UCCLA, For Immediate Release (5 April 2006 - Toronto)
A report Tuesday confirmed that a plaque attached to the base of the statue dedicated to remembering Canadian internment operations was recently defaced (see attached image).
On 12 August 1995 the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and its supporters unveiled a trilingual bronze plaque and installed a statue of an internee near the base of Castle Mountain, in Banff National Park. Entitled "Why?" the statue, sculpted by John Boxtel, was intended to remind passers-by and visitors to Banff of a "dark chapter" in the nation's history, Canada's first national internment operations of 1914-1920, when thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans were needlessly imprisoned as "enemy aliens," not because of anything they had done but only because of who they were, where they came from. Internees were held near Castle Mountain and at Cave & Basin, both within the national park, and forced to do heavy labour for the profit of their gaolers, between 14 July 1915 and 15 July 1917.
While the plaque and statue have become "must see" stop-overs for Park visitors, a report received yesterday has confirmed that the plaque attached to the base of the statue was defaced sometime in the last several weeks (see attached image). Commenting, the director of research for UCCLA, Dr Lubomyr Luciuk, said:
"The statue we placed at the base of Castle Mountain bears a simple inscription, "Why?" - for we are certain that many of those rounded up during Canada's first national internment operations must have repeatedly asked themselves exactly that - Why are we being held when we have done no wrong? Why are we forced to do heavy labour for the profit of others? Why were we separated from our families and communities? Over the years we have seen many visitors to Banff stopping along the highway to remember these innocent internees, even to lay flowers at the base of the statue. That has been very heartening. Our efforts, in effect, recaptured an episode in our national history that had long been forgotten, perhaps even suppressed. Now we must ask ourselves - Why would anyone carve a vulgarity onto a memorial plaque? Why are there those in our society who are so ignorant, so primitive, that they indulge in such anti-Ukrainian prejudices? This is a blatant example of Ukrainophobia and racism. We condemn the perpetrators and invite other communities to do likewise. We are also asking Parks Canada officials in Banff to immediately repair the plaque and increase patrols in the area to prevent any similar outrages in future."