The Ukranian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) is calling on the Minister
for Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, for help in saving a Great War cemetery holding the remains of at least 16 “enemy aliens.”
During Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920, a large camp holding Ukrainians, and other Europeans, was established at Spirit Lake, — today called La Ferme — in the Abitibi region of Quebec. It held hundreds of Ukrainians, and other Europeans, who were forced to do heavy labour for the profit of their jailers.
Many of the imprisoned men, women and children were parishioners from St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, in Montreal. Men, and some children, were buried in the internee cemetery between December 1915 and October 1916.
The camp was closed on January 28, 1917.
Efforts over the years to restore and re-consecrate this cemetery have not been successful. It has now fallen into serious disrepair and will soon be lost forever in the region’s boreal forest. Determined to prevent that from happening, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association has asked for the minister’s personal intervention.
Roman Zakaluzny, the UCCLA’s chairman, says: “There are no less than 16 men and children buried in the Spirit Lake internee cemetery. Minister Joly should instruct her officials to investigate how a cemetery, set up by the federal government, came to be sold to the Province of Quebec, and then re-sold to a private landowner, and whether this internee cemetery, one of the very few of its kind in Canada, should be designated a national historic site.”
Zakaluzny also says: “At a minimum, this sacred space should be re-consecrated and restored, allowing for internee descendants to hallow the memory of those who died at Spirit Lake.
He adds that they were “held behind Canadian barbed wire, not because of any wrong they had done, but only because of who they were and where they had come from.