The unveiling of a plaque in Saskatoon Friday was part of a nationwide ceremony marking 100 years since the War Measures Act was enacted during the First World War.  

That act, which was in force from 1914 to 1920, allowed the federal government to imprison thousands of Canadians of Ukrainian, German and Slavic descent, considered enemies and a threat to national security. 

War Measures Act

This plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of the War Measures Act being enacted was unveiled at St. Petro Mohyla Institute in Saskatoon. (Peter Mills/CBC)

The Saskatoon plaque was unveiled at the St. Petro Mohyla Institute (SPMI). It is one of 100 plaques that were unveiled at 11 a.m. CST across the country in Ukrainian, Croatian, Serbia, German and Hungarian churches and cultural centres, as well as in local and regional museums and other venues. 

Father Taras Makowsky said he was proud to be a part of the ceremonies.

"This helps the wonderful atmosphere of multiculturalism, that we all respect everybody for who they are, where they came from and that all ethnic backgrounds had difficult times in the early years," he said.

He said he hopes young people will learn about Canada's internment operations adding that the current struggles overseas show the importance of remembering the mistakes of the past.

"We can’t go back to those hateful times," he said. "We have to learn to respect and love everybody for who they are."

Slawko Kindrachuk, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress added that the country has come a long way, in many respects.

"We've become better informed and more sensitive and empathetic to some of the issues that are faced by people's in Canada and beyond," Kindrachuk said.

While Saskatchewan did not have a formal internment camp, there was a temporary holding area at Eaton, west of Saskatoon. People from across Canada, who were bound for internment camps, were often kept in Eaton for a time.

Kindrachuk also cautioned about repeating the mistakes of the past.

"We ... need to be aware of the fact that overreacting, as was the case under the internment operations, that we do not persecute people unjustly," he said.

Ken Krawetz, Saskatchewan's Minister of Finance, added that remembering the internment camps of 100 years ago can be instructive in how we view current troubles around the world.

"We need to ensure that we remember, that we educate one another," Krawetz said. "Because unfortunately with what’s going on in the world we have to make sure, we have to be vigilant that indeed this doesn't happen again."

Ten other plaques were unveiled across Saskatchewan today. The ceremonies were organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA).