Posted on Nov 08, 2022
Among the 600,000 who served in the Canadian military during World War I, several thousand were Ukranian immigrants or of Ukrainian heritage. Among those were the grandfather of Wayne Gretzky and grandfather of Delta military historian Peter Broznitsky, seen here at the war memorial cenotaph in Ladner. At the outset of war in August 1914, however, the Canadian government quickly enacted the federal War Measures Act (WMA). The Act’s sweeping powers permitted the government to suspend or limit civil liberties in the interest of Canada’s protection, including the right to incarcerate “enemy aliens” including many Ukrainian immigrants and those of Ukrainian heritage.
Peter Broznitsky has been researching various aspects of the Canadian experience in the World Wars since 2003. He has spoken at seminars from Victoria to Halifax. He has published several articles on various topics related to the “Great War” as WWI was known.
Peter moderates the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group online forum and is past chair of the Pacific Coast Branch of the Western Front Association. He is also an ex-Commissioner of the Delta Heritage Advisory Commission.
Wayne Gretzky's grandfather, Anton, and
Peter Broznitsky's grandfather, Kiril, both
served in the Canadian army in WWI
President Guillermo Bustos and Avis Glaze thank Peter Broznitsky
The term “enemy alien” referred to the citizens of states legally at war with Canada who resided in Canada during the war. Under the authority of the WMA, Canada interned 8,579 enemy aliens in 24 receiving stations and internment camps from 1914-1920. Of those, 3,138 were classified as prisoners of war, while the others were civilians. The majority of those interned were of Ukrainian descent, targeted because Ukraine was then split between Russia (an ally) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an enemy of the British Empire. In addition to those placed in camps, another 80,000 enemy aliens, again mostly Ukrainians, were forced to carry identity papers and to report regularly to local police offices.