Freedom Had A Price Essay Research Paper

Freedom Had A Price Essay, Research Paper Ukrainian Internment During the First World War Representations of History Freedom Had a Price is a 1994 award winning documentary about the Canadian

Freedom Had A Price Essay, Research Paper

Ukrainian Internment During the First World War

Representations of History

Freedom Had a Price is a 1994 award winning documentary about the Canadian

internment of ?enemy aliens? (as considered by the Canadian government) during


First World War. Produced and directed by Yurj Luhovy, it is a moving visual


of the atrocities perpetrated on prisoners who had committed no crimes. While a


percentage were German captives, the majority were Canadians of Ukrainian


Hated and feared because of their ?alien heritage? and because they posed


threat to a country in recession, these people were imprisoned and forced to


back-breaking work for a few cents per day.

Freedom Had a Price contains all the elements of a modern thriller: innocent

people rounded up and thrown in crowded work camps; half starved forgotten


freezing in isolated wilderness areas: torture, desperate escape attempts,

sickness and

death. The climax of the movie comes when the prisoners finally revolt and


small victory in better food and living conditions. But unlike modern stories,

there is no

feeling of satisfaction when the film runs out there is no resolution to the

story, not then,

and not now.

In the film, frozen images stare through time, gaunt, bewildered and


men huddling around fires trying to keep from freezing in northern Ontario,


hacking down trees along railway lines in western Canada so train tourists could

get a

better view, a bullet riddled body shot after an escape from the Spirit Lake

camp in

Quebec. Interspersed with the pictures, two survivors of the camps recall their


memories, still afraid of reprisals from a government that imprisoned them once


for no reason. Modern historians also add explanation and interpretation to a

chapter of

Canadian history many would prefer to forget.

As powerful as the documentary is, its failing is in its narrow focus.

Produced in

1994 by La Maison de Montage Luhovy Inc., and the National Film Board, Freedom

Had a Price accomplishes its aim of exposing the stark horror of the camps and


unjust treatment of the prisoners. But because no context or balancing

viewpoints are

given, the film teeters on sensationalism. For example, the man in charge of


internment camps, Sir William Otter, is mentioned only once in passing. But in

the book

A Canadian General: Sir William Otter, author Desmond Morton devotes a whole

chapter to Otter?s struggle to set up and regulate the camps on government

orders. From

the account, it appears Otter was not inhumane, and tried to do the best he

could for the

prisoners. Unfortunately, most of the day-to-day operations were often left to

inept camp

commanders and government bureaucrats. As Morton explains,

Though he had a plan, Otter was very much at the mercy of decisions made

by the registrars and they were susceptible to public opinion. He was not, as

he repeatedly had to explain, Head of the Enemy Alien catchers, he was simply

responsible for those they sent him.

And Otter himself wrote:

The various complaints made to you by prisoners as to the rough conduct

of the guards, I fear is not altogether without a reason, a fact much to be

regretted, and I am sorry to say by no means an uncommon occurrence at other


Although Freedom Has a Price was made to shock and outrage-it is still


accurate. The fact and figures it presents are confirmed by a number of other


sources, such as a chapter on the internment camps in Ontario in a book put out

by the

Multicultural History Society of Ontario. According to the book and the film,

about five

thousand people of Ukrainian heritage, mostly unemployed men were incarcerated


internment camps under the War Measures Act of 1914. These workers had


worked in semi-skilled areas such as mining, lumbering, and manufacturing


and had been the first to face unemployment during the recession. Government


held that the camps would provide them with food, shelter and work while keeping


feared political and economic menace away from society. Altogether, there were


six camps across Canada. Ontario held six, including Petawawa and the damp and


Fort Henry in Kingston. Living and working conditions were undoubtedly brutal,

and the

psychological deprivation was as hard as the physical discomfort. During the

years the

camps were in operation, from 1914-1920, one hundred and six people were


?insane? and one hundred and seven died, some shot while trying to escape;

others from

tuberculosis and pneumonia. One of the interviewees in Freedom Had a Price was


woman who was interred with her father and family when she was just a child.

Her two-

year old sister died in the camp because there were no proper medical

facilities. The

cause of death was never determined and she was buried in a makeshift coffin in

a nearby

cemetery. All that remains is a faded snapshot of a smiling little girl and an

old woman’?

anguished memories and questions. One insistent fighter for restitution for the

internment injustices, Lubomyr Luciuk edited a 1994 book that addresses the

legacy of

the camps, Right an Injustice, which is described on the cover as ?The Debate


Redress for Canada?s First National Internment Operations.? The book is a

comprehensive collection of articles from various sources, including the late


century newspaper articles, editorials and letters to a number of major Canadian

newspapers, as well as debates and proceedings from the House of Commons and the

Senate of Canada. Many articles discuss the circumstances surrounding and


camp development, thereby providing a larger overview than does the film.

In Righting an Injustice, it is revealed that the Canadian government

has finally

acknowledged some culpability in the brutality of the internment camps. For a

long time

it took the attitude of wait and hope they go away. But in a 1991 House of


debate, it was decided that??internment was unjust, repressive, and against the


of Rights and Freedoms. The government is also looking into ways to provide

compensation to the Ukrainian people. One suggestion was to get Parks Canada to


historical monuments to acknowledge the injustices against the Ukrainian

Canadians and

educate the public about this chapter of our past. But, as shown in the


theory and practice are not the same. A city councilor in Kapuskasing, Northern

Ontario who has been trying to get a monument there restored has found that

there are not

any funds available. It is also debatable how sincere the government is in

really education

the public.

A website ( entitled Ukrainian

Internment in Canada was created by some of the people involved in the ongoing

struggle for recognition. The authors begin by explaining the reason for the


These series of pages were motivated by the reluctance of the Canadian

Broadcasting Corporation (CBFC) to show Yurij Luhovy?s excellent documentary,

Freedom Had a Price?The CBC found excuse after excuse of why they could not air

this excellent film. When they finally did show it, it was aired Sunday, April

23, 1995 at 4PM EST with very little prior notice. The listing ?Sense of

History? was inconspicuous with no further information as to what it was. In

other words, the CBC successfully camouflaged the show to minimize its exposure

to the Canadian viewing public.

There is little doubt that the advent of the Internet, and the World

Wide Web have

transformed the way the world disseminates information. The organizational style

of the

website makes this site to be comprehensive and easy to navigate. The web site

at is a valuable companion to the film. Its pages include


on whom the internees were; where the internment camps were located in Canada;


the origins and history of the camps. A considerable amount of information is

taken from

primary sources. In addition, this web site provides a number of links

containing an

extensive amount of information pertaining to the internment of the Ukrainians.

While it may have been a slow process, many Canadians of Ukrainian descent are

finally starting to gain some atonement for the wrongs shown their ancestors in


internment camps of the First World War. The documentary Freedom Had a Price is


strong visual reminder of a regrettable part of Canada?s past. While it may not

be as

broad in scope or as unbiased as other accounts, it is an excellent source if

used in

conjunction with other resources. However, it is probably one effective way of


the message to the general public. There are many who are determined the

message will

eventually reach everyone because for them it is a matter of honour. While

addressing a

standing committee on multiculturalism in 1987, Lubomyr Luciuk used the


quote from an unknown author in the Daily British Whig, September 8, 1917,

The man whose honour has been mistrusted and who has been singled out for

national humiliation will remember it and sooner or later, it will have to be

atoned for.

In conclusion, history is an important part of our everyday lives.


films, books, and internet sites when used in conjunction with one another can

offer its

readers and viewers, a history that is rich, in depth, and diversified. The use

of archival

footage, vintage photographs, compelling testimonies of survivors, and

commentaries of

such prominent Canadian historians as Desmond Morton and Donald Avery, in


Had a Price, the web site, and the books Fighting an Injustice and A Canadian

General: Sir William Otter have provided invaluable scholarship to the study of

Ukrainians and their internment. Together they have painted a moving human story


Canadian history that has all but disappeared from public consciousness.


this incident can not be erased from the history books or from the memory of the


who were involved, or their families. As historians we share in our

responsibilities to

ensure that history whether it is represented in historical films,

documentaries, web sites

or books, is faithful to historical evidence. Questions about how history works,

and how

scholars can objectively evaluate their sources are just some of the criteria

that must be

realized and satisfied. Sources must reach a public that has a simplistic

notion of

history. It is absolutely imperative that we gain tentative understandings of


construction of historical cultures. As historians, we all share in the

responsibility to learn

from the lessons of the past.