Extracts from the News

Banff Internment Camp - Prisoner Suicide

Crag & Canyon [Banff, Alberta]

Saturday, December 30, 1916

Transcribed by: M. I. Pirie

Although described in this article as a prisoner of war, Mr. Budak had not been captured in war, and was held at an internment camp because he held an Austrian passport.

The location of this internment camp was likely at Cave and Basin, Banff.  According to a November 18th, 1916 report , the location of the camp was recently moved down from Castle Mountain to winter quarters near the Cave and Basin.  The temperature at that time was 37 below zero.  The camp held around 250 aliens, with 120 guards.   According to the local paper - "...the majority of our citizens are of the opinion that the scenic outlook is not vastly improved by the presence of the slouching, bovine-faced foreigners."


George Luka Budak, prisoner of war No. 631, committed suicide at the internment camp last Sunday afternoon.

Budak had complained to the officers a couple of weeks ago that he feared ill-treatment at the hands of his fellow prisoners and obtained permission to sleep in a cell in the  guard room.  Sunday he had cleaned up the guard room and then gone to his cell, which was left unlocked.  A prisoner, confined in an adjoining cell, heard a noise and called to the sergeant of the guard.  Investigation disclosed Budak lying on the floor beneath his bunk, with blood stains on the floor.  He was hauled out from under the bunk, assistance procured from the medical detail and Drs. Brett and Poyntz summoned.  The doctors speedily arrived upon the scene but nothing could be done to save the man's life.  He had taken a razor and gashed the left side of his throat, without cutting the larynx, then committed harakiri, slashing his abdomen with the sharp steel with two crosswise cuts from 8 to 10 inches each in length.  The cuts were of sufficient depth to sever the intestines.

He lived for an hour and signified to interpreters that he had committed the rash act, but failed to supply the motive.

Budak was brought here Dec. 6 from Regina.  His commitment papers declared him an Austrian subject, although he claimed to be a Roumanian.  He was aged 35.

A jury was empanelled Sunday night and, after viewing the body, adjourned until Tuesday afternoon when an inquest was held at the police barracks. 

Coroner Dr. Brett examined a number of witnesses, but nothing was brought out to establish a motive for the rash act.

The jury returned a verdict that "George Luka Budak came to his death from wounds self-inflicted, cause unknown."


[Additional comment in Late Local News Notes, same edition]

After yanking citizens from their firesides on Christmas eve to serve on a coroner's jury, with the excuse that it was necessary to view the body at once to permit of burial, permission was obtained from Ottawa, Thursday, to inter the remains of the prisoner of war who suicided Sunday afternoon.  Nice work in a Christian country.


Background information on Internment Camps in Canada (WWI)

A guard at Castle Mountain Internment Camp at Banff left behind a photo album of the internment operations.  His story and the photographs may be viewed here.   It was located within what is today known as Banff National Park.