Internment camp memorial unveiled at Exhibition Park
In 1914 Exhibition Park had a very different look.
It was home to an internment camp during the First World War.
A century ago, European civilians deemed “enemy aliens” were held prisoner at the site.
Today, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation dedicated a special memorial to all those held captive.
“The plaque was placed here to remind people that this Exhibition Park was an internment camp during the First World War and it just reminds people that civil liberties can easily be taken away,” says Borys Sydoruk with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation.
The camp could hold 300 prisoners that were all men, and had about 30 soldiers on guard.
“Ukrainians were there, but Germans, Austrians, Turkish, anyone we were at war with at that time,” says Belinda Crowson with the Lethbridge Historical Society.
During the internment camps, internees were kept at the Exhibition Grounds and housed in the chicken barns, then after two years the camp was shut down for a pretty unique reason.
“There was so many escapes from the Lethbridge camp that they closed it in november of 1916. A lot of them were helped by locals, even though it was set up by the Canadian government, it didn’t mean everyone supported what the government was doing so once they got out of the camp, they would have had support from friends and colleagues who got them across the border and free into montana,” says Crowson.
Organizers say it is easy for people to focus on the fun and exciting things our history has, but it’s important to never forget the struggles many faced in our country, and our area.
“Canadian history is Canadian history. This is just one moment of a long Canadian history and people should be aware of the good and the bad.
The monument was made possible by money from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund that the Harper government commemorated in 2008 to support the thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans interned between 1914-20.