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Interned Without Cause, by Peter Krawchuk


From the very beginnings of its existence the organized Ukrainian progressive movement has withstood baiting on the part of reactionaries and surveillance by the authorities. As soon as the first three Ukrainian branches of the Socialist Party of Canada were organized and the newspaper "The Scarlet Banner" (Chervony Prapor) began publication 75 years ago, the Uniate clergy and the nationalist leaders, who were in the service of the capitalist parties, moved against them.

It suffices to glance through the files of the newspapers "Canadian Farmer" (Kanadisky Farmer) and "Canadian Rusin" (Kanadisky Rusyn) up to 1914 and the beginning of the first world war to see how much defamation and insinuation were addressed against the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party of Canada and its organ "The Working People" (Robochiy Narod). Denunciations of the USDPC and "The Working People" were made to the powers that be especially after the Great October Socialist Revolution because the party had evaluated positively this historic event of world importance. One did not have to wait long for the results of this shameful smear campaign, in September, 1918, by decree of the Dominion government the activities of the USDPC were forbidden and the further issuance of the newspaper "The Working People" was discontinued. A whole series of USDPC activists was arrested and thrown into concentration camps in Brandon, Manitoba, Lethbridge, Alberta, Vernon, British Columbia, and Kapuskasing, Ontario, where they remained until 1920. Among the arrested were Michael Knyazevich of Winnipeg, Nick Lypka of Point Douglas, Tymko Boychuk and John Hnyda of Montreal, Peter Haydeychuk of Ottawa, Timothy Koreychuk, Michael Skrynyk, George Brus and many others who later played an important role in the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association. A propos, even today Nick Lypka leads a branch of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians in Point Douglas. After leaving the Kapuskasing concentration camp, Michael Knyazevich went to the United States of America and today is one of the leaders of the Ukrainian-American League.

Particularly in the 1930s, during the economic crisis, reactionaries went on the offensive against the activities of the Communist Party of Canada, left-wing trade unions and the progressive organizations of various ethnic groups. The RCMP raided the offices of the Communist Party of Canada in different cities throughout the country and arrested its activists, and the courts sentenced them to various prison terms. May Day demonstrations were banned, demonstrations by the unemployed who demanded work or assistance were broken up and the hunger marches by Manitoba and Alberta farmers were dispersed. The police made flying raids on the Ukrainian Labour Temples in various communities since workers found refuge in the halls during strikes. The Ukrainian progressive press was besmirched by the nationalists because it defended the interests of workers, supported their just demands in the struggle for higher wages, for the right to belong to trade unions of their choice, and for proper prices on farm products, and spoke against the sale of farms for unpaid debts or taxes. The nationalist leaders also moved against the Ukrainian progressive movement with brutal ferocity because the Ukrainian progressive movement maintained friendly relations with the Soviet Union, in particular Soviet Ukraine, where the Ukrainian people had gained social and national freedom.

It should be mentioned that many nationalist leaders who made these allegations against the Ukrainian progressive movement, praised German Nazism, Italian fascism and Japanese militarism during meetings and particularly in their newspapers. In their tracts they stressed that all three forms of fascism (German, Italian and Japanese) reflected the very same spirit as does Ukrainian nationalism. They bombastically boasted that Hitler would "create the Ukrainian state" for them. Consequently they set great hopes on him.

When the second world war exploded in September, 1939, the nationalist leaders, like chameleons, suddenly changed their colours and became "ultra-Canadian patriots", although they did not turn against their European spiritual "leaders", their sources of inspiration who completely, body and soul, supported the Hitlerites, that Canadian soldiers fought and died fighting at Dieppe. To mask the pro-Hitler orientation of the leaders at that time of the nationalist forces, the conglomerate Ukrainian Canadian Committee was created by means of governmental measures. The UCC arbitrarily appropriated a mandate to represent "all Ukrainians" in Canada, to which it had no right since Ukrainian Canadians never gave it such authority.

In fabricating the notorious UCC in 1940, Tracy Philipps (British intelligence officer), Watson Kirkconnell and George Simpson calculated to strike a blow (which was already planned) at the Ukrainian progressive movement. Afterwards they planned to take under their control the former members of the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association and the readers of "The People's Gazette" (Narodna Hazeta) and "Farmer's Life" (Farmerske Zhyttia).

In fact, narrow-minded state politicians expedited this ignominious plan. Taking advantage of war-time conditions and using the turn of events in the world, at the beginning of June, 1940, by Order in Council they banned the activity of the Communist Party of Canada and a whole series of progressive organizations of various nationalities, among which was the ULFTA.

With this Order in Council a black chapter in the history of Canada was begun.

In May, 1940, court proceedings were held in Ottawa against three young Canadians: Harry Binder, an organizer for the Communist Party of Canada; his younger brother Louis Binder, a soldier in the Canadian army; Roy Sanderson, a federal civil servant. They were being tried for handing out the electoral platform of the Communist Party of Canada.

The court sentence and its description in the daily bourgeois press in themselves indicated an intensification of the campaign against Communists and activists of progressive organizations which supported the Canadian workers' struggle for social justice and democratic rights, which were friendly to the Soviet Union and which were avowed enemies of fascism.

While the aforementioned trial was taking place I was on an organizational tour of Northern Ontario. On behalf of the Workers' and Farmers' Publishing Association I was collecting money in various localities for the press fund of "The People's Gazette" (Narodna Hazeta). I was at the time one of the editors of the only Ukrainian daily paper in Canada, and worked in the correspondence department.

Reading the daily press and listening to radio broadcasts, you could sense that an open attack on the progressive movement was being prepared by the authorities. On June 4, 1940, soon after the pronouncement of the prison terms (Harry Binder was sentenced to three years in prison, Louis Binder and Roy Sanderson to two years each) the federal government adopted an Order in Council which declared the Communist Party of Canada and a series of progressive associations to be illegal organizations. Among the banned organizations were the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association, its Women's Section, and the Federation of Ukrainian Canadian Youth.

The pursuit of antifascists from Halifax to Vancouver began immediately.

On June 11, in broad daylight on the streets of Winnipeg, the RCMP nabbed the well-known public figure, Communist Jacob Penner, alderman for Ward 3, a workingclass district. That same day a police detachment of five men broke into the Ukrainian Labour Temple which housed the Central Executive Committee of the ULFTA, the Head Office of the Workers Benevolent Association, the editorial offices of "The People's Gazette" and "Farmer's Life", and the print shop. The police were seeking John Naviziwsky, director of the Workers' and Farmers' Publishing Association and celebrated Ukrainian Canadian figure. He was not in the building at the time. As a result we knew that he was on the list of those who were to be arrested and sent to concentration camps. At that point the police did not bother any of the editors because the ban had still not spread to include "The People's Gazette" and "Farmer's Life". We went to the editorial offices every day and continued to work and issue both papers regularly.

The leadership of the Communist Party of Canada, which was already functioning underground, decided that persons who held responsible positions in the progressive movement should go underground. One of them was John Naviziwsky. However, two days after the police raid on the Ukrainian Labour Temple he was arrested on the road between Winnipeg and Winnipeg Beach. Held with him was John Boychuk, secretary-treasurer of the CEC, ULFTA. Since the name on his identity papers was written according to the Polish transcription (Iwan Bojczuk) the police thought that he was not the man who was on their list and so they let him go. Later, when the police realized their error in having let a wanted man slip through their fingers, a hue-and-cry went up after him. He remained free for several months after that incident and finally was arrested in December of that year. Jacob Penner and John Naviziwsky were transported to Headingly Jail (near Winnipeg) but were soon transferred to a military prison where the chauvinistic administration treated them callously. They were deprived even of those rights which ordinary prisoners in Canadian prisons had: they were not allowed to see their relatives, they were not allowed to go out for walks, and they were not allowed to see newspapers. They were totally isolated from the outside world.

The efforts of lawyer Sol Greenberg to free the internees by a writ of habeas corpus met with no success. He demanded legal trials for them, knowing that there was not a single shred of evidence against them, nothing to justify holding them in prison. Though there were no legal grounds to detain the internees in prison, the judge did not order them freed but, on the contrary, obediently submitted to the will of Minister of Justice Ernest Lapointe. Afterwards they were removed under police escort to the concentration camp in Kananaskis.

As a result of these measures, Canadian citizens, tried and true antifascists, known fighters for the workers' interests and democratic rights, were thrown into a concentration camp for enemy aliens, in which there were already 200 members and sympathizers of the Hitlerite organization Deutsche Bund Fur Kanada. In its own way this was a testing ground for the internees.

The police spy network against Communists, left-wingers and activists in militant progressive unions was immediately set into motion. Almost every day notices appeared in the press that in Montreal, Sudbury, Vancouver and Calgary the police had arrested people who were promptly conveyed to concentration camps without trial or even formal charges. We learned then that arrested antifascists in Eastern Canada were escorted to a concentration camp in Petawawa where there was already a significant number of Italian fascists.

The black days of reaction began.

In the East and in the West, from different cities in the country, Canadian antifascists, handcuffed and under armed police escort, were sent regularly behind barbed wire. Of what were they guilty? Was it not that they hated fascism with all their being, that they courageously fought it, some even taking up arms to fight in Spain in 1937-39? Among the interned were soldiers in the International Brigade (Robert Kerr, Alexander Miller, Fred Spivak). Were not the antifascists sent to the concentration camps because they were the first out on the streets to break up marches by home-grown fascists who were morally and materially supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy? Were they not deprived of freedom because on the pages of "The People's Gazette" and "Farmer's Life" they exposed the Hitlerite agents of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the various Sushkos and Kurmanoviches who freely travelled the length and breadth of Canada disseminating fascist propaganda and threw the Hitlerite salute "Heil!" at a mass meeting in the Orpheum Theatre in Winnipeg?

In those days no one who had direct or indirect relationships with the Communist Party or banned progressive organizations like the ULFTA could walk without alarm out onto the city streets of Canada, for at any moment a provocateur or renegade might point a finger at them and they could be quickly snatched up and transported to Petawawa or Kananaskis.

Antifascists vanished from their own homes. In the night they were forcibly torn away from their wives and terrorized little children, their hands were bound, they were thrown behind bars and sent away thousands of miles to the concentration camps.

Reaction triumphed. The Ukrainian pro-fascist leaders also exulted because they thought that they were done once and for all with their opponents and now would be able to wreak havoc on the Ukrainian community, to spread their poisonous propaganda with no one to unmask their ugly faces.

But the triumph of reaction and the malicious glee of the Ukrainian pro-fascist leaders were premature; they succeeded in destroying neither the Communist Party of Canada nor the radical organizations, in particular the Ukrainian progressive movement. In the onward march of history, those organizations proved themselves to be very much alive, to be effective factors in the political and cultural life of the Canadian people.


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