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Interned Without Cause, by Peter Krawchuk


After several weeks stay in camp the first interned antifascists at Kananaskis were summoned to hearings before a commission which was appointed by the Minister of Justice and which comprised one judge and a representative of the RCMP. These hearings took place in the camp administration offices. They proceeded mechanically, according to a fixed pattern. To the interned antifascist the chairman of the commission read, as if it were an indictment, a document which was based not on deeds committed and laws broken, but merely on the hypothesis that "you might do something", and it was therefore necessary to detain you in a concentration camp as a "potential saboteur". The ministerial committee came to such a conclusion on the basis of fabricated charges. Those charges -- that so-and-so was a member of the Communist Party of Canada or the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association -- were laid by the RCMP, of course, notwithstanding that at that time both organizations were legal. Moreover, the ULFTA was chartered; that is, it was officially recognized by the federal government.

None of the interned antifascists denied that he was a member (if indeed he were) of the Communist Party of Canada or the ULFTA. It should be mentioned that among the interned antifascists were those who had never belonged to the Communist Party of Canada, though they were accused of membership in it. Tony Bayliuk, for example, who was not a member of any party, was accused not only of being a member but also of belonging to the "Advisory Board" of the Communist Party of Canada, though there had never been such a body in the party.

Besides membership in the CPC or the ULFTA, the interned antifascists were also accused of being "communist propagandists", "communist organizers", "participants in ULFTA courses" and so on. But no effort was made to prove that an internee had actually broken the law. All of the accusations were based on conjecture and supposition.

Tony Bilecki, for example, was served a document in which it was stated that he was interned in accordance with the Defence of Canada Regulations (section 31) because, so they said, the authorities had cause to believe that he was a member of and a political propagandist for the Communist Party of Canada and the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association, which had been declared illegal "by decision of the government" (Order-in Council, P.C. 2363) on June 4, 1940. It further was exactly stated in the document, "therefore, you remain under guard, to restrain you from actions, by whatever means, harmful to the community and the state". But there was not a single fact in the document about any act committed, which had harmed the community or the state!

The first hearings were short, lasting an hour or two. They occurred for the sake of formality. Sol Greenberg, the lawyer from Winnipeg whom the internees' wives had hired to defend their husbands, participated in the hearings but his role was minimal. He was merely a silent witness to the farce. The interned antifascists were under no illusion that there was any hope of their quick release from camp after the hearings. They were firmly convinced that as long as the Soviet Union remained outside the war, as long as the non-aggression pact which the Soviet Union had signed with Germany was in effect, the authorities would free none of the antifascists. One should remember that our conviction was entirely confirmed because, even when the Soviet Union became an ally of England, France and Canada in the common struggle against Hitler's Germany, the Canadian authorities would not consider releasing the antifascists from the concentration camps at Kananaskis and Petawawa. They did so only after a mighty popular movement, which compelled the government to release the antifascists from Hull concentration camp, had developed in the country. The last antifascist walked out of camp to freedom in the first half of September, 1942 that is, 14 months after the Soviet Union became a military ally of Canada.

After the hearings the interned antifascists at Kananaskis received notification from the Ministry of Justice in Ottawa that the commission recommended the prolongation of their imprisonment in the camp.

In the first days of November, 1940, I received a letter from the office of the Deputy Minister of Justice in Ottawa, in which it was stated that the committee appointed by the Minister of Justice to deal with my objection to my detention considered that my detention was necessary in the interests of the state because representations had been made that I: (a) had studied under the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association; (b) had associated with the Youth Section of the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association; (c) was a Communist propagandist and organizer; and in view of the above it would appear that I was disloyal to Canada. It was further stated in the letter that my hearing would take place on November 12, 1940. But my hearing was postponed month after month until June 16, 1941.

My hearing, like that of other antifascists who were brought later to Kananaskis, was conducted without a lawyer present because, knowing from experience that he could do nothing to help us, we felt that it was a superfluous expenditure of money. Certainly, the commission's decision to detain us further in the concentration camp had been made beforehand.

None of the antifascists who were in the Kananaskis Internment Camp was set free after the hearings. Even the seriously ill Michael Sawiak was further detained behind barbed wire, though he suffered in agony as his life burned out before our very eyes.


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