Ukrainians and other Europeans who were unjustly interned, not because of who they were, but from where they came from,” stated Hladyshevky.
The speeches were followed by a moleben attended by Monseigneur Gilles Lemay, Bishop of Amos, who was joined by Rev. Father Theofan Heto of Kirkland Lake, representing the Ukraianian Catholic Church, and Reverend Father Volodymyr Koushnir of Saint Sophie Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral and Very Reverend Dr. Ihor Kutash who represented the Ukrainian National Federation. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress was represented by UCC Quebec President Zorianna Hrycenko Luhowy, Ottawa Branch President Mykola Bilaniuk and Executive Director Taras Zalusky. The Taras Shevchenko Foundation was represented by president Andrew Hladyshevsky and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association was represented by president Roman Zakaluzny. Also in attendance were Yaroslava Iwasykiw from Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada and Dr. Ted Sosiak, Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.
Following the speeches and Moleben, those assembled sang “Vichnaya Pamyat” (Memory Eternal) in memory of those internees who had perished and are buried at the nearby Spirit Lake cemetery.
The event was concluded with Minister Kenney cutting a symbolic barbed wire to officially open the interpretation centre.
Videos and photos of the event and copies of speeches are available at www.ucc.ca.