Brandon is Manitoba's second-largest city. It was incorporated as a city in 1882, though its origins as a fur trade post date back far earlier, who traded with the Indigenous peoples of the Plains, such as the Sioux. Its modern foundation occurred during the rush of settlers that followed in the path of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The population grew rapidly, and it quickly became a service hub for the region. During the First World War, Brandon's Exhibition Building was used as an internment camp for enemy aliens. Today the Exhibition Building has been replaced by the headquarters of the Brandon Police Service.

This project has been made possible by a grant from the Endowment Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.

We acknowledge that Brandon is located on Treaty 2 Lands. These are the traditional homelands of the Dakota, Anishanabek, Oji-Cree, Cree, Dene, and Metis peoples.

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Brandon Internment Camp

Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Assoc.

Story Location

Those seeking help from the Brandon Police Service are today welcomed into a modern facility at 1020 Victoria Avenue, surrounded by a nicely landscaped parking lot. Flower gardens add some beauty to what is otherwise a sea of asphalt, and prisoners being taken into custody here can at least be assured that their quarters will afford them some level of dignity – a testament to how far Canada has come from the early twentieth century, when xenophobia combined with a number of other social, political, and economic factors to lay the groundwork for the internment camp once located where the Brandon Police Service’s headquarters is now situated.

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As with many of the so-called “camps,” that in Brandon amounted to an existing structure repurposed to accommodate prisoners of war. Starting in September of 1914 and continuing through the summer of 1916, the sprawling Winter Fair building on this site housed up to a thousand men who were deemed to be “enemy aliens” on account of their cultural heritage.1
The ironies associated with internment are apparent in contemporary reportage of these men arriving in Brandon. “As the train drew to a stop the crowd waited eagerly to get a glimpse of the Germans and Austrians who have gathered from all parts of the Canadian West and who will be safely taken care of while the war lasts,” the Brandon Daily Sun informed its readers on November 27 1914.2

Of course, care and safety were too often the furthest thing from the minds of those entrusted with the care of these prisoners. While efforts were made to ensure efficient evacuation of the premises in the event of fire, the building itself undermined both the physical and mental health of internees.

This was most glaringly apparent when Peter Duclo and a companion by the name of Barozchuck attempted to escape from the Brandon camp on May 29, 1915. Duclo jumped from a window fourteen feet into a concrete sidewalk, injuring his ankle.3 Not quite a week later, some fifteen “enemy aliens” made a dash for freedom after cutting through the floorboards beneath a table at which they had been playing chequers. The alarm was raised, and the men were shot or assaulted as they attempted to escape. Mike Butryn and Andrew Grapko ended up in hospital, the former “hovering between life and death” on account of his injuries.4 While this was not unexpected in the context of war, it revealed the risks internees ran in their quest to escape the drudgery of imprisonment. Simon Konrat, a 24 year-old Austrian, undoubtedly spoke for all of his fellow internees when he informed a correspondent for the Sun that “another two months of the monotonous life at the Arena would drive him crazy.”5

Even so, General W.D. Otter was most impressed by the facility when he paid it a visit in the spring of 1915. According to the March 5 1915 edition of the Brandon Daily Sun, Otter made it plain to the officers in charge of the Brandon internment camp “that they had the best layout for barracks, the best arrangements for handling interned men, and the best quarters for the latter in the whole Dominion.”6

For those citizens of Brandon who lined the railway tracks to catch a glimpse of those being committed to their enormous winter fair building, “enemy aliens” would be entrusted to the safekeeping of professional soldiers “doing their bit” for King and Country. For those stepping off the arriving train, internment would be an experience of contradiction and irony: the same country which welcomed immigrants and promised to look after them would in fact turn against them.7

1. “Brandon, Manitoba,” Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund,
2. “Prisoners of War Arrived In City This Afternoon,” Brandon Daily Sun, November 27, 1914.
3. “War Prisoners Break For Liberty, One Gains Freedom,” Brandon Daily Sun, May 31, 1915.
4. “15 Alien Enemies At Brandon Make Dash For Freedom,” Brandon Daily Sun, June 7, 1915.
5. Ibid, June 7, 1915.
6. “Brandon Has Best Arrangement For Interned Aliens,” Brandon Daily Sun, March 5, 1915.
7. Bohdan S. Kordan, “Behind Canadian Barbed Wire: The Policy, Process, and Practice of Internment,” in No Free Man: Canada, The Great War, and the Enemy Alien Experience (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016),Pgs. 130-131, 172-176, 186-187.