Park Prisoners by Bill WaiserPark Prisoners by Bill Waiser

Park Prisoners

byBill Waiser

Paperback | May 17, 1999

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Between 1915 and 1946, the Canadian government put some ten thousand unskilled foreigners, jobless and homeless people, conscientious objectors, perceived enemies of the state, and prisoners of war to work in western
Canada's national parks. These men had committed no crimes, but because of war or
depression, they were seen as a possible threat to public order and a potential source of civil unrest.

Many of the Banff, Jasper, and other national parks' heritage buildings and roads were
constructed through the backbreaking work of the internees in these labour camps. More than 125 archival photographs illustrate this compelling history of how these men lived and worked, how they were treated, and the legacy they left in our national parks.

Bill Waiser is the author, co-author or co-editor of eight books, including Park Prisoners: The Untold Story of Western Canada's National Parks and Loyal Till Death: Indians and the North-West Rebellion, a finalist for the Governor General's non-fiction literary award. His recent book, All Hell Can't Stop Us: The On-to-Ottawa Trek and ...
Title:Park PrisonersFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 6 × 9 × 1 inPublished:May 17, 1999Publisher:Fifth House BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1895618746

ISBN - 13:9781895618747

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Park Prisoners Canada is one of the nations that tries to put the not so perfect aspects of its history behind them. We are not taught about many of the people that had hardships on this great country of ours. The majority of our country has forgotten the impact provincial parks had on its labourers. What we see is what is in front our eyes; the beauty and tranquility of Canada's rough, but polished land. All the thousands of men that toiled for months and years to make the provincial parks accesible to the public, have not so much as a word uttered about them. Bill Waiser, is most probably the first author to write about our forgotten workers. This book tells the history of Canada's most prestigious parks; Yoho, Riding Mountain, Prince Albert, Jasper, Mount Revelstone, Kootenay, Glacier, Elk Island and Banff Nation Park. It has information, carefully collected and sorted through, about how these parks came to be. It picks through the dates 1915 to 1946 to put a spotlight on the people who came to our nation parks, either by will or by force, to contribute their labour. Most of these people were not seen as people, but rather as something more like animals. They were not welcome in our country. Although they worked on the nation parks every day for months and sometimes years, they were never allowed to actually visit the parks. It was often said that the prisioners would scare away tourists. The park prisioners consisted firstly of the Austro-Hungarians and the Germans, otherwise known as the enemy aliens . They resided in our provincial parks during the first World War. The next group, being the relief workers consisted of army personelle fresh off the war and some men who needed work during the depression. Our third group of visitors, the transients which was comprised of all young, single men being torn apart from the depression with no financial aid. After that came the men who didn't want to go to World War II and settled on aiding their country in other ways. These men dispite being ridiculed and labled as frightened or weak, went to the parks. They were called the conchies . People of Japanese descent were sent to provincial parks by wishes of British Columbia residents. With us fighting the World War against Japan, British Columbians became uneasy with the thought of Japanese in their province. This is even though most of them had never set foot in Japan. The last group of prisoners who shaped our provincial parks were the nazis or the Germans. They became prisoners of war after Germany became involved in a World War against Canada. In conclusion, I find this book very informative and the author very knowledgeble about the construction of the provincial parks and the people that built them. I'm sure that we all know that we can never really feel the complete impact this labour had on the workers. It is good, though, to sometimes look into the past, and try to feel what these forgotten labourers may have felt during their period of containment. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a well written, well researched piece of Canadian history. Park Prisoners is exquisitely detailed and has it's fine points, but can be a bore for people who aren't history lovers.
Date published: 2003-09-30

From Our Editors

It's a compelling look at a troubled time in Canada's history. Park Prisoners tells the astonishing and deeply troubling story of the construction of our country's mountain and prairie parks. Although their natural beauty and rusticity make them national treasures, it is little known that they were built through the enforced labour of thousands of homeless men, prisoners of war and conscientious objectors. Bill Waiser's history of the parks is thoughtful and well researched, and an important look at one of the most controversial moments in our nation's history.