LA FERME, Quebec – Award-winning Spirit Lake Internment Interpretative Center, celebrating its sixth successful year, continues to welcome many visitors to its museum. This year’s summer tourist season broke previous summer records with over 4,000 coming to the center. Since 2011 over 30,000 have walked through the center to learn about the area, the unjust internment at Spirit Lake – the second largest internment site in Canada – and about early 20th century Ukrainian immigrant history to Quebec.
This summer, with three university students on a government grant working full-time, the center extended its hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., allowing more flexibility for visits by families and young people. Visitors came from parts of Canada and Europe.
During the summer months, the center received a donation of bicycles (including special bikes for the handicapped), which allowed it to offer free bike rentals for visitors to view the area on bike paths, bicycle around Spirit Lake next to the center and visit the museum. Historically, with the lake frozen in the winter, internees were forced to walk daily across Spirit Lake to cut trees, often severely injuring themselves in the cold.
This fall and winter, for teachers who have a limited amount of time and money for student bus visits, the center is providing instructors to go to schools to conduct information seminars in student auditoriums. In turn, this creates awareness about history and a desire among students to come later to experience the internment site on their own.
Spirit Lake Center, located uniquely on the original internment grounds, is the only internment museum in Canada open all year round. Future increase in museum attendance looks very favorable. Because content in the Quebec high school curriculum has changed, the center’s educational outreach program is expanded. The history of World War I and its impact on society are now being taught in Quebec elementary Grades 5 and 6 and in high school Grades 11 and 12. CEGEP’s post-high school classes incorporate regional history and heritage studies. As a result, Canada’s First World War internment operations of 1914 to 1920 and Spirit Lake (1915-1917) are being included.
“The need for support for educational programs and the museum’s existence has prompted Spirit Lake Center’s national fund-raising campaign to reach out across Canada”, stated James Slobodian, the center’s chairperson. “Spirit Lake internment is Canada’s story, and we invite our community to help ensure increasing broad public awareness by embracing our work. Cultural institutions survive with the public’s support.”
The Spirit Lake internment story (1915-1917) is captured in Yurij Luhovy’s documentaries “Ukrainians in Quebec 1891-1945” and “Freedom Had A Price.”
For further information readers may see www.campspiritlake.ca or call 819-727-2267.