New documentary tells the story of Ukrainians’ role in Canada’s war effort

As one of my multiculturalism files was historical recognition of communities that were either subject to immigration restrictions or wartime internment, found this documentary of interest:

The late Ukrainian Canadian poet Michael Gowda, who in 1907 enlisted in the Canadian Home Guard and sought to create a Ukrainian regiment to serve the British army, once wrote a series of verses addressed directly to his new homeland.

Written from the perspective of an immigrant allowed to live in Canada primarily to colonize the prairie, as 170,000 Ukrainians did between 1891 and 1914, “To Canada” describes these new Canadians as in some sense merely “holders of thy soil.” To be recognized as fully Canadians, their people would have to fight and even die for Canada. It would take a blood sacrifice for their children to one day be “free to call thee theirs,” as the poem reads.

It is an outmoded vision of Canadian citizenship but no less powerful for the cultural change that has occurred since then, as Ukrainian-Canadians established themselves in Canada over many generations, with veterans of every war Canada has fought.

Award-winning Winnipeg filmmaker John Paskievich said this poem “proved prophetic.” The sacrifice was real, and the sense of belonging was finally ensured.

His new documentary, A Canadian War Story, describes Ukrainian Canadians’ contribution to Canada’s war efforts. Working for the Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre, he and other researchers tracked down details of veterans in Legion Halls and various archives, and gave voice to old correspondences.

As a story of racist exclusion giving way to acceptance, the film also offers a chance to reflect on the ethnic diversity of military service, especially from an ethnicity of Canadians who, like Japanese Canadians, were once persecuted as enemy aliens, even interned in work camps.

For Ukrainian Canadians in the late 19th and early 20th century, many of whom immigrated with the promise of title to a quarter section if they could farm it, resentment and suspicion were the norm. The film quotes then Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell referring to the consternation felt by established Canadians as trainloads passed through Ontario on their way west, filled with “disgusting creatures… being bearing human form” but having “sunk to such a bestial level.”

That was the climate in which Gowda tried to create a Ukrainian Canadian regiment as the threat of war grew in Europe. Canada was not interested. On the contrary, Ukrainians were suspected of sympathy for the enemy Austro-Hungarian empire, whence they came. Those who were not naturalized were forced to register as enemy aliens. Others were disenfranchised, and some were interned in forced labour camps.

There were exceptions, and the film describes how Filip Konowal, a Ukrainian Canadian from the allied Russian empire, became the only Eastern European born person to win the Victoria Cross, for “most conspicuous bravery and leadership when in charge of a section in attack.”

The second wave of Ukrainian immigration in the 1920s was similarly met with broad racism and exclusion. By the end of the 1930s, the reasons for enlisting were similar to other Canadians — patriotism, duty, excitement, lack of other work — but with that added cultural sense that Gowda’s blood sacrifice had not yet been paid.

The film quotes veterans such as Joseph Romanow of Saskatoon, who described an awareness that Ukrainian Canadians mustn’t be seen as second-rate citizens, and one way to do that was to fight for their country.

John Yuzyk of Rhein, Sask., said the economic climate was also so bad that “guys joined up because it paid and you could get three square meals a day.”

Ann Crapleve of Ladywood, Man., who would later participate in reconstruction efforts after the war, said: “I was a Canadian and wanted to do my bit for the country.”

The film ends with a description of Ukrainian Canadians assisting in this effort to rebuild Europe, and sometimes finding Ukrainians in camps for displaced persons, and facilitating their immigration to Canada rather than repatriation to the Soviet Union.

Source: New documentary tells the story of Ukrainians’ role in Canada’s war effort

Trump Copies the Worst Mistake of FDR – Scott McGaugh, The Daily Beast

Another example of those who forget history …:

Fear and vengeance have again gripped our nation. It’s not the first time that Americans have acted in a most un-American manner when we have been attacked or feel threatened. Throughout our history, we have branded entire ethnic groups as vague-but-dangerous threats. American communities have been forcibly unrooted without due process. Immigrants from China to the Middle East have been banned from our shore, in a passion first captured by Cicero when he wrote, “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”

February 19 marks the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that ordered the removal of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast in 1942, solely because of their ethnicity. There was no due process. No formal charges. Families were given only a few weeks’ notice to sell their businesses, homes, personal belongings, and even family heirlooms. “Japantowns” from San Diego to Seattle were gutted within a few months.

In this century, the 9/11 attack and jihadist-inspired domestic violence have spawned speculative calls for databases of Muslim Americans and mosque closures. Now President Donald Trump has tried to chaotically banish wide swaths of ethnic immigrants, for fear of unknown enemy combatants who may be among them. Out of fear of the invisible few, President Roosevelt authorized the equivalent 75 years ago this month, in what now is considered one of the darkest chapters of American history. President Trump has stopped short of condemning internment camps, despite national apologies by Presidents Reagan and Bush.

Shamefully, Trump is continuing an American tradition of retribution and vengeance against ethnic groups. When Native Americans were viewed as a threat to white settlement and expansion, tens of thousands were forcibly moved onto more than 300 reservations. Indeed, Cicero proved prescient when our Japanese-American neighbors were sent to internment camps about 65 years later in some of the same desolate regions that had been forced upon Native Americans.

It would serve President Trump and his allies well to reflect on Americans’ treatment of their Japanese-American neighbors in World War II. It was euphemistically called “relocation” and “evacuation” at the time. But the reality was far different. It was hysterical payback. Most victims endured nearly two years in a prison-camp environment of barracks where families lived in a single room. They were surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by armed soldiers, weapons turned inward.

Were they truly the American enemies that some feared—just as President Trump views large swaths of Muslims today?

In 1943, President Roosevelt authorized the segregated Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He asked the sons of those incarcerated and others to volunteer for an army commanded by white officers and to possibly die for their country in Europe and the Pacific. Remarkably, 10,000 volunteers from Hawaii stepped forward. Together with about 1,300 volunteers from the internment camps and draftees, army recruiters were overwhelmed by the response.

The 442nd suffered horrendous casualties on near-suicide missions as it compiled a remarkable war record. Ultimately the 442nd became the most-decorated unit of its size in World War II. One of its battalions, the 100th from Hawaii, brutally earned the moniker “Purple Heart Battalion.” The 442nd ultimately earned more than 18,000 awards for valor, more than one for every man. (Yet Japanese-American soldiers were denied Medals of Honor until President Clinton issued 21 in 2000. Only seven were alive to receive them personally.)

They returned home after the war and some suffered continuing hatred from their neighbors. Yet they endured and rebuilt their lives as parents, teachers, merchants, church leaders, and mechanics. Even though their families had been treated as a faceless, homogenous, and undefined internal threat against America, for the most part Japanese Americans suffered silently as they rose above America’s fear and vengeance.

Today their legacy sounds a cautionary note against partisan political talk of Muslim-American databases, muddled policy statements about Muslim Americans abroad, Muslim immigrant banishment, and the dangers of American mosques.

Today’s sweeping characterizations of Muslim Americans and Middle Eastern immigrants are a dangerous echo of America’s World War II treatment of Japanese Americans, as articulated by Oregon Governor Walter Pierce: “Their [Japanese American] ideals, their racial characteristics, social customs, and their way of life are such that they cannot be assimilated into American communities. They will always remain a people apart, a cause of friction and resentment, and a possible peril to our national safety.”

His statement sounds eerily familiar today. It is a sentiment that continues to sully the American spirit. Fear and vengeance must be stifled if thoughtful and constructive decisions are to be made that intelligently protect America’s national security.

Source: Trump Copies the Worst Mistake of FDR – The Daily Beast

Rare views of Japanese-Canadian internment: 19 images remembering one of Canada’s darkest hours 

1941_boats-u1369Good and harrowing series of photos (have chosen just two):

Last week was the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Amid commemorations of the Americans killed in the attack, as well as the brutal war that followed, also came a solemn remembrance of how the United States interned coastal Japanese-American populations that it wrongly believed were a dangerous fifth column.

A similar tragedy, of course, played out in wartime Canada. In a country with an established tradition of respecting civil liberties, wartime hysteria led to 21,000 people of Japanese descent being forcibly removed from a 100-mile “defence zone” along the British Columbia coast.

But that’s only part of the story. The National Post has combed through archives across the country to unearth these rare photos of one of the darkest hours in modern Canadian history.

propaganda

Beginning in March 1941 — eight months before the attack on Pearl Harbor — Japanese-Canadians were required to obtain these identity cards, which have been recently featured as part of the museum exhibition Registered. Something to note on these cards is that issuers felt the need to stamp them with the words “Canadian born.” It would have been understandable for the owners of these cards, both of them Canadian citizens, to see that stamp as a kind of insurance policy in case of war with Japan. But ultimately, 75 per cent of those interned were Canadian citizens, including many who could not speak Japanese or had fought for Canada in the First World War. With no similar mass internments taken against Italian- or German-Canadians, it was clear to them that this was motivated by a belief that Japanese were racially incapable of loyalty. As U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson summed it up, “their racial characteristics are such that we cannot understand or trust even the citizen Japanese.”