Friday, 11 January 2013

Castle Mountain

amk2013- At the base of Castle Mountain, January 3, 2013

     In 1912, Calgary Stampede Champion organizer, Guy Weadick arranged for the Canadian Pacific railway company to transport interested Stampede visitors from across the prairies for a reduced return fare. It was a coup of marketing that ensured many visitors to the Stampede, among them the thousands of new Ukrainian speaking Canadian settlers. Then, in 1912, they gathered in Calgary as a community, and consecrated the first Ukrainian church in Calgary.

The same railway company, just a couple of years later, participated in something less festive and savory. Starting in 1914 and through 1917 the railway served as a delivery system to move "enemy aliens", those who held Austrian papers, therefore "technically" enemies of the Canadian state during World War 1, from freedom to enjoy Canada's economic opportunities, to forced labour and prison in Canada's First World War Internment Camps.

We recently hiked to the waterfalls in Johnson Canyon, located in Canada's Rocky Mountains, west of Calgary. Other hardy visitors also enjoyed the walk, on a cold winter day, made beautiful by the sparkling snow and icy rivers. The water gushing from under the ice and snow, rushing into the frigid river that steamed before it froze was a sight to behold.

Then we decided to check on the Castle Mountain Internment Camp.

     Castle Mountain Internment Camp was an ideal place to confine "enemy aliens" and "suspected enemy sympathizers" during Canada's World War 1 efforts.  In true fact, these people were among the thousands who craved the kind of freedom Canada could provide - and many of their fellow immigrants would prove this point by joining the war effort in Canada's military service to defend these freedoms. 

Located at the foot of Castle Mountain, prisoners called the tent camps home for the duration of the war.  Grim, totally isolated, confinement really wasn't much necessary for most because of the exhausting forced labour and severe Rocky Mountain terrain and climate.  Today valued tourists and visitors to Banff National Park have scant clue that much of the infrastructure of Banff National Park took shaped during those forced labour years.   

To get there take the Castle Mountain turnoff from highway 1, that's Highway 93.  You make a right and then a left onto 1A.  Continue west towards Lake Louise. The memorial is on the right, and the Internment Camp is somewhere on the left, but there are no markings, probably because this is a historical site that should be preserved.

The memorial was placed in the summer of 1995.  PLAST Ukrainian Scouts had a summer camp out there, (my husband as a helper), and searched to find the actual site of the Internment Camp.  They found traces in a bit of a clearing,  because the trees cut down in those internment camp years hadn't grown back yet.  The PLAST Ukrainian Scouts group found barbed wire still laying on the ground and there were other signs that people had been there, deep in the mountain wilderness.  Mounds of earth caused the young people to become somber in the erroneous belief that they might have been graves.  

The site is not far from the railway line, which runs parallel with the river.  It is important to note that general wisdom has it, the internment camp is situated somewhere between the river and the highway, on the opposite side from the actual monument. Clearly Parks Canada doesn't want any persons interfering in the natural processes of history. Now there is a convenient parking spot close to the monument which can be used by guests visiting the general area.  

amk2013 - The crystal clear blue waters of the Bow, that flows through the city of Calgary - in front of Castle Mountain near the Internment Camp.
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