Photo submitted Mini plaques recognize those who died during First World War internment camp operations in Canada. Mini plaques recognizing those who died during Canada’s First World War internment camp operations are being added to their gravestones at cemeteries in Vernon and across Western Canada. (photo submitted)

Mini plaques added to internment camp graves

Plaques on graves at cemetery in Vernon; to be added at other cemeteries in Western Canada

More mini plaques are being added to graves of those who died in Canada during First World War internment operations.

This year, additional plaques will be installed on grave markers at cemeteries at Vernon, Mara Lake, Nanaimo, Morrissey (all in B.C.), Banff, Calgary, Lethbridge and Brandon.

The mini plaque reads ‘In honour of those who lost their lives during Canada’s First National Internment Operations.’

“It’s important to get the plaques on the graves; it’s important to share these stories,” said Vernon’s Lawrna Myers, cemetary researcher for Project 107, so named for the original number of deaths recorded in an internment report authored by General William Otter. In actuality, 124 men and children dided in six provinces (18 in B.C.) during internment operations, which ran from 1914 to 1920.

During that time, thousands of men, women and children were branded as ‘enemy aliens.’ Many were imprisoned, stripped of what little wealth they had and forced to do heavy labour in Canada’s hinterlands. They were also disenfranchised and subjected to other censures, not because of anything they had one but only because of where they came from and who they were.

The goal of Project 107 is to locate and document the men, women and children who died during the internment operations; establish contact with the 33 original cemeteries the internees were buried to determine whether or not the remains of the internees are still buried in their original plot; install a grave marker or plaque for those internees who did not have a memorial; and affix a monumental plaque on each internee’s marker.

In Vernon, 11 men lost their lives at an internment operation, and mini plaques are the first to be mounted on the seven remaining graves at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery.

“Most people don’t realize there was an internment camp here (Vernon),” said Myers. “It was where W.L. Seaton school is.”

The camp in Vernon operated from Sept. 18, 1914, to Feb. 20, 1920. A plaque and mini plaque were erected at Pleasant Valley Cemetery at the grave of Stipan Sapina, who died in the camp May 21, 1917.

In May 2008, representatives from the Ukrainian community reached an agreement with the Canadian government providing for the creation of an endowment fund to support commemorative, educational, scholarly and cultural projects intended to remind Canadians of this episode in the nation’s history.

Myers received a grant from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund for Project 107.