This is an important contribution to the understand-ing of Canadian and Quebec history, and to an appreciation of a unique Ukrainian community which found itself resident in Quebec from the early part of the 20th century.
“The declaration of the First World War on August 15, 1914 against Imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary by Great Britain found several thousand recent Ukrainian immigrants across Canada in a difficult situation. Those who were not naturalized were considered as “enemy aliens” and they were subject to registration and, if necessary, internment…Among the internment camps established in various parts of Canada, an internment camp was established on 13 January, 1915 at Spirit Lake (near Amos, Quebec) to hold “enemy aliens”…The plans were to use the internees to clear the land and develop an experimental farm to aid in the settlement of this region…The first internees arrived in January 1915 in the middle of win-ter..Among the 1,144 Austrian prisoners interned in this camp in 1916 were a large number of Galicians or Ukrainians, recent immigrants from Austria-Hungary..”
So begins this unique historical narrative written by Myron Momryk.
“The case of Val-d’Or is especially interesting, being a city situ-ated 530 kilometres northwest of Montreal and in may respects similar to the mining communities with significant Ukrainian populations established around the same time in Kirkland Lake and Timmins, across the border in Ontario.These and other cit-ies and towns that grew around resource industries in remote ares in the Canadian Shield have a distinct make-up, which was naturally reflected in their Ukrainian organizational activ-ity. Having a strong working-class character, they frequently witnessed strikes and labour unrest that were influenced in no small part by ideological differences between radical trade unionists sympathetic to the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, and the often more conservative immigrants from Ukraine. Although seemingly far removed from world events, the Cold War was very much a factor in some of the develop-ments that took place in the one-industry settlements in the northern reaches of Ontario and Quebec.
The great value of Mr. Momryk’s study is that it documents how these issues played out among Ukrainians while telling the story of a Ukrainian community that almost nothing has been written about.” Jars Balan, Director, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta
Myron Momry is a retired archivist with Archives Canada, an author, historian and a tireless advocate of multicultural history. He resides in Ottawa.