Thursday 28 August 2014

Enemy Aliens Housed at CNE

The Canadian National Exhibition is the site of an historic building.  In recent years, it was home of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Toronto Maritime Museum (1958-1998).  But during the First World War, it housed dozens of "enemy aliens" of German, Austro-Hungarian and Turkish descent.

Built on the shores of Lake Ontario in 1840 in response to the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, the New Fort York consisted of six limestone buildings.  It served as housing and a training ground for British and later Canadian troops, including the RCMP.  In 1893, the fort was renamed the Stanley Barracks after the governor Lord Stanley, sharing its name with the hockey trophy.  

Canadian troops circa 1918 courtesy

The First World War broke out in August of 1914.  By the following October, individuals of German, Austrian or Turkish background were being rounded up in Canada.  The reasons for incarceration were inconsistent.  "A German caught loitering in a suspicious manner" was brought in for questioning.  Rudolf Burnek followed "a wagon full of bricks" to Toronto Island and was apprehended.  One group of men was apprehended in Niagara Falls attempting to escape to the United States which was neutral at the time.  Another group, consisting of 120 Turks from Brantford, was turned away due at the Toronto fort due to lack of space.  In total 8759 internees would be held in Canada.


Internees courtesy

According to the Toronto Globe & Mail, the Stanley Barracks operators treated the internees well.  Each was given a cot, clothing and three blankets.  They were permitted only one family visit per month.  A 1914 article stated that the internees were given good food like "meat, milk, bread, pies, cake, cheese and butter." They bathed or showered regularly.  However, a Toronto Star article reported that a group at Stanley Barracks looked like they had gone "three weeks without tubbing' and needed to be hosed down. Apparently one individual lay face down on his cot and refused to get up, suffering from "melancholia".

By October of 1916, the internees at Stanley Barracks were either released or transferred to a work camp in Kapuskasing.  In 1953, all of the original New Fort York buildings were demolished except the Officers' Mess.  After serving as a Maritime Museum and Hockey Hall of Fame, it now sits vacant.  Some say that the building is haunted with the spirits of the internees.

Officers Mess courtesy

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