Re: Internment mural planned for Vernon, Nov. 16.
As a long-time resident of our city, I believe awareness of the turbulent history of MacDonald Park is long overdue. Some of the Ukrainians interned there during the Great War had come to Canada under invitation as homesteaders and were already naturalized citizens.
During its five-and-a-half years of use as an internment camp, the establishment also housed a few German prisoners-of-war. Most were officers, classified as first-class, which meant they were not required to do hard labour or work regular shifts.
That certainly did not sit well with the Ukrainian immigrants who were classified as second-class prisoners and forced to work up to eight hours per day in spite of the fact that they were not the enemy.
The provincial property was traded to the city for a gravel pit in 1945, mainly through the efforts of K.C. MacDonald, MLA for the riding and minister of agriculture. The old institution was razed; grass and shrubbery planted as if to mask the past.
Today, in what could be viewed as a reluctance to mark the location of Canada’s first shameful national internment operation, a squat concrete monument, with Ukrainian symbol, cowers between W.L. Seaton Secondary School and the park.
The selection of the MLA’s name for the park appears to be a way of producing historical amnesia of the true history of the property.
Along with the mural, a more historically-appropriate name for the park should be considered. Lest we forget.
Andrew F. Maksymchuk