Directed by Ryan Boyko, That Never Happened reveals the story of Canada’s first national internment operations between 1914-1920, when over 88,000 people were forced to register and more than 8,500 were wrongfully imprisoned in internment camps across Canada, not for anything they had done but because of where they came from. In 1954, the public records were destroyed and, in the 1980s, a few brave men and women began working to reclaim this chapter in history and ensure future generations would know about it.
Through testimonies and hitherto unknown historical accounts, That Never Happened cuts through the façade that Canadians have built up around themselves as somehow immune to the world’s great atrocities. As a Canadian myself, I recognize that our national identity is founded upon the idea that we have somehow created a space where all peoples, regardless of belief or ethnicity, can be accepted and treated with respect. Instead, however, Boyko’s film peels back this stereotypical view by shining a much-needed light on a tragedy that our nation has fought to keep buried for decades. (In fact, it’s likely the desire to maintain this global perception of Canadian culture that has fed the desire to keep this story from being told until recently.) Here, Boyko’s film speaks to the fact that no one is immune from committing evil and that, in order to allow healing to begin, the most painful moments in our history must be brought out into the open for discussion.
Although director Boyko has not only uncovered a story that had yet to be told. He has recovered the account of a people that had lost their voice. Throughout That Never Happened, family after family have the opportunity to understand their own history with fresh eyes. In many ways, it is as though a piece of their family has been given back to them, even if the moment is filled with tragedy. Gone is the imposed silence of history as their voice is restored. What once was lost has now been found in a way that gives hope for the future.
Having screened the film at the United Nations, Boyko’s desire for his film is to create conversation in the hope that it might prevent anything like this from happening again (even if there are no guarantees). In telling one of the darker stories of Canadian culture, Boyko opens a space for healing and hope that the country did not know they needed. More than that though, it also gives notice to the rest of the world how a nation can slide away morally and provides an opportunity for others to consider the dangers of such a path.
For full audio of our interview with director Ryan Boyko, click here.
That Never Happened is currently in select theatres.