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SAVE THE SPIRIT LAKE INTERNMENT CAMP CEMETERY

Updated: Jul 14, 2018

For Immediate Release (19 April 2018, Kingston) Concerned over the deterioration of the internee cemetery at Spirit Lake, Quebec, Dr Lubomyr Luciuk, of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (www.uccla.ca) has initiated an on-line petition addressed to the Government of Canada requesting action be taken to secure, restore, and reconsecrate this historic site and make limited access available for research, commemorative and religious purposes.

Sponsored by MP James Bezan the petition can be found on line at:https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-1643

It reads:


PETITION TO THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

Whereas:

  • The Government of Canada needlessly categorized many Ukrainians and other Europeans as “enemy aliens” during Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920; 

  • An internment camp was set up at Spirit Lake, Quebec, one of 24 across Canada;

  • At least 16 internee burials took place at the Spirit Lake cemetery;

  • The Department of Agriculture sold these lands to Quebec in 1936 and the province sold them to a farmer in 1988;

  • Attempts to restore and re-consecrate the Spirit Lake internee cemetery have been rejected by the property owner and the cemetery is all but lost to the boreal forest;

  • Federal officials, repeatedly informed about the deterioration of the cemetery, claim this is Quebec’s problem, abrogating all legal and moral responsibility for a cemetery established under federal authority and for the remains of the unfortunates buried there.

We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to use whatever measures necessary to provide for the archaeological examination, restoration, re-consecration and limited ongoing site visits for commemorative and religious services to the Spirit Lake internee cemetery, working in collaboration with the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Ukrainian Canadian Congress, so hallowing the victims of Canada's first national internment operations. Commenting, Dr Luciuk explained: “The Spirit Lake internee cemetery has been in a deteriorating condition for many years. Despite many years of effort this unique historic site will simply be erased from the cultural landscape if no determined government intervention occurs in the near future. It is most certainly up to Ottawa to redress this situation since it was the Government of Canada that rounded up these civilians, transported them into the forests of the Abitibi, herded them behind Canadian barbed wire and then exploited their labour. Those who perished in these difficult circumstances were buried there, far from their communities and loved ones. Not one of the 16 men and some children who died at the Spirit Lake internment camp between 1915-1917 would ever have been there if the government had not branded them as “enemy aliens.” So, regardless of whom Ottawa sold the land to, or what happened to it in the decades following, saving this internee cemetery from oblivion is a federal obligation, and long overdue.”

" Interned Madonna” commissioned by UCCLA and unveiled at Spirit Lake in July 2001 (by sculptor John Boxtel)

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