Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter Welcomes Canadian Government’s Decision to Acknowledge Historical Injustice

The Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter welcomes the Government of Canada’s statement on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the country’s first national internment operations between 1914 and 1920, in which more than 8,600 innocent men, women and children from the lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and elsewhere in Eastern Europe were unjustly interned as “enemy aliens” in 24 internment camps across Canada.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s office notes that “governments have a solemn duty to defend against legitimate threats in wartime, but we look back with deep regret on an unjust policy that was implemented indiscriminately as a form of collective punishment and in violation of fundamental principles of natural justice, including the presumption of innocence. In Canada we acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and we learn from them. We are also steadfast in our commitment to remembering those who suffered.”

While most of those interned were Ukrainians, Hungarian immigrants to Canada were also considered to be enemy aliens, and they were not only among those deported to remote camps, but were also among more than 80,000 residents required to register with local authorities, simply as a result of their ethnic background.

The Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter also acknowledges the Ukrainian community groups and activists that for decades fought for this sad chapter in Canada’s wartime history to be recognized. We think especially of the Shevchenko Foundation, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress–all of which persevered in their calls for justice, even as they faced widespread denial and indifference on the part of Canadian authorities. Their persistence is what led to Bill C-331, which opened the way for the creation of the $10 million Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, thus allowing for Canadians of all backgrounds and generations to explore this previously neglected chapter in our country’s history.

The cooperation amongst community activists, the Ukrainian Canadian diaspora, historians and other academics, artists, local museum curators and government officials demonstrates that it is possible to reflect openly on the most painful chapters of a nation’s history. This can serve as a positive example for Hungarian society as well.

The Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter — a national organization of academics and community activists — remembers the Hungarians and other Europeans who fell victim to wartime xenophobia and prejudice in Canada, and will continue to raise its voice against injustice and oppression in our contemporary world.

Dr. András B. Göllner. Founder and International Spokesperson. Emeritus Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Concordia University, Montreal, Que.

Dr. Christopher Adam. Co-Founder and Spokesperson. Sessional Lecturer, Department of History, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ont.

Dr. Éva Balogh. Co-Founder and Spokesperson. Former Professor of History and Dean of Morse College at Yale University (Retired) New Haven, Conn.

Dr. Stevan Harnad. Co-fondateur et porte-parole, langue française. Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science, Université du Québec à Montréal and External Member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Imre Szeman. Co-Founder and Spokesperson. Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies and Professor of English, Film Studies, and Sociology, University of Alberta.

The Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter’s website:

Montreal, August 25th, 2014

A plaque placed in Montreal recalls victims of Canada's first national internment operations. Photo: C. Adam.

A plaque in Montreal recalls victims of Canada’s first national internment operations. Photo: C. Adam.

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