Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce my private member's bill, the internment of persons of Croatian origin recognition act.
The purpose of the bill is to acknowledge and commemorate a tragic episode in our nation's history when persons of Croatian origin were rounded up, interned and used as forced labour in a number of internment camps in Canada.
With the outbreak of World War I, prejudice and racism was fanned into xenophobia, culminating in the implementation of the War Measures Act as a result of an order in council by the Canadian government.
Five thousand, nine hundred and fifty-four so-called enemy aliens, of whom more than four hundred and fifty were of Croatian origin who had immigrated to Canada from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were interned.
While some would prefer to sweep this tragic episode of history of the internment operations of 1914 to 1920 into the dustbin of history, the Croatian Canadian community remembers and, through public acknowledgement by the government, seeks to bring closure to a painful episode in our common history.
By enacting this legislation and recognizing this tragedy, it is my hope that a better public understanding of what happened will reinforce and promote our shared values of multiculturalism, inclusion and, above all, mutual respect.
It is my sincere hope that my colleagues on all sides of the House will embrace and support this worthy and long overdue initiative.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)