Japanese-Canadian internment

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Japanese-Canadian Internment was the detainment of Japanese Canadians following the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and Malaya and attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent Canadian declaration of war on Japan during World War II. This forced relocation subjected Japanese Canadians to government-enforced curfews and interrogations, in addition to job and property losses.[1]

Beginning after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and lasting until 1949 (four years after World War II had ended), Canadians of Japanese heritage were removed from their homes and businesses and sent to internment camps. The Canadian government shut down all Japanese-language newspapers, took possession of businesses and personal property. In order to fund internment, property belonging to Japanese Canadians was sold, including fishing boats, motor vehicles, houses, and personal belongings.[1]

In August 1944, Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that Japanese Canadians were to move east into prisoner of war (POW) camps and internment camps as had been previously encouraged. The official policy stated that Japanese Canadians must move east of the Rocky Mountains or be repatriated to Japan following the end of the war.[2] However, by 1947 many Japanese Canadians had been granted exemption to this enforced no-entry zone, and by 1949 legislation was enacted that allowed Japanese Canadians the right to vote provincially as well as federally, officially marking the end of internment.[3]

Prewar history[edit]

Tension between Canadians and Japanese immigrants to Canada existed long before the outbreak of World War II. Starting as early as 1858 with the influx of Asian immigrants during Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, negative beliefs and fears about Asian immigrants began to affect the populace in British Columbia. Canadian sociologist Forrest La Violette reported in the 1940s that these early sentiments had often been "organized around the fear of an assumed low standard of living [and] out of fear of Oriental cultural and racial differences".[4] Both Japanese and Chinese immigrants were feared to be taking jobs from white Canadians. Because of this, Canadian academic Charles H. Young concluded that many Canadians argued that "Oriental labour lowers the standard of living of White groups".[5] It was also argued that Asian immigrants were content with a lower standard of living. The argument was that many Chinese and Japanese immigrants in British Columbia lived in unsanitary conditions and were not inclined to improve their living space thereby proving their inferiority and their unwillingness to become truly Canadian. These ideas were often refuted with the argument that, while Japanese and Chinese immigrants did often have poor living conditions, both groups attempts to assimilate were hindered by the difficulty they had in finding steady work at equal wages.[6]

In reference to Japanese Canadians specifically, human geographer Audrey Kobayashi argues that prior to the war, racism "had defined their communities since the first immigrants arrived in the 1870s."[7] Starting in 1877 with Manzo Nagano, a nineteen-year-old sailor who was the first Japanese person to officially immigrate to Canada, entering the salmon-exporting business, the Japanese were quick to integrate themselves into Canadian industries.[8] Some Canadians felt that while the Chinese were content with being "confined to a few industries"[attribution needed] the Japanese were infiltrating all areas of industry and competing "with an aggressive efficiency"[attribution needed] that overwhelmed white workers.[9] This was exemplified by the growing rate of Japanese fishermen in the early 1900s. By 1919, 3,267 Japanese immigrants held fishing licenses, and 50 percent of the total licenses issued that year were issued to Japanese fishermen. These numbers were alarming to Canadian fishermen who felt threatened by the growing number of Japanese competitors.[10] Japanese immigrants were also accused of being resistant to assimilation into Canadian society, because of Japanese-language schools, Buddhist temples, and low inter-marriage rates among other examples. It was asserted that the Japanese had their own manner of living,[11] and that many who had become Canadian citizens did so to obtain fishing licences rather than out of a desire to become Canadian.[12] These arguments reinforced the idea that the Japanese remained strictly loyal to Japan.

The situation was exacerbated when, in 1907, the United States began prohibiting Japanese immigrants from accessing mainland America through Hawaii resulting in a massive influx (over 7,000 as compared to 2,042 in 1906)[13] of Japanese immigrants into British Columbia. Largely as a result, on August 12, 1907, a group of Vancouver labourers formed an anti-Asiatic league, known as the Asiatic Exclusion League, with its membership numbering "over five hundred."[13] On the September 7th, 1907, some 5,000 people in support of the League marched on City Hall, where they had arranged a meeting with both local and American speakers. By the time of the meeting, it was estimated that at least 25,000 people had arrived at Vancouver City Hall and, following the speakers, the crowd broke out in rioting, marching into Chinatown and Japantown. Many windows were smashed, but the Japanese in Little Tokyo were able to repel the mob without any serious injury or loss of life.[14] After the riot, the League and other nativist groups used their influence to push the government into an arrangement similar to the United States' Gentlemen's Agreement, limiting the number of passports given to male Japanese immigrants to 400 per year.[15] Women were not counted toward the quota, so "picture brides," women who married by proxy and immigrated to Canada to join (and in many cases, meet for the first time) their new husbands, became common after 1908. The influx of female immigrants — and soon after, Canadian-born children — shifted the population from a temporary workforce to a permanent presence, and Japanese Canadian family groups settled throughout British Columbia and southern Alberta.[15]

During World War I, opinions of the Japanese improved slightly. They were seen as an ally of Great Britain and some Japanese Canadians enlisted in the Canadian Forces. On the home front, many businesses began hiring groups that had been underrepresented in the workforce (including women, Japanese immigrants, and Yugoslavian and Italian refugees who had fled to Canada during the war) to help fill the increasing demands of Britain and its allies overseas. Businesses that had previously been opposed to doing so were now more than happy to hire Japanese Canadians as there was "more than enough work for all".[16] However, at the end of the war, soldiers returning home to find their jobs filled by others, including Japanese immigrants, were outraged. While they had been fighting in Europe, the Japanese had established themselves securely in many business and were now, more than ever, perceived as a threat to white workers. "'Patriotism' and 'Exclusion' became the watchwords of the day."[16]

While many groups, like the Asiatic Exclusion League and the White Canada Association, saw the Japanese as a possible threat to their way of life, by the 1920s other groups had begun to come forward to the defense of Japanese Canadians, such as the Japan Society. In contrast to rival groups' memberships consisting of mostly laborers, farmers, and fishermen, the Japan Society was primarily made up of wealthy white businessmen whose goal was to improve relations between the Japanese and Canadians both at home and abroad. The heads of the organization included a "prominent banker of Vancouver" and a "manager of some of the largest lumbering companies in [British Columbia]."[17] They saw the Japanese as being important partners in helping open up businesses in British Columbia to Japanese markets.

Despite work of organizations like the Japan Society, many groups still opposed Japanese immigration to Canada, especially in BC's fisheries industry during the 1920s and 1930s. Prior to the 1920s, many Japanese labourers were employed as pullers, a job that required them to help the net men row the boats out to fish. The job required no license, so it was one of the few jobs for first-generation Japanese immigrants who were not Canadian citizens. In 1923, however, the government lifted a ban on the use of motorboats and required pullers to be licensed. This meant that first-generation immigrants, known as Issei, were unable to get jobs in the fishing industry, which resulted in large–scale unemployment among these Issei. Second-generation Japanese immigrants, known as Nisei and who were Canadian citizens, began entering the fishing industry at a younger age to compensate for this, but even they were hindered as the increased use of motorboats resulted in less need for pullers and only a small number of fishing licenses were issued to Japanese Canadians.[18]

This situation escalated in May 1938 when the Governor General abolished the pullers license entirely despite Japanese protest of the move. This resulted in many younger Japanese being forced from the fishing industry, leaving Japanese net men to fend for themselves. Later that year, in August, a change to the borders of fishing districts in the area resulted in the loss of license for several Japanese fishermen who claimed they had not been informed of the change.[19] While these events did result in reduced competition from the Japanese in the fishing industry, it created further tensions elsewhere.

The Japanese had already been able to establish a secure position in many businesses during World War I, but their numbers had remained relatively small as many had stayed working in the fishing industry. As the Japanese began to be pushed out of fishing, they increasingly began to work on farms and in small businesses. The result of this move was that white Canadian farmers and businessmen began having to compete with Japanese immigrants, leading to increased racial tension.[20]

In the years leading up to World War II, there were approximately 29,000 Canadians of Japanese ancestry in British Columbia, 80% of whom were Canadian nationals.[21] At the time, they were denied the right to vote and barred by law from various professions. Racial tensions often stemmed from the fact that many believed that all Japanese immigrants, both first generation Issei and second generation Nisei, remained loyal to Japan alone. A professor of the University of British Columbia was quoted by Maclean's Magazine as saying that the "Japanese in B.C. are as loyal to [Japan] as Japanese anywhere in the world."[22] Others felt that tensions, in British Columbia specifically, originated in the fact that the Japanese were clustered together almost entirely in and around Vancouver. As a result, as early as 1938, there was talk of encouraging the Japanese to begin moving east of the Rocky Mountains,[23] an idea that became a reality during World War II.

The actions of Japan leading up to World War II were also seen as cause for concern. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1934, began ignoring the naval ratio set up by the Washington Naval Conference of 1922, and, in 1936, refused to follow the Second London Naval Treaty and allied with Germany with the Anti-Comintern Pact. Because many felt that resident Japanese immigrants would always remain loyal to their home country, the Japanese in British Columbia, even those born and raised in Canada, were often judged for these actions taken by their ancestral home.[24]

World War II[edit]

When the Pacific war began, discrimination against Japanese Canadians increased because of Japanese military aggression. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Japanese Canadians were categorized as enemy aliens under the War Measures Act, which began to remove their personal rights.[25] On January 14, 1942, the federal government passed an order calling for the removal of male Japanese nationals between 18 to 45 years of age from a designated protected area of one hundred miles inland from the British Columbia coast. Those displaced were removed to road camps around Jasper, Alberta. Three weeks later, another order expanded that authority to allow the removal of "all persons of Japanese origin"[26] This order-in-council, PC 1468, allowed the Minister of Justice the broad powers of removing people from any protected area in Canada, but was meant for Japanese Canadians on the Pacific coast in particular and on February 25, the federal government announced that Japanese Canadians were being moved for reasons of national security.[27]In all, some 27,000 people were detained without charge or trial, and their property confiscated. Others were deported to Japan.[28]

Even before the removal of Japanese Canadians from the coast in 1942, the federal government had started restricting the rights of Japanese Canadians. In August 1941, the Canadian navy requested that the federal government give them the authority to confiscate all fishing boats in the event of war.[28] Initially reluctant, Ottawa gave orders to seize boats 'owned and operated by Japanese nationals' in October of that year.[28] However, not all Canadians believed that the Japanese Canadians posed a threat to national security, including select senior officials of the RCMP, Royal Canadian Navy, Department of Labour and Fisheries, among other government agencies.[29]

Mackenzie King[edit]

William Lyon Mackenzie King served his final terms as Prime Minister between 1935 and 1948, at which point he retired from Canadian politics. He had served two previous terms as Prime Minister, but this period was perhaps his most well known. His policies during this period included unemployment insurance and tariff agreements with Great Britain and the United States.[30]

Prime Minister King wrote daily in his diary throughout his life. These diary entries give us a sense for the thoughts and feelings he held during the war. Historian N.F. Dreisziger has written that "though he undoubtedly considered himself a man of humanitarian outlook, he was a product of his times and shared the values of his fellow Canadians. He was—beyond doubt—an anti-Semite, and shouldered, more than any of his Cabinet colleagues, the responsibility of keeping Jewish refugees out of the country on the eve of and during the war."[31]

Prior to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, Prime Minister King was not considered a racist. He seemed concerned for humanity and was against the use of the atomic bomb and even its creation. When King found out about the estimated date of the bomb's being dropped he wrote in his diary: "It makes one very sad at heart to think of the loss of life that it [the bomb] will occasion among innocent people as well as those that are guilty".[32] Historians, however, historians point to King's specific diary entry on August 6th, 1945 when referring to King's racism toward the Japanese[attribution needed]. On August 6, King wrote in his diary:

"It is fortunate that the use of the bomb should have been upon the Japanese rather than upon the white races of Europe".[33]

Japanese Canadians serving in the war[edit]

For many Japanese Canadians, World War I provided an opportunity to prove their loyalty to Canada and their allies through military service in the hopes of gaining previously denied citizenship rights. However, despite the large numbers of Japanese Canadians who volunteered, the Canadian government often rejected their applications. Like other visible minorities at the time, such as Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians, the Canadian Japanese Association's offer to create a battalion was rejected by Prime Minister Robert Borden and his federal cabinet. However, many Japanese Canadians were able to enlist individually by travelling to Alberta where their presence was deemed less of a threat, which in turn provided opportunities for recruitment in other provinces outside of British Columbia.[34]

During World War II, some of the interned Japanese Canadians were combat veterans of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, including several men who had been decorated for bravery on the Western Front. Despite there first iterations of veterans affairs associations established during World War II, fear and racism drove policy and trumped veterans' rights, meaning that virtually no Japanese Canadian veterans were exempt from being removed from the BC coast.[35]

Small numbers of military age Japanese Canadian men were permitted to serve in the Canadian Army in the Second World War as interpreters and in signal/intelligence units.[36] Canadian Nisei were already serving in the Canadian army in 1942 against the Axis.[citation needed] By January 1945, several Japanese Canadian men were attached to British unites in the Far East as interpreters and translators. In total, about 200 Canadian Nisei joined during World War II.[37]

Throughout the way, Canadians of "Oriental racial origin" were not called upon to perform compulsory military service.[36] Japanese Canadian men such as Harold Hirose chose, individually, to serve in the Canadian army during the war to prove their allegiance to Canada but many would be discharged only to discover they were unable to return to the BC coast or have their Canadian citizenship rights reinstated.[38]

Internment camps[edit]

The December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor spurred prominent British Columbians, including members of municipal governments, local newspapers, and businesses to call for the internment of ethnic Japanese living in Canada under the Defence of Canada Regulations. In British Columbia, there were fears that some Japanese Canadians who worked in the fishing industry were charting the coastline for the Japanese Navy and spying on Canada's military. British Columbia borders the Pacific Ocean, and was therefore believed to be easily susceptible to enemy attacks from Japan. Total, 21,000 Japanese Canadians (14,000 of whom were born in Canada, including David Suzuki) were interned starting in 1942. Even though both the RCMP and the Department of Defence lacked proof of any sabotage or espionage, Prime Minister Mackenzie King decided to intern Japanese Canadian citizens based on speculative evidence.[39]

Wide-spread internment began on February 24, 1942 with an order-in-council passed under the Defence of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act gave the federal government the power to intern all "persons of Japanese racial origin."[40] A 100-mile (160 km) wide strip along the Pacific coast was deemed "protected", and men of Japanese origin between the ages of 18 and 45 were removed. Most were taken to road camps in the British Columbia interior or sugar beet projects on the Prairies, such as in Taber, Alberta. Despite the 100-mile quarantine, a few Japanese Canadian men remained in McGillivray Falls, which was just outside the protected zone; however, they were employed at a logging operation at Devine (near D'Arcy in the Gates Valley), which was in the protected zone but without road access to the coast. Japanese Canadians interned in Lillooet Country found employment within farms, stores, and the railway.[41]

The Liberal government also deported able-bodied Japanese Canadian labourers to camps near fields and orchards, such as the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Japanese Canadian labourers were used as a solution to a shortage of farm workers.[42] This obliterated any Japanese competition in the fishing sector. During the 1940s, the Canadian government created policies to direct Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations into farming, and other sectors of the economy that "other groups were abandoning for more lucrative employment elsewhere".[43]

Affects of Internment Camps on Women and Children[edit]

Japanese-Canadian women and children faced a specific set of challenges that greatly affected their way of life and broke down the social and cultural norms that had developed. Whole families were ripped out of their homes and separated from each other. Husbands and wives were almost always separated when sent to camps and less common, but still tragic mothers were also separated from their children as well. Japanese-Canadian families typically had a patriarchal structure, meaning the husband was the center of the family. Since husbands were often separated from their families, wives were left to reconfigure the structure of the family and the long established divisions of labor that were so common in the Japanese-Canadian household. [44]

Negative Affects of Internment

Women were also forced to wait long periods to have children and get married. This lengthened the timeline of independence for single women, but also impacted the Japanese-Canadian community after internment by creating more independent women, which disrupted the pre-internment way of life. Young children were also forced to step up and take on more responsibilities when fathers were taken away. There are accounts from children in internment camps that recall the impact not having a father had on them. One girl even recalls how her sister went from being a pampered eldest child to being a head of household in their father’s absence. This was incredibly disruptive to the typical family structure because not only was a child in charge, but it was a female child nonetheless. Transitions such as these gave women a much greater power within the family structure and gave children more adult responsibilities.

Positive Affects of Internment

Although many aspects of the internment camps caused negative changes within the Japanese-Canadian community, some of these changes could be argued as advantageous. For example, many women faced lesser domestic responsibilities within the internment camps. Living spaces were small and crowded so cleaning was shared among multiple woman and took less time than at home. Childcare was also less taxing on women because the cramped quarters allowed for multiple women to care for children at once. Yet another arguably advantageous circumstance for the women of the internment camps in Canada is that all of this new found free time left time for the younger women to get education. All of this free time also freed up older women for wage-earning jobs, such as workers on beet farms, in some case. [45]

Lack of Privacy

Many women were forced out of their modest ways of life due to lack of space and privacy in the internment camps. For example, at Hastings Park, women and children were housed in an area that was previously used for livestock. Prisoners were forced to share one animal stall per family and personal space was very hard to come by. The partitions were made of the five-foot stall walls and flimsy pieces of fabric. This created very little privacy for the families and caused most women to abandon the previous modest social norms.

Tensions Between Generations

Tensions between first generation, Issei, and second generation, Nisei, Japanese-Candians were exacerbated during internment. The language gap that many Issei dealt with was intensified when they were given instructions within the camp. This often left children, whose English was generally better, to translate for their mothers and give them the commands. This lead to an imbalance in power between mothers and their children. Due to their new found position and ability to understand English better than their mothers, children often times found themselves in a position of power over their mothers. Mothers were no longer the guardians and could not shield their children from adult responsibilities. Because of this, children were forced to grow up and accept these positions of power before they were of an appropriate age.

Life After Internment

Often times after internment families could not be reunited. Many mothers were left with children, but no husband. Furthermore, communities were impossible to rebuild. The lack of community lead to an even more intensified gap between the generations. Children had no one to speak Japanese with outside the home and as a result they rarely learned the language fluently. The lack of community also led to a lack of Japanese foundation and many children lost touch with their culture. Mothers had also learned to be bolder in their own way and were now taking on wage-earning jobs, which meant that they had less time to teach their children about traditional Japanese culture and traditions. The internment camps had forever changed the way of Japanese-Canadian life. [46]

Camp conditions[edit]

Internment camp, June 1944
A road crew of interned men building the Yellowhead Highway.

Many Canadians were unaware of the living conditions in the internment camps. The Japanese Canadians who resided within the camp at Hastings Park were placed in stables and barnyards, where they lived without privacy in an unsanitary environment.[47] Kimiko, a former internee, attested to the "intense cold during the winter" and her only source of heat was from a "pot-bellied stove" within the stable.[48] General conditions were poor enough that the Red Cross transferred fundamental food shipments from civilians affected by the war to the internees.[49]

Some internees spoke out against their conditions, often complaining to the British Columbia Security Commission directly whenever possible. In one incident, fifteen men who had been separated from their families and put to work in Slocan Valley protested by refusing to work for four days straight. Despite attempts at negotiation, the men were eventually informed that they would be sent to the Immigration Building jail in Vancouver for their refusal to work.[50] Their mistreatment caused several of the men to begin hoping that Japan would win the war and force Canada to compensate them.[51]

In early March, all ethnic Japanese people were ordered out of the protected area, and a daytime-only curfew was imposed on them. Various camps in the Lillooet area and in Christina Lake were formally "self-supporting projects" (also called "relocation centres") which housed selected middle- and upper-class families and others not deemed as much threat to public safety.[41][52][53]

Tashme, on Highway 3 just east of Hope, was notorious for the camp's harsh conditions and existed just outside the protected area. Other internment camps, including Slocan, were in the Kootenay Country in southeastern British Columbia.[54] Leadership positions within the camps were only offered to the Nisei, or Canadian-born citizens of Japanese origin, however, excluding the Issei, the original immigrants from Japan.

Restriction of property rights[edit]

Those living in "relocation camps" were not legally interned—they could leave, so long as they had permission—however, they were not legally allowed to work or attend school outside the camps.[55] Since the majority of Japanese Canadians had little property aside from their (confiscated) houses, these restrictions left most with no opportunity to survive outside the camps.[55]

Prime Minister King issued a ruling that all property would be removed from Japanese Canadian inhabitants. They were made to believe that their property would be held in trust until they had resettled elsewhere in Canada.[56] In 1943, the Canadian "Custodian of Enemy Property" liquidated all possessions belonging to the 'enemy aliens'. The Custodian of Enemy Property held auctions for these items, ranging from farm land, homes, and clothing. Japanese Canadians lost their fishing boats, bank deposits, stocks, and bonds; basically all items that provided them with financial security.[57] Japanese Canadians protested that their property was sold at prices far below the fair market value at the time.[58] Prime Minister King responded to the objections by stating that the "Government is of the opinion that the sales were made at a fair price."[59]

It was the hope of the Canadian government that selling all of Japanese Canadians' personal possessions and property would deter them from returning to British Columbia. The Canadian government also viewed this as an opportunity to settle veterans returning from World War II in the area previously home to thousands of Japanese Canadians. In all, 7,068 pieces of property, personal and landholdings alike, were sold for a total of $2,591,456.[35]

As one contemporary[who?] points out, there were economic benefits with the internment of Japanese Canadians. Specifically, white fishermen directly benefited due to the impounding of all Japanese-Canadian owned fishing boats. Fishing for salmon was a hotly contested issue between the white Canadians and Japanese Canadians. In 1919, Japanese Canadians received four thousand and six hundred of the salmon-gill net licences, representing roughly half of all of the licences the government had to distribute. In a very public move on behalf of the Department of Fisheries in British Columbia, it was recommended that in the future Japanese Canadians should never again receive more fishing licences than they had in 1919 and also that every year thereafter that number be reduced. These were measures taken on behalf of the provincial government to oust the Japanese from salmon fishing. The federal government also got involved in 1926, when the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Fisheries put forward suggestions that the number of fishing licences issued to Japanese Canadians be reduced by ten percent a year, until they were entirely removed from the industry by 1937. The fact that any Japanese Canadians were still fishing in British Columbia at the outset of World War II is amazing due to the pressure they faced from the province, country, and other fishermen. Yet the reason the government gave for impounding the few remaining and operating Japanese-Canadian fishing boats was that the government feared these boats would be used by Japan to mount a horrific coastal attack on British Columbia.

Many boats belonging to Japanese Canadians were damaged, and over one hundred sank.[55] A few properties owned by Japanese Canadians in Richmond and Vancouver were vandalized, including the Steveston Buddhist Temple.

As well, robberies against businesses in Japantown rose after Pearl Harbor was bombed. At least one person died during a botched robbery.[60][61]

A Royal Canadian Navy officer questions Japanese-Canadian fishermen while confiscating their boat.

Confinement in the internment camps transformed the citizenship of many Japanese Canadians into an empty status and revoked their right to work.

Resettlement and repatriation[edit]

British Columbia politicians began pushing for the permanent removal of Japanese Canadians in 1944. By December, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt had announced that Japanese Americans would soon be allowed to return to the West Coast, and pressure to publicize Canada's plans for their interned Japanese was high. Officials created a questionnaire to distinguish "loyal" from "disloyal" Japanese Canadians and gave internees the choice to move east of the Rockies immediately or be "repatriated" to Japan at the end of the war. Some 10,000, unable to move on short notice or simply hesitant to remain in Canada after their wartime experiences, chose deportation.[15] The rest opted to move east, many to the city of Toronto, where they could take part in agricultural work. By 1947, most Japanese Canadians not slated for deportation had moved from British Columbia to the Toronto area, where they often become farmhands or took on similar labour jobs in Toronto.[63] Several Japanese Canadians who resettled in the east wrote letters back to those still in British Columbia about the harsh labour conditions in the fields of Ontario and the prejudiced attitudes they would encounter.[64] White-collar jobs were not open to them, and most Japanese Canadians were reduced to "wage-earners".[64]

When news of Japan's August 1945 surrender reached the camps, thousands balked at the idea of resettling in the war-torn country and attempted to revoke their applications for repatriation.[15] All such requests were denied, and deportation to Japan began in May 1946. While the government offered free passage to those who were willing to be deported to Japan,[59] thousands of Nisei born in Canada were being sent to a country they had never known and where they would still feel quite alienated. Families would be divided, and they were being deported to a country that had been destroyed by bombs and was now hunger-stricken due to the war.[65] Public attitudes towards the internees had softened some since the start of the war, and citizens formed the Cooperative Committee on Japanese Canadians to protest the forced deportation. The government relented in 1947 and allowed those still in the country to remain; however, by this time 3,964 Japanese Canadians had already been deported "back" to Japan.[15][66]

Postwar history[edit]

Following public protest, the order-in-council that authorized the forced deportation was challenged on the basis that the forced deportation of the Japanese was a crime against humanity and that a citizen could not be deported from his or her own country. The federal Cabinet referred the constitutionality of the order-in-council to the Supreme Court of Canada for its opinion. In a five to two decision, the Court held that the law was valid. Three of the five found that the order was entirely valid. The other two found that the provision including both women and children as threats to national security was invalid. The matter was then appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain, at that time the court of last resort for Canada. The Judicial Committee upheld the decision of the Supreme Court. In 1947, due to various protests among politicians and academics, the Federal Cabinet revoked the legislation to repatriate the remaining Japanese Canadians to Japan.[67] It was only in April 1949 that the all restrictions were lifted from Japanese Canadians.

The Canadian government also launched a Royal Commission (led by Justice Henry Bird) in 1947 to examine the issue of compensation for confiscated property. By 1950, the Bird Commission awarded $1.3 million in claims to 1,434 Japanese Canadians; however, it accepted only claims based on loss of property, refusing to compensate for wrongdoing in terms of civil rights, damages due to loss of earnings, disruption of education, or other issues.[55]

Issues surrounding the internment of Japanese Canadians also lead to changes to the Canadian immigration policy, with the legislation gaining momentum after a statement made by the Prime Minister himself on 1 May 1947:

"There will, I am sure, be general agreement with the view that people of Canada do not wish, as a result of mass immigration, to make a fundamental alteration in the character of our population. Large-scale immigration from the orient would change the fundamental composition of the Canadian population...The government, therefore has no thought of making any changes in immigration regulations which would have consequences of the kind.[68]

This reform to the immigration policy was deemed necessary on two grounds: the inevitable post-war crisis of displaced persons from Europe, and the growing number of Canadians who wished to bring family to Canada following the war—the large number of war brides being the chief concern on this front. Mackenzie King believed that Canada was under no legal obligations to make such accommodations, only a moral obligation. During this time, the Canadian government also made provisions to begin the repeal of the discriminatory Chinese Immigration Act.[68]


In the postwar years, Japanese Canadians had organized the Japanese Canadian Committee for Democracy, which later became the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC). In 1977, during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to Canada, discussions of redress began to have effect. In meetings in basements and coffee houses, Japanese Canadians began to be angry again, and the sense of shame was gradually replaced by one of indignation"[28] This sparked the Japanese Canadians to want to fight for rights and to fight for compensation for what they were put through during the war.

In 1983, the NAJC mounted a major campaign for redress which demanded, among other things, a formal government apology, individual compensation, and the abolition of the War Measures Act.[55]

To help their case, the NAJC hired Price Waterhouse to examine records to estimate the economic losses to Japanese Canadians resulting from property confiscations and loss of wages due to internment. Statisticians consulted the detailed records of Custodian of Enemy Property, and in their 1986 report, valued the total loss to Japanese Canadians totalled $443 million (in 1986 dollars).[55]

On September 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney delivered an apology and the Canadian government announced a compensation package, one month after President Ronald Reagan made similar gestures in the United States. The package for interned Japanese Canadians included $21,000 to each surviving internee, and the re-instatement of Canadian citizenship to those who were deported to Japan.[70] The agreement also awarded $12 million to the NAJC to promote human rights and support the community, and $24 million for the establishment of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to push for the elimination of racism. Nothing was given for those that had been interned and died before compensation was given out.

Not only did the redress help the Japanese Canadians, but it also helped to reform the Canadian society.[citation needed] One way that this reform occurred was through teaching within the public education system.[71] By utilizing this outlet, Canadians were able to confront the social injustice of Japanese Internment in a way that accepts those affected and aids in creating a community that values social reconstruction, equality, and fair treatment.[71] Public education provides an outlet for wronged individuals to share their stories and begin to heal, which is a necessary process to repair their trust in a government that can care for and protect their individual and cultural rights.[71] "The first step to recognition of Japanese-Canadian redress as an issue for all Canadians was recognition that it was an issue for all Japanese Canadians, not in the interests of retribution for their `race', nor only in the interests of justice, but in recognition of a need to assert principles of human rights so that racism and other forms of discrimination might be challenged."[70]

The Nikkei Memorial Internment Centre in New Denver, British Columbia, is an interpretive centre that honours the history of interned Japanese Canadians, many of whom were interned nearby.

Camp locations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sugiman (2004), p. 360
  2. ^ Roy (2002), p. 70
  3. ^ Roy (2002), p. 76
  4. ^ La Violette (1948), p. 4
  5. ^ Young (1938), p. xvi
  6. ^ La Violette (1948), pp. 5–6
  7. ^ Kobayashi, Audrey (Fall 2005). "The Uprooting of Japanese Canadians and Japanese Americans during the 1940s: SECURITY OF WHOM?". Canadian Issues: 28–30. 
  8. ^ Roy (1990), p. 3
  9. ^ Young (1938), p. xxii
  10. ^ La Violette (1948), p. 17
  11. ^ La Violette (1948), p. 8
  12. ^ La Violette (1948), p. 18
  13. ^ a b Young (1938), pp. 8–9
  14. ^ Roy (1990), p. 9
  15. ^ a b c d e Izumi, Masumi. "Japanese Canadian exclusion and incarceration". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  16. ^ a b Young (1938), p. 13
  17. ^ Young (1938), p. 124
  18. ^ Shibata (1977), pp. 9–10
  19. ^ Shibata (1977), pp. 16–17
  20. ^ Young (1938), p. 123
  21. ^ Summary of Memorandum, Maj. Gen. Maurice Pope, Vice Chief of General Staff (VCGS) to Chief of General Staff (Permanent), 13 January 1942, extracted from HQS 7368, vol. I, Defence Records, 322.009(D358), DND. in The Politics of Racism by Ann Gomer Sunahara
  22. ^ Young (1938), p. 175
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  24. ^ La Violette (1948), p. 24–25
  25. ^ Fujiwara, Aya. "Japanese-Canadian Internally Displaced Persons:Labour Relations and Ethno-Religious Identity in Southern Alberta, 1942–1953. Page 65
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  27. ^ Sunahara, Ann. "The Politics of Racism: The Uprooting of Japanese Canadians During the Second World War." Toronto: J, Larimer, 1981.Pg 47-48.
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  29. ^ Paolini, David. "Japanese Canadian Internment and Racism During World War II" The Canadian Studies Undergraduate. 23 March 2010.
  30. ^ World Leaders of the Twentieth Century. Pasedena,CA: Salem Press. 2000. p. 425. 
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  32. ^ Johnson, Gregory A. "An Apocalyptic Moment: Mackenzie King and the Bomb". Pg 103
  33. ^ King Diary, 6 August 1945.
  34. ^ Dick, Lyle (2010). "Sergeant Masumi Mitsui and the Japanese Canadian War Memorial" (PDF). Canadian Historical Review. 3. 91: 442–43. doi:10.1353/can.2010.0013. 
  35. ^ a b Neary, Peter (2004). "Zennousuke Inouye's Land: A Canadian Veterans Affairs Dilemma". Canadian Historical Review. 85 (3): 423. doi:10.1353/can.2004.0123. 
  36. ^ a b "Will Register B.C Japanese to Eliminate Illegal Entrants," Globe and Mail (Toronto: January 9, 1941)
  37. ^ "National Association of Japanese Canadians". Najc.ca. Retrieved 2014-02-06. 
  38. ^ Omatsu (1992), p. 77-78
  39. ^ Omatsu (1992), p. 12
  40. ^ Wild Daisies in the Sand: Life in a Canadian Internment Camp, Tsuneharu Gonnami, Pacific Affairs, Winter 2003/2004.
  41. ^ a b My Sixty Years in Canada, Dr. Masajiro Miyazaki, self-publ.
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  43. ^ Carmela Patrias, "Race, Employment Discrimination, and State Complicity in Wartime Canada, 1939-1945," Labour no. 59 (April 1, 2007), 32.
  44. ^ Oikawa, Mona. Cartographies of Violence: Japanese Canadian Women, Memory, and the Subjects of the Internment. Toronto: U of Toronto, 2012. Print.
  45. ^ https://dp.la/exhibitions/exhibits/show/japanese-internment/home-family/women
  46. ^ Henderson, Jennifer, and Pauline Wakeham. Reconciling Canada: Critical Perspectives on the Culture of Redress. Toronto: U of Toronto, 2013. Print
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  52. ^ Explanation of different categories of internment, Nat'l Assn. of Japanese Canadians website
  53. ^ Map of Internment Centres in BC, Nat'l Assn. of Japanese Canadians website
  54. ^ The Dewdney Trail, 1987, Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd.
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  64. ^ a b Carmela Patrias, "Race, Employment Discrimination, and State Complicity in Wartime Canada," 36.
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  68. ^ a b Vineberg (2011), p. 199
  69. ^ Toronto Star, Sept. 24, 1988
  70. ^ a b Apology and compensation, CBC Archives
  71. ^ a b c Wood, Alexandra L. (2012). "Challenging History: Public Education and Reluctance to Remember the Japanese Canadian Experience in British Columbia". Historical Studies in Education. Retrieved January 22, 2016. 
  72. ^ Hester, Jessica Leigh (9 December 2016). "The Town That Forgot About Its Japanese Internment Camp". CityLab. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 


  • James, Kevin (2008). Seeking specificity in the universal: a memorial for the Japanese Canadians interned during the Second World War. Dalhousie University. 
  • La Violette, Forrest E. (1948). The Canadian Japanese and World War II: a Sociological and Psychological Account. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press. 
  • Nakano, Takeo Ujo (1980). Within the Barbed Wire Fence: a Japanese Man's Account of his Internment in Canada. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-2382-7. 
  • Omatsu, Maryka (1992). Bittersweet Passage: Redress and the Japanese Canadian Experience. Toronto: Between the Lines. 
  • Roy, Patricia E. (1990). Mutual Hostages: Canadians and Japanese during the Second World War. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-5774-8. 
  • Roy, Patricia E. (2002). "Lessons in citizenship, 1945–1949: the delayed return of the Japanese to Canada's Pacific coast". Pacific Northwest Quarterly. 93 (2): 69–80. JSTOR 40492798. 
  • Shibata, Yuko (1977). The Forgotten History of the Japanese Canadians: Volume I. Vancouver, BC: New Sun Books. 
  • Sugiman, Pamela (2004). "Memories of internment: narrating Japanese Canadian women's life stories". The Canadian Journal of Sociology. 29 (3): 359–388. JSTOR 3654672. 
  • Vineberg, Robert (2011). "Continuity in Canadian immigration policy 1947 to present: taking a fresh look at Mackenzie King's 1947 immigration policy statement". Journal of International Migration and Intergation. 12 (2): 199–216. doi:10.1007/s12134-011-0177-5. 
  • Young, Charles H. (1938). The Japanese Canadians. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: The University of Toronto Press. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Adachi, Ken. The Enemy that Never Was: A History of the Japanese Canadians (1976)
  • Bangarth, Stephanie. Voices Raised in Protest: Defending North American Citizens of Japanese Ancestry, 1942-49 (UBC Press, 2008)
  • Caccia, Ivana. Managing the Canadian Mosaic in Wartime: Shaping Citizenship Policy, 1939-1945 (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2010)
  • Daniels, Roger. "The Decisions to Relocate the North American Japanese: Another Look," Pacific Historical Review, Feb 1982, Vol. 51 Issue 1, pp 71–77 argues the U.S. and Canada coordinated their policies
  • Day, Iyko. "Alien Intimacies: The Coloniality of Japanese Internment in Australia, Canada, and the U.S." Amerasia Journal, 2010, Vol. 36 Issue 2, pp 107–124
  • Dowe, David. "The Protestant Churches and the Resettlement of Japanese Canadians in Urban Ontario, 1942-1955," Canadian Ethnic Studies, 2007, Vol. 39 Issue 1/2, pp 51–77
  • Roy, Patricia E. The Triumph of Citizenship: The Japanese and Chinese in Canada 1941-1967 (2007)
  • Sugiman, Pamela. "'Life is Sweet': Vulnerability and Composure in the Wartime Narratives of Japanese Canadians," Journal of Canadian Studies, Winter 2009, Vol. 43 Issue 1, pp 186–218
  • Sunahara, Ann Gomer. The politics of racism: The uprooting of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War (James Lorimer & Co, 1981)

External links[edit]

Comparative studies[edit]

Films online[edit]