Enemy Aliens – Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History
Although reported in newspapers, what is written about the internment camps may not, in fact, mirror the truth of the conditions for interns at the camps. At the time of writing, little research as to the lived experiences within these camps was available. The aim of this section is to summarize and relay stories that the newspapers of Port Arthur and Fort William printed, which would then be read by the general public. This work is intended to give you a brief understanding of how the people living in the district saw the ‘enemy alien’ situation. This is by no means a definitive or authoritative compilation. As more research is done into the lived experiences of the people identified as ‘enemy aliens’ the truth behind the reality of the situation will be revealed.
Prior to World War One, Canada was a nation searching for a national identity. The Great War provided Canadians with a sense of belonging through a common goal that the population could all identify with. Battles like Vimy Ridge (April 9-12, 1917), and Passchendaele (July 31- November 10, 1917) helped to shape and solidify Canada’s nationhood among the world’s great powers. At the same time that Canada was actively involved in creating a national identity to give its citizens a sense of belonging, it was also involved in identifying those people who “did not belong” in the national narrative. The image below links to a more thorough introduction to the ‘enemy alien’ topic and newspaper clippings from the Fort William Daily Times Journal (November 1914).
Due to their ‘enemy alien’ status, many immigrants either could not find work, or were let go from any employment that they might have had. In addition to the discrimination in the employment market, their registration and regular reporting to authorities meant that they could not leave the area to find work. Any movement undertaken, especially towards the neutral United States, was seen as a threat against Canada and the accused were then arrested, and usually interned. The discrimination against the immigrant ‘enemy aliens’ often caused their situation to become desolate and destitute; often leading some people to volunteer to go to internment camps where they would, at the least, be provided with the basic necessities of life such as food and shelter. The image below links to a detailed analysis of who was interned, why it happened, and example news clippings from the Fort William Daily Times Journal (November 1914) and Port Arthur Daily News (December 1914).
Local People & Stories
(Click on any headline or name below to read the full story)
The above material was researched, written and contributed to this project by William Tennyson.
Fort William and the Unjustifiable Internment of Ukrainians During WWI
In World War One, Canada incarcerated 8,579 ‘enemy alien’ nationals and pow’s. A vast majority of the 5,441 civilian internment camp prisoners were Ukrainian, and a further 80,000 Ukrainians registrants were reporting monthly to police. Yet, Fort William city files clearly show authorities saw these ‘enemy aliens’ to be of little or no threat to Canada. Click on the link above or the video below to learn more.
This material has been contributed to the project by Stefan Huzan of Thunder Bay.
Is a copy of petition 808 available online. I would like to see if any of my relatives were signatories.