Documentary about camps

Men, women and children being rounded up without cause, herded into camps and being forced to work laborious tasks with no compensation.

While it may sound like the work of a totalitarian regime, it happened in the Okanagan during the First World War.

Thousands of people across the country were sent to internment camps based entirely on their ethnicity.

One of those camps was in Vernon, and now a filmmaker is travelling the country and stopping at the historic site of each of the nation's 24 camps that were in operation from 1914 to 1920.

Ryan Boyko, of Armistice Films, will be in Vernon Nov. 12 to film the Vernon internment camp site and Vernon Internee Cemetery monument.

Boyko will be making a three-minute vignette about each camp, which will then be put together for a feature-length documentary, said Andrea Malysh, program manager of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.

Boyko will also be interviewing descendants of camp survivors.

“We are creating a digital map on our website, internmentcanada.ca, in 2016, and you will be able to click on the map and view a particular story,” said Malysh.

“There are some very horrific stories from the internment camps. Our beautiful parks have kind of a dark history.”

Malysh explained many internees were forced to work on creating Canada's national parks, such as Yoho and Banff.

“They actually helped build the Parks Canada project with free, forced labour,” she said, adding Mount Revelstoke Park was also build on the backs of internees.

Internees built the highway from Sicamous to Vernon and from Monashee Mountain near Cherryville to Edgewood, essentially opening the Okanagan to the Kootenays.

“Vernon was really unique because the B.C. government solicited the federal government for one-third of the camps, because they did not have money for infrastructure. The federal government worked out an agreement with province to set up a main camp in Vernon because Vernon already had a military camp, so it could guard the internees,” she said.

Vernon was only one of two camps to house women and children.

Along with the documentary, Boyko will also start work on a feature-length film next year called Enemy Aliens.

“It's about two brothers who come over from Ukraine and find themselves interned. A lot of the film will be about the Spirit Lake camp and the camp at Banff,” she said of the movie, which is expected to be released in 2017.


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