THUNDER BAY, ON ---- August 15, 2012 --- A touching and informative ceremony commemorating the national historic significance of Canada's having accepted military prisoners of war and "enemy aliens" (European refugees that had fled to Britain from the mainland - mostly German, Austrian, and Italian citizens). These people were all detained in camps across the county. Northern Ontario, because of its remoteness had four main camps and a network of smaller work camps, mainly related to logging operations. Along the north shore of Lake Superior, there were main detention camps at Neys, Angler (near Marathon), and Red Rock. Other main northern Ontario camps were located at Espanola and Monteith.
Since its creation in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) has had the role of identifying and commemorating nationally significant places, person, and events.
The majority of nominations brought forward for consideration by this board comprised of distinguished experts, representing each province and territory. As well, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and Archives Canada are represented. The advocate for this new designation, was a northern Ontario citizen, Mr. Frank Spence. He gathered a team of stakeholders to support his nomination, and the HSMBC, together with Parks Canada, is celebrating that successful effort.
A northern Ontario site was chosen as the location of this federal plaque.Neys Camp 100 was located within the boundaries of what is now Neys Provincial Park, and it will be permanent home of the plaque. This is a wonderful honour and credit to the northern Ontario citizens who pushed for this designation. Neys provides a Prisoner of War program every summer, with tours of the remains of Camp 100.
This is a view of the Official Party from the audience. At the podium is Ms. Barb Rees, Marketing & Heritage Education Specialists, Ontario Parks, Northwestern Ontario region. Ontario Parks operates Neys Provincial Park, where there are some excellent resources in a PoW binder. If you have ever have a chance to drop in, you might be able to spend time reviewing documents that staff has gathered over the years. The Park also has a Prisoner trail program, and you might find that very interesting, as well. There are still remnants of the Neys Camp 100 very close to the Visitor Centre.
A member of the HSMBC always acts as Master of Cerermony for plaque unveiling events. The Official Party includes a representative of the Government of Canada and important stakeholders, at least one of whom provides an historic address. Mr. Ray Boudreau, acting Superintendent (Northern Ontario Field Unit, Parks Canada) spoke on behalf of the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of Environment. Mrs. Lucy Spence, wife of (the late) Frank Spence had the honour of speaking about the history of this event. Also on the Official Party, was Ms. Barb Rees, Marketing & Natural Heritage Education Specialist with Ontario Parks. She spoke on behalf of the Honourable Michael Gravelle, minister responsible for Ontario Parks.
The Honourable Peter Kent, Canada‟s Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today commemorated the national the historic significance of the „Detention of Second World War Military Prisoners of War and of Enemy Aliens Sent to Canada from Great Britain‟, as a National Historic Event. “This historical event was an important element of Canada‟s contribution to the Allied war effort and defence strategy,” said Minister Kent. “Internationally, Canada‟s fair treatment of military prisoners was noted, and it influenced the permanent post-war settlement of former detainees in Canada.”
The ceremony took place today at the site of former camp 100, now part of Neys Provincial Park near Marathon in Ontario. Between 1940 and 1947, there was a network of 26 permanent camps and dozens of work camps across the country. Several facilities were located in the remote Lake Superior region of Northern Ontario. A former prisoner of war at the Angler Lake Camp 101, Mr. Paul Mengelberg, participated in today‟s commemoration.
Canada became the wartime home for about 34,000 military prisoners of war. The same camps were also used to intern close to 4000 of Great Britain‟s enemy aliens; mostly German and Austrian civilians who had fled to Great Britain. Often, the experience of detainees in Canadian camps created a fondness for Canada, with hundreds of them eventually immigrating here after the war.
“Our Government is committed to commemorating events in Canadian history that are of profound importance to our national character and unique identity, such as the wartime detention of military prisoners and of Great Britain “enemy aliens””, said Minister Kent.
“Ontario is proud that Neys Provincial Park has been chosen as the location for the commemorative national plaque that gives formal recognition to the important contribution made by Camp 100 – and the 25 other detention camps across the country – to Canada‟s war effort,” said Michael Gravelle, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources.
Created in 1919 and supported by Parks Canada, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Government of Canada, through the Minister of the Environment, regarding the national historic significance of places, people, and events that have marked Canada‟s history. Parks Canada manages a nation-wide network of national historic sites that make up the rich tapestry of Canada‟s cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries. Additional details are available at www.parkscanada.gc.ca .