The Town of Petawawa is on the banks of the Ottawa River, around 150 km upriver from Ottawa. Inhabited since time immemorial by the Algonquin Nation, the name originates from the Algonquin word for "where one hears a noise like this." The area was settled by Europeans in the late 19th century, mostly to exploit the rich forests of the region. In 1905 the Canadian government set up a military base here, which became Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, and is today one of the primary military bases in Canada.
During the First World War, Austro-Hungarian 'enemy alien' internees were brought here to labour on the military base. It was the first work camp in Canada's extensive network of First World War internment camps. The camp closed in 1916, though it was reopened again during the Second World War for German and Italian internees.

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

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Petawawa Internment Camp

Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Assoc.

The Canadian military base at Petawawa served as an internment camp for so-called 'enemy aliens' between December 1914 and May 1916. The camp was located several kilometres from CFB Petawawa, on the north side of Centre Lake.
By fall 1914 it was becoming clear that the small internment facilities set up in major cities and old fortresses were becoming drastically overcrowded. The government decided they needed a new internment camp that could be expanded, and perhaps serve as a place where the internees' labour could be put to use.
The small army base at Petawawa was being dramatically expanded in the early months of the First World War. The government decided to move the internees here and use them to help expand the base.
It was the first camp where internees were put to work—a fateful distinction. It would set the pattern for larger internment camps in places like Kapuskasing and Spirit Lake, and in Canada's Rocky Mountain National Parks.