"Canada, the Great War and the Internment of Enemy Aliens, 1914-1920" Conference program now available!

15 October 2014

Banff to Host Symposium on Canada's "Home Front" During the Great War

As Canadians mark the centenary of the beginning of First World War, it is appropriate to reflect on the staggering human losses in the fighting and the long-term scars it left on those who survived it. Often overlooked is the little-known story about what happened to thousands of residents of Canada imprisoned as suspect "enemy aliens" simply because they had emigrated from lands that were on the opposing side in the conflict that engulfed much of Europe. "Canada, the Great War and the Internment of Enemy Aliens, 1914-1920," is an academic conference intended to address this "blank spot" in public awareness about a miscarriage of justice that took place on Canada's "home front" during what was supposed to have been the "war to end all wars." Not only were more than 5,000 immigrants, mostly from Austria-Hungary, incarcerated in a series of internment camps from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, another 80,000 more were required to register and report regularly to the police under threat of being arrested. Victims of widespread prejudice against "foreigners" who in reality posed no threat to Canadian security, many of those arbitrarily rounded up or harassed by officials were shocked by the hostile treatment that they received after choosing to peacefully settle in Canada.

Jointly organized by the University of Alberta's Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies and the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, the two-day symposium is taking place at the Cave and Basin and National Historic Site on 17-18 October. Presentations will be given by academics and independent scholars from across Canada as well Europe, the focus being to shed new light on the impact which the federal government's adoption and imposition of the War Measures Act had for members of the "foreign element" in the Canadian Dominion.

The symposium is a collaborative venture made possible through the financial sponsorship of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation.

Sessions are open free of charge to the general public, and run from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. A free film is being held in conjunction with the symposium beginning 8 pm Saturday 18 October at the former Masonic Lodge.

To download the PDF version of the program, please click here.

For more on the documentary films, please see the links below:

Freedom Had A Price


Jajo's Secret


Unspoken Territory