Not surprisingly they are distracted from what’s underfoot by the castellated limestone and shale promontories towering above, so resembling “a giant castle” that the explorer-geologist James Hector named them “Castle Mountain.” In 1885 this majestic landscape became part of Banff National Park, Canada’s first, now one of the world’s most visited, the patrimony of all Canadians. Rightly, we feel
But those transported here in the summer of 1915 did not revel in the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies. Former residents of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, lured to this Dominion with promises of free land and freedom, they instead fell victim to prejudice and wartime xenophobia, were cast as “enemy aliens,” then herded into 24 internment camps.
Hundreds once languished on the other side of this relic fosse, behind Canadian barbed wire, not because of anything they did wrong but only because of who they were, where they came from. Under armed guard, these civilian prisoners-of-war fashioned much of the park’s infrastructure, working on the CPR mainline, the Bow River Valley roadway, and even on the famous Banff Springs Golf course. In warm weather they sheltered in tents near Castle Mountain.