Almost a century after the conclusion of Canada’s first national internment operations, the twenty-two internees and five children of camp officers who died at the Northern Ontario Kapuskasing Internment Camp were remembered during a moving ceremony under an overcast sky at the Kapuskasing Internment Cemetery. This special ceremony on October 13, 2011 was organized by the Town of Kapuskasing and the Ron Morel Memorial Museum.
Through the support of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, Curator Julie Latimer of the Ron Morel Memorial Museum spearheaded the rehabilitation of the cemetery grounds, including the original memorial constructed by internees themselves in memory of their deceased comrades. The correction to the names of the deceased internees was provided by Researcher Frank Jankac.
In his opening remarks at the ceremony, Kapuskasing Mayor Alan Spacek underscored that “the story of the first Canadian internment operation is a sad one, but one that needs to be told and remembered.” He went on to state that those interned during Canada’s first national internment operations included persons of various nationalities from the Austro-Hungarian Empire including Ukrainians, Poles, Croats, Hungarians, Austrians, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, Turks, Bulgarians, Armenians, Macedonians, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Serbs, Syrians, Lithuanians, and Rusyns.
Professor Christopher Adam of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund and Ryan Boyko of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association both emphasized the role of the Ukrainian Canadian community in bringing the issue of Canada’s first national internment operations to the forefront and in securing federal funding that is administered by the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko.
Among the representatives of the diplomatic corps speaking at the dedication ceremony were the Consul General of the Republic of Croatia Ljubinko Matesic and the Counsellor/Deputy Head of Mission of the Republic of Turkey Serdar Belentepe. In his comments, Consul Matesic applauded the efforts “to uncover the story” of Canada’s First National Internment Operation and “to educate Canadians about this tragedy and to show the entire world how past injustices can be used as a springboard to treat such events from the past.”
Members of the clergy who participated in the dedication ceremony with their prayers, blessings and readings of poignant passages from Scripture included Pastor Gilles Gosselin of Kapuskasing’s Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Rev. Jen Dresser of Kapuskasing United Church, Vicar General for Quebec of the Ukrainian Catholic Church Rt. Rev. Lev Chayka, and Rev. Theophan Heto.
Following her concluding remarks, Curator Julie Latimer of the Ron Morel Memorial Museum invited the dignitaries and members of the public attending the event to a reception held at the Kapuskasing Welcome Centre.
While the internment operation was a dark episode in Canadian history, the efforts of the Ron Morel Memorial Museum and the Town of Kapuskasing to rehabilitate the Kapuskasing Internment Cemetery, with the financial support of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, represents a positive step in acknowledging and commemorating this event. This cemetery will provide Canadians with a tangible reminder of this tragic occurrence and hopefully ensure that it will never happen again.