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A history of the japanese internment camps in canada

Last Edited November 28, 2016 Beginning in early 1942, the Canadian government detained and dispossessed the vast majority of people of Japanese descent living in British Columbia.

Japanese Canadians

They were interned for the rest of the Second World War, during which time their homes and businesses were sold by the government in order to pay for their detention. A family of Japanese Canadians being relocated in British Columbia, 1942. Previous Next Japanese people had long suffered the sting of racism in Canada by that point.

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With these shocking events, fears of a Japanese invasion were sparked and their flames fanned by a sensationalist press. Distrust of Japanese Canadians spread along the Pacific Coast. On the recommendation of the RCMP and in order to avoid racist backlash, Japanese newspapers and schools were voluntarily shut down.

While those powers were broad enough to detain any person, they were specifically used to target Japanese Canadians along the West Coast. The following week, the British Columbia Security Commission, the organization that carried out Japanese internment, was established. More than 8,000 detainees moved through Hastings Parks, where women and children were housed in the Livestock Building.

All property that could not be carried was taken into government custody. We were confined inside the high wire fence of Hastings Park just like caged animals. Others were offered the option of working on sugar beet farms in Alberta and Manitoba see Sugar Industrywhere they would be able to keep their families intact.

Though the camps were not surrounded with barbed wire fences, as they were in the United States, conditions were overcrowded and poor, with no electricity or running water.

Internment of Japanese Canadians

Those who resisted their internment were sent to prisoner of war camps in PetawawaOntarioor to Camp 101 on the northern shore of Lake Superior. Anti-Japanese racism was not confined to British Columbia, but was spread across Canada.

  • 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;
  • Finally, Canadian society began to open to the Japanese;
  • But the war had offered a convenient excuse for British Columbians to act on entrenched anti-Asian sentiments;
  • Others were deported to Japan;
  • However, various scholars and activists have challenged this term on the grounds that under international law, internment refers to detention of enemy aliens, whereas most Japanese Canadians were Canadian citizens;
  • Yet, finding work was almost essential since interned Japanese Canadians had to support themselves and buy food using the small salaries they had collected or through allowances from the government for the unemployed.

Though acutely in need of labour, Albertans did not want Japanese Canadians in their midst. Alberta sugar beet farmers crowded Japanese labourers into tiny shacks, uninsulated granaries and chicken coops, and paid them a pittance for their hard labour. The majority were Canadian citizens by birth.

Even at the end of the war, Mackenzie King continued to bow to the most strident demands of the politicians and the citizens he represented. He offered Japanese Canadians two choices: He never expressed any regrets for the treatment of Japanese Canadians — during the war or after. In 1946, nearly 4,000 former internees sailed to a bombed-out Japan.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

About 2,000 were aging first-generation immigrants — 1,300 were children under 16 years of age. The last controls on Japanese Canadians were not lifted until 1948, when they were granted the right to vote. Finally, Canadian society began to open to the Japanese. Apology and Redress The military threat cited to justify the evacuation of the Japanese never existed outside the overheated imaginations of some British Columbians.

Japanese Internment: Banished and Beyond Tears

Not a single Japanese Canadian was charged with any wrongdoing. Still, some have been uncomfortable judging the acts of our predecessors from the exalted perspective of hindsight.

We can regret that it happened. Indeed, other communities in Canada also sought redress and apology from the government for its racially motivated policies of the past, including Chinese Canadians who paid the head tax and Indigenous peoples forced to attend residential schools — among others.

History leaves many victims. The apology came with symbolic redress payments to individuals and to community funds. But the most enduring accomplishment of the Japanese campaign for redress was the abolition of the War Measures Actwhich had provided the legal basis for the removal of the Japanese from their homes.

Ultimately, the redress campaign was a strong reminder of the poisonous effects of racism.