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Last Survivor of Canadian Internment Operations, Mary Manko Haskett, Dies

UCCLA MEDIA RELEASE For Immediate Release (15 July 2007) – Ottawa The last known survivor of Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920, Mary Manko Haskett, died yesterday at a senior’s residence in Mississauga, Ontario. She was 98. Born Mary Manko, in Montreal, she was only 6 years old when she was transported to the Abitibi region of north-central Quebec, to the Spirit Lake concentration camp. So-called “enemy aliens,” mostly Ukrainians who emigrated to the Dominion from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were held there not because of anything they had done but only because of who they were, where they had come from. Most internees were forced to do heavy labour for the profit of their jailers, had their wealth confiscated, and were subjected to other state-sanctioned indignities, including disenfranchisement. Mary’s younger sister, Nellie, died at the Spirit Lake camp. For years, Mary served as the honourary chairwoman of the National Redress Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association. She was committed to ensuring that what happened to her and thousands of other innocents would be remembered. Despite being a victim, Mary never sought an apology for the wrongs done to her, nor personal compensation for herself or any of the descendents of the internees. Instead she asked the community to try and secure an acknowledgement of what happened and a restitution of the contemporary value of the internees’ confiscated wealth and forced labour, that money to be placed in a community-managed endowment fund to be used for educational and commemorative initiatives to help ensure that no other Canadian ethnic, religious or racial minority would ever again suffer what Ukrainians once did. Although Royal Assent was given to Conservative MP Inky Mark’s Bill C 331 – The Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act, 25 November 2005, the Government of Canada has not yet met its legal obligation to negotiate a unique Ukrainian Canadian Redress and Reconciliation Settlement. Commenting on Mary Manko’s passing, UCCLA’s director of research, Dr Lubomyr Luciuk, said:

“ We always hoped we would secure a timely and honourable redress settlement that Mary could bear witness to as the last known survivor of Canada’s first national internment operations. We grew especially hopeful after Stephen Harper, then Leader of the Opposition, and now the Prime Minister of Canada, endorsed Bill C 331 in the House of Commons in March 2005, saying that he too hoped Mary would be alive to see this matter resolved. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, that did not happen. But we remain committed to Mary’s cause. Negotiations toward a settlement should begin when we meet with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Bev Oda, and the Secretary of Sate for Multiculturalism, Mr Jason Kenney, on 30 July. We are calling upon the Prime Minister to intervene and make sure that our deliberations lead to the kind of settlement Mary always hoped we would secure. It is truly sad that she won’t be with us to see how the wrongs done to her, and so many other Europeans, are finally undone. But at least she knew that we will never give up until that just end is reached.”

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