“In the month of July, 1916 I was arrested without any reason, and for 15 days I was fed on bread and water… I was tortured and beaten without cause for same. On order from my inspector, I was treated like a tramp, and beaten and locked up in a dark cell without a matrass or a cover. It was a cold place. I was not permitted to wash for several days, and was fed on bread and water only, so that I am scarcely alive. Since my arrest I have been so sick and weak that I can hardly stand on my feet. They call me a "Black Hand“… I really do not know what to think about such a system… I never expected to meet such absurdity in Canada in the twentieth century.”

Petar Š.

An Injustice to our Pioneers

From 1914 to 1920, hundreds of Croats were imprisoned, forced to do heavy labour and even died in 24 concentration camps established by the federal government during Canada’s first national internment operations. Others were required to report regularly to the police for the duration of the conflict and beyond. These men, women and children suffered not because of anything they had done but rather who they were and where they had come from.

During the period prior to the First World War, the Canadian government actively recruited Croats and other Europeans to assist in the nation’s development. However, within a few short years they became “enemy aliens” and a number of them had their meagre possessions confiscated and were placed in camps for years.

How could this have happened?

The Croatian Canadian Internment Project will uncover the injustices suffered by the pioneers of the Croatian community and reveal the truth behind this sad episode in our nation’s history.

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Why is this Project Important?

Even though there were over 20 ethnic groups represented among the approximately 8,500 prisoners, the issue of internment in Canada during the First World War thus far has been told largely from the perspective of the Ukrainian community. The CCIP will allow our story to be told from a Croatian Canadian perspective and ensure that the internment of Croats be examined within the proper context unique to the experience of our pioneers.

Help us tell their story