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What do I remember of the evacuation - Joy Kogawa
What do I remember of the evacuation?I remember my father telling Tim and meAbout the mountains and the trainAnd the excitement of going on a trip.What do I remember of the evacuation?I remember my mother weepingA blanket around me and myPretending to fall asleep so she would be happyThough I was so excited I couldn't sleepI hear there were people herdedInto the Hastings Park like cattle.Families were made to move in two hoursAbandoning everything, leaving petsAnd possessions at gun point.I hear families were broken upMen were forced to work. I heardIt whispered late at nightThat there was suffering andI missed my dolls.What do I remember of the evacuation?I remember Miss Foster and Miss TuckerWho still live in VancouverAnd who did what they couldAnd loved the children and who gave meA puzzle to play with on the train.And I remember the mountains and I wasSix years old and I swear I saw; a giantGulliver of Gulliver's Travels scanning the horizonAnd when I told my mother she believed it tooAnd I remember how careful my parents wereNot to bruise us with bitternessAnd I remember the puzzle of Lorraine LifeWho said "Don't insult me" when IProudly wrote my name in JapaneseAnd Tim flew the Union JackWhen the war was over but LorraineAnd her friends spat on us anywayAnd I prayed to God who lovesAll the children in his sightThat I might be white.

Backgrounder









The Early Years
For mariners on leave, shipwrecked sailors or sojourners intent on making their fortune and returning, Victoria was the first port of call long before Vancouver was settled. Early records are sketchy at best, and immigrants were not officially tracked until 1896. The earliest documents relating to a Japanese pioneer point to Kisuke Mikuni who was working as clerk in Victoria between 1884-1885. Like other minorities, Japanese Canadians had to struggle against prejudice and win a respected place in the Canadian mosaic through hard work and perseverance. Most of the issei (ees-say), first generation or immigrants, arrived during the first decade of the 20th century. They came from fishing villages and farms in Japan and settled in Victoria, Vancouver and in the surrounding towns. Others settled on farms in the Fraser Valley and in the fishing villages, mining, sawmill and pulp mill towns scattered along the Pacific coast.

The first migrants were single males, but soon they were joined by young women and started families. During this era, racism was a widely-accepted response to the unfamiliar, which justified the relegation of minorities to a lower status based on a purported moral inferiority. A strident anti-Asian element in BC society did its best to force the issei to leave Canada. In 1907, a white mob rampaged through the Chinese and Japanese sections of Vancouver to protest the presence of Asian workers who threatened their livelihood. They lobbied the federal government to stop immigration from Asia. The prejudices were also institutionalized into law. Asians were denied the vote; were excluded from most professions, the civil service and teaching; and were paid much less than their white counterparts. During the next four decades, BC politicians – with the exception of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) – catered to the white supremacists of the province and fueled the flames of racism to win elections.

To counteract the negative impacts of prejudice and their limited English ability, the Japanese, like many immigrants, lived in ghettos (the two main
ones were Powell Street in Vancouver and the fishing village of Steveston) and developed their own institutions: schools, hospitals, temples, churches,
unions, cooperatives and self-help groups.

During World War I, opinions of the Japanese improved slightly. They were seen as an ally of Great Britain and some even enrolled in the Canadian Forces. On the home front, many businesses began hiring groups that had been under represented in the workforce (including women, Yugoslavian and Italian refugees who had fled to Canada during the war, and Japanese immigrants) to help fulfill 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 the Japanese as there was "more than enough work for all." 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."

The issei’s contact with white society was primarily economic but the nisei (nee-say), second generation,were Canadian-born and were more attuned to life in the wider Canadian community. They were fluent in English, well-educated and ready to participate as equals but were faced with the same prejudices experienced by their parents. Their demand in 1936 for the franchise as Canadian-born people was denied because of opposition from politicians in British Columbia. They had to wait for another 13 years before they were given the right to vote.







The War Years

As news spread of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and the attack on the Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, years of smoldering fear and resentment against Japanese Canadians exploded into panic and anger in British Columbia. Just days after Pearl Harbor, Japanese newspapers were closed down and all of their fishing boats were impounded - effectively putting 1,800 Japanese Canadian fishermen out of work.

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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) fingerprinted and registered all Japanese Canadians over the age of 16. (They were required to carry an identification card with them at all times until 1949.)

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These first restrictions were seen by members of the Japanese Canadian community as needless and unfounded "precautionary measures" taken by a government caught up in war hysteria of the time; nevertheless, they believed that no further measures would be taken if they tolerated this over-reaction and reminded the Canadian government that they were, after all loyal Canadian citizens.

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A RCMP officer posts Order in Council PC 365


The first premonition of disaster came on January 16, 1942 when the government passed Order in Council PC 365 which designated an area 100-miles inland from the west coast as a "protected area." All male Japanese nationals aged 18 to 45 were declared "enemy aliens" and were given 24 hours notice to pack a bag and report to an RCMP detachment - only to learn that they were being removed from this "protected area." They were "shipped in boxcars to road and lumber camps near Jasper, Alberta. They endured hard labour during the day and shivered away the winter nights in the boxcars and tents until more permanent shelters could be built.

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Reginald Sawa at the Fitzwilliam Road Camp with the Temporary Service Bunk Cars

Even this order, though considered extreme and unnecessary, was tolerated by the community. They understood that Japanese male nationals, would be expected to accept some restrictions. Moreover, assurances had been given by the government that PC 365 was a temporary "security measure," and that Canadians of Japanese ancestry need not fear such treatment.

However, within three weeks - with a shock that threw the Japanese Canadian community into tumult - Order in Council PC 1486 was passed, expanding the power of the Minister of Justice to remove any and all persons from a designated protected zone. This blanket power was then applied to one group alone - "all persons of Japanese racial origin."

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Order in Council PC 1486 passed on February 24, 1942

This new policy radically altered the status of Japanese Canadians. Affective, February 26, 1942, their Canadian birthright became meaningless, and henceforth they were to be judged solely on the basis of their racial ancestry - the stigma of "enemy alien" made Japanese Canadians outcasts in their own country. The War Measures Act legalized the government actions, even though they were based on racist precepts and not necessary by military standards for national security.

On March 4, 1942, the BC Security Commission was established. This civilian body was empowered to carry out the systematic expulsion of "all persons of Japanese racial origin" from the area within 100 miles of the BC coast. A "Custodian of Enemy Property" was authorized to administer and hold "in-trust" the properties and belongings of these people.

As the uprooting began, dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on all Japanese Canadians. Houses could be entered at all times of the day and night and searched by the RCMP officers without warrant. Cameras, radios, firearms, and ammunition were confiscated, cars impounded, and removal notices handed out. Thousands of Japanese Canadians, rounded up like cattle, were herded into Vancouver from the coastal towns and Vancouver Island. Many had been given as little as 24 hours to vacate their homes and were allowed to bring only one suitcase and one clothes bag each.

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Hastings Park - Men's Barracks

The Security Commission took control of a section of Vancouver's Hastings Park (now called Exhibition Park), to be used as a "clearing site" before people were shipped away from the coast. Conditions in the park were degrading and barbaric; the women and children were segregated and assigned to the livestock building which had not been properly cleaned or made sanitary. Dried manure was scraped off to make the quarters more habitable, but the distasteful smell of urine and feces lingered. Ventilation was inadequate and thick dust floated in the stale air. Privacy was non-existent until they improvised with sheets and curtains; the latrines, lacked partitions until they protested. Food was unappetizing, there was little fresh produce, a bland gruel was served for breakfast, and there were outbreaks of diarrhea to add to their misery. Japanese Canadian were confined in Hastings Park for months not knowing were they would end up or what had become of their husbands, families, and relatives.

By November 1942, some 22,000 Japanese Canadians had been forcibly uprooted from their west coast homes and communities. During the eight-month period beginning the previous March, the BC Security Commission sought whatever mean at their disposal to accomplish their mandate. A number of individuals with family connections in Japanese Canadian communities outside the protected area were allowed to move on their own. A few others with sponsors or relatives in eastern Canada were allowed to go east if they could pay their own way there. In addition to these "sponsorship" arrangements, a small group, about 1,150, were given permission by the BC Security Commission to move to certain places in BC on what was termed a "self-supporting" basis. A small minority of Japanese Canadians with the assets to assume full financial responsibility for their own move, their new housing, and living expenses were given the option of going to a self-supporting site. The apparent choice and privilege implied by this “option” created enmity and bitterness within the remainder of the community. Japanese Canadians did not understand that the so-called “self-supporting” sites were the BC Security Commission’s way of taking advantage of those who were willing and able to absorb all costs of their own uprooting, even their moving and travelling expenses. Conditions in the self-supporting sites were rarely better than the other internment camps, but the option did allow some families to stay together.

The BC Security Commission devised three major destinations for the dispersal of the remainder of Japanese Canadians from the coast. Early on, some 1,000 men were placed at various road camps. The Japanese nationals went to camps around the BC/Alberta border. Later, able bodied Canadian-born nisei ended up on the Hope/Princeton highway, or were sent across Canada to Schreiber, Ontario. On March 25, 1942, when the first group of nisei men were given notices to go by train to Schreiber, Ontario, over 100 refused to go - protesting being split up from their families.

"...we have said 'YES' to all your previous orders, however unreasonable they might have seemed. But, we are firm in saying 'NO' to your last order which calls for break-up of our families. When we say 'NO' at this point, we request you to remember that we are British subjects by birth, that we are no less loyal to Canada than any other Canadian, that we have done nothing to deserve the break-up of our families, that we are law-abiding Canadian citizens, and that we are willing to accept suspension of our civil rights - rights to retain our homes and businesses, boats, cars, radios and cameras... In spite of that we have given up everything. In view of this sacrifice we feel that our request for mass evacuation in family groups will not seem unreasonable to you..." - From a letter to Austin Taylor, Chairman, BC Security Commission, from the Nisei Mass Evacuation Group
These men were rounded up by RCMP officers, confined in the Immigration Hall, and then sent to prisoner of war camps, first to Petawawa, then later to Angler, Ontario. Chaos, terror and disbelief infected the community as families were split apart and men were hastily shipped off to labour or P.O.W. camps.
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A P.O.W. uniform

The Angler Camp was designed to hold prisoners who were a threat to Canada. As a result, German POWs were held there; however, the Angler Camp held not only enemy soldiers but approximately 700 innocent Japanese Canadians citizens. They included nisei who held positions of influence (ex. those connected to the Japanese newspaper), those who had, at one time in their life, been soldiers or were considered "loyal" to Japan, and anyone who resisted the evacuation orders. They were imprisoned without trial behind the barb wire in these camps for the duration of the war, without ever being charged with any crime.Prisoners were made to wear a uniform with a large red “target” on the back and the guards were ordered to shoot anyone who attempted to escape.

In the meantime, the Security Commission chose open areas and abandoned mining towns in the BC interior as internment centers: Greenwood, Sandon, Kaslo, New Denver, Roseberry, Slocan City, Bay Farm, Popoff, Lemon Creek, and Tashme. Of the Japanese Canadian community that was uprooted, some 12,000, were interned in these BC camps.
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Map of Internment Camps in BC
With train-loads pouring into Slocan Valley during the final weeks of clearing Hastings Park, housing could not be built fast enough and scores of tents were pitched. Many were still under canvas when the first snow fell in early November.

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Internment tents in Slocan

When built, the 28-feet by 14-feet, cabins in the ghost towns were split into three cubicle-sized rooms with a common kitchen in the middle. They were intended to squeeze in a minimum of six people, using two-tier bunks but most housed up to ten people. For the single men, as well as the single women or widows without families, two-storey bunkhouses were divided into cubbyhole-quarters, sleeping two or three to a room, with a common kitchen in the middle.
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Shiplap internment shacks at Tashme

A family of five was entitled to only half of a partitioned shack. Each half had a wood stove and a sink without running water which took up a good bit of the tight space. To secure a whole unit, many families of four or five "adopted" a single person or two. The uninsulated shiplap and tarpaper huts were not adequately sealed against interior winters, and the wiring could not take electric heaters even if they had been available. The conditions were especially distressing for those with infants and for the elderly. During the harsh cold winters many Japanese put lanterns under their beds to try and keep warm. Hideo Kukubo remembers:

"I was in that camp for four years. When it got cold the temperature went down to as much as 60 below. The buildings stood on flat land beside a lake. We lived in huts with no insulation. Even if we had the stove burning the inside of the windows would all be frosted up and white, really white. I had to lie in bed with everything on that I had..."

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An advertisement for Japanese Canadian sugar beet workers. Sugar Farmers of Manitoba (Manitoba Beet Growers Association, 1968, p. 133.)

A labour shortage on sugar beet farms in Alberta and Manitoba created demand for cheap labour. At first, the prospect of farm labour in unknown conditions outside of BC had little appeal for the Japanese Canadians who had been used to the milder climate of the west coast, but as room in the BC camps rapidly diminished, the BC Security Commission became more desperate for families to leave the province and resorted to manipulation. The policy of breaking up families was suspended for those who would go to the sugar beet farms. This enticement worked, with some 4,000 Japanese Canadians going to the prairies to keep their families together. However, many would be horrified by the harsh labour, primitive living conditions, and the cruel racism that awaited them on the farms.

Connie Matsuo recalls standing with her husband in a Winnipeg hall with while farmers chose labourers like cattle from a group of Japanese Canadians who had just arrived from BC:
"We were just about the last ones picked because we had two old parents and I had just had a baby."- From Ottawa Apologizes to Internees, Winnipeg Free Press, September 21, 1988.

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Japanese Canadians working on a sugar beet farm.

By November 1942, from the government's perspective, the BC Security Commission had been successful in removing some 27,000 "persons of Japanese racial origin" from the 100-mile "protected area." But for those Canadians of Japanese ancestry who had been arbitrarily torn from their homes and scattered all across Canada, the pain of injustice had only just begun.

Confiscation and Sale of Properties

Despite earlier government promises to the contrary, on January 19, 1943, the Canadian government passed Order in Council PC 469 giving the “Custodian of Enemy Alien Property” the power to sell, without the owner's consent, all property confiscated from Japanese Canadians. This property, which had initially been held "in-trust," included the businesses, homes, boats, vehicles, and personal effects of the uprooted Japanese Canadians. Many precious and irreplaceable belongings were sold or auctioned off at mere fractions of their value.

A Price Waterhouse study in 1985 calculated the total economic loss to the Japanese Canadians to be not less than $443 million in 1986 dollars (or approximately $859 million today).

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Confiscated cars at Hastings Park were sold off at bargain prices by the Custodian of Enemy Property – Vancouver Public Library #1369

This new measure, compounding the injustice of the mass uprooting, led to the dispossession of Japanese Canadians. Almost overnight, the intricate social and economic infrastructure of the community was destroyed. Now rootless, dispossessed, and faced with an indefinite period of confinement, Japanese Canadians were no longer able to look forward to returning to their homes on the coast.

The government justified the Custodian's actions as an "efficient" economic policy: the proceeds from the liquidation of the assets of the community would be used to pay auctioneers and realtors, and to cover storage and handling fees. The remainder would be used to pay for the living expenses of the uprooted Japanese Canadians.Unlike the prisoners of war of enemy nations who were protected by the Geneva Convention, Japanese Canadians were forced to pay for their own internment. By this action, the Canadian government had imposed on a group of its own citizens, a status lesser than that of nationals from enemy countries.

The politicians and individuals who had been intent on expelling Japanese Caandians from BC, since long before the war, had now finally and successful used "the politics of racism" to achieve their ends.

Dispersal and Exile

By August 1944, the imagined threat to national security was no longer an issue for Prime Minister Mackenzie King who declared in the
House of Commons on August 4, 1944:

"It is a fact that no person of Japanese race born in Canada has been charged with any act of sabotage or disloyalty during the years of war."
And yet, despite this recognition, he did not allow them to return to the coast. In the wake of this unequivocal acknowledgement by the Prime Minister in 1944, the subsequent actions of the Canadian government clearly showed that the Japanese Canadian community had not been uprooted under the War Measures Act for the sake of national security. The wartime dispersal was simply the first phase in the government's plan to permanently erase the presence of the Japanese Canadian community on the BC coast for reasons other than national security.

In the spring of 1945 - while Japanese Americans were free to return to the coast - Japanese Canadians were about to undergo another uprooting. This second uprooting was designed as the "final solution" to the so-called "Japanese problem" in Canada. By then, with the war all but over, Japanese Canadians had been interned for three years. Their former lives had been obliterated, their assets depleted, and they were suffering from severe demoralization. It was in this climate of anguish and disbelief that they were approached by representatives from the Department of Labour with the government's double-edged scheme to solve the problem of their rootlessness. Two simultaneous policies were announced: "dispersal" east of the Rockies, or "repatriation" to Japan. Japanese Canadians were strongly encouraged to prove their “loyalty to Canada” by “moving east of the Rockies” immediately, or sign papers agreeing to be “repatriated” to Japan when the war was over.

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The so-called "repatriation" order that would lead to the exiling of some 4,000 Japanese Canadians to Japan.

Everyone 16 and over in the B.C. relocation camps was required to appear before the RCMP to declare for Canada or Japan. It was the hour of desperate decision: east over the mountains, or west across the ocean? The drive to prod them stirred a hornets’ nest of frenzy and confusion. The choice was not simple as it divided families. To remain meant hasty plans to reestablish themselves in an unfamiliar setting, a difficult problem for those with young children. If they could not be resettled directly, they would go to a hostel, a mini-version of Hastings Park in unheard-of-places like Transcona, Manitoba; Neys or Fingal, Ontario; and Farnham, Quebec; to await yet another move.

The government's pernicious term "repatriation" was the euphemism for what was, in actuality, a forced exile. Since the "patria" or country of birth of the majority of these citizens was Canada, they could not, in this sense, be "repatriated" to Japan. A cruel irony awaited many Japanese Canadians who “chose” to go to Japan. While a defeated Japan may have been forced by Canada to accept them, there was no obligation for the Japanese to treat them as their own. The Canadian-born nisei thus found themselves in Japan, again categorized, as “aliens.” They had become totally rootless exiles.

The purpose behind the either/or options – “dispersal” versus “repatriation” – was, of course to force Japanese Canadians out of BC permanently, which in effect would prevent them from rebuilding their community on the coast. They were not permitted the third option, to remain in BC; nor were their family members, trapped in Japan by the war, permitted to come back to Canada. The coercive thrust of these policies was implicit in the bureaucratic language of the “dispersal” notice: refusal to relocate east of the Rockies would be taken as evidence of disloyalty.

For those who chose to stay, Toronto, with its aura of big-time glamour and job opportunities, was the most favoured destination. But, after several hundred had entered the city during the early stages of the eastward flow, it was declared off-limits. They could settle anywhere else in Ontario or Eastern Canada, even the townships and villages bordering Toronto, but only with the consent of the special Japanese Placement Officer could they live or work in the city proper. The federal government's dispersal policy, fear of becoming ghettoized, housing crises due to the influx of wartime workers, and local politics, were reasons cited for the cut-off.
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For the resettlers, finding a new home was not exactly the end of the rainbow. Flats or housekeeping rooms were often sparse, squalid, or both, with only an outlet for a hot plate plus a sink as kitchen facilities, hardly adequate to cook a decent meal. Despite wartime rent control, tenants were at the mercy of deceptive landlords. For families, rented accommodations were unsuitable. Their only solution was buying a home for which a down payment could only be raised by scraping and pooling resources, but because of the Measures Act by which Japanese Canadians could be denied the right to purchase property and could face the possibility of losing that property, such real estate transactions were executed in the name of a trusted non- Japanese as the buyer.

In his August 1944 House of Commons speech declaring the innocence of Japanese Canadians, Prime Minister King went on to justify his government’s dispersal policy:

“The sound policy and the best policy for the Japanese Canadians themselves is to distribute their numbers as widely as possible throughout the country where they will not create feelings of racial hostility.” - Debates, House of Commons, August 4, 1944.

By posting a rationale for the dispersal policy, Prime Minister King exposed the nature of the government’s victimization of Japanese Canadians. Rather than addressing the question of national security, the government’s alleged reason for the euphemistic “evacuation,” he dwelt on their visibility as a group and blamed the hostility towards them on the fact of their being “visible.”

Japanese Canadians, King reasoned, became victims because of their visible racial ancestry. Adopting the language of racism, he then reinforced their victimization by explaining that the dispersal policy was designed for their benefit. Once dispersed, and so not visible as a group – one that might act together with the political power a community implies – they would no longer be in a position to “create feelings of racial hostility.” They would not be politically isolated, and hence powerless individuals without a constituency. King assumed without question that racism existed in Canada, but instead of blaming its source, the white racists in BC, he blamed its victims, Japanese Canadians. By reasoning as he did, King endorsed a policy of cultural genocide and disguised it as benign paternalism. Japanese Canadians themselves were forced to bear the blame for the injustices inflicted on them. The effects of this condition would shape their lives in the years ahead.

Rebuilding and Revival

Reconstructing lives was not easy, and for some it was too late. Elderly issei had lost everything they worked for all their lives and were too old to start anew. Many nisei had their education disrupted and could no longer afford to go to college or university. Many had to become breadwinners for their families. Property losses were compounded by long lasting psychological damage.

Victimized, labeled “enemy aliens,” imprisoned, dispossessed and homeless, people lost their sense of self esteem and pride in their heritage. Fear of resurgence of racial discrimination and the stoic attitude of “shikataga nai” (it can’t be helped) bred silence. The sansei (sun-say), third generation, grew up speaking English, but little or no Japanese. Today, most know little of their cultural heritage and their contact with other Japanese outside their immediate family is limited. The rate of intermarriage is very high almost 90% according to the 1996 census.
With the changes to the immigration laws in 1967, the first new immigrants in 50 years arrived from Japan. The “shin” issei (“new” meaning the post WWII immigrant generation) came from Japan’s urban middle class. The culture they brought was different from the rural culture brought by the issei. Many of the cultural traditions – tea ceremony, ikebana, origami, odori (dance) – and the growing interest of the larger community in things Japanese such as the martial arts, began to revitalized the Japanese Canadian community. At the same time, gradual awareness of wartime injustices was emerging.
It was not until the mid-1970s that the thirty year ban on access to WWII government files was lifted and researchers could begin to reassess the government's wartime actions. Historian Ann Gomer Sunahara paved the way for a re-examination of the uprooting by drawing on the newly available documents in the National Archives of Canada. Her study, The Politics of Racism (Lorimer, 1981), provided irrefutable proof that the uprooting of Japanese Canadians was a political, and not a security measure. There, in the dusty archives, she unearthed evidence in the black-and-white of memos and reports, stating clearly and unequivocally, that the military advisors of the day and the RCMP, had not viewed the Japanese Canadian community on the west coast as a threat to national security. It had been the influential Ian Mackenzie, MP for Vancouver Centre, and advisor to Prime Minister Mackenzie King on the so-called "Japanese problem," who had pressed for the mass uprooting as a political means of accommodating the powerful pressure from racist politicians and individuals in BC.

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Coincidental with this new evidence, 1977 witnessed a resurgence of pride and self-awareness among Japanese Canadians, when local communities across Canada celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrant, Manzo Nagano, settling in Canada. The documents, and the renewed interest in their Canadian past, gave Japanese Canadians the confidence and courage to tell their story - the inside story of the uprooting through the eyes of those who had been directly affected. The silence had been broken, and the time was ripe for a new redress movement to begin.


The Redress Movement

The redress movement of the 1980s was the final phase within the Japanese Canadian community in the struggle for justice and recognition as full citizens of this country. In January 1984, the National Association of Japanese Canadians officially resolved to seek: an acknowledgement of the injustices endured during and after the Second World War; financial compensation for the injustices; and a review and amendment of the War Measures Act and relevant sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so that no Canadian would ever again be subjected to such wrongs.
The formation in groups like the National Coalition for Japanese Canadian Redress and the Ad Hoc Committee for Japanese Canadians Redress showed that the Japanese Canadian community was not alone. Comprised of individual Canadians, unions, labour groups, churches, ethnic, multi-cultural, and civil liberties groups - these groups worked to help stir political and public awareness through letter writing, rallies, meetings, and by publishing advertisements like this one from the March 6, 1986 Globe and Mail that was paid for through individual contributors (whose names were printed at the bottom of the page):

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The achievement of redress in September of 1988, brought to a stunning climax over a decade of work by the Japanese Canadian community. The story of the movement to seek redress for the injustices of the 1940s is one of the most important in the history of democratic community action in Canada and remains a prime example of one minority’s struggle to overcome racism and to reaffirm the rights of all individuals in a democracy.

"I know that I speak for Members on all sides of the House today in offering to Japanese Canadians the formal and sincere apology of this Parliament for those past injustices against them, against their families, and against their heritage, and our solemn commitment and undertaking to Canadians of every origin that such violations will never again in this country be countenanced or repeated."
  • Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s remarks to the House of Commons, Sept. 22, 1988







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Kooshiki Shadai to
Hoshookin Shihara
o Kansha shite
Oiwai no Uta

Hanseiki no
Anun harete
Nikkei shijyo
Sairyo no hi o mukae
Kanki ni taezu.

A Commemorative Poem
of Thanks for the
Public Apology and Payment of
Compensation Funds

Our dark cloud a half century dissipated,
The fairest day
In Japanese-Canadian history
Dawns.
Our joy is unsurpassable.

Tanka by Takeo Ujo Nakano,
translated by Leatrice Nakano Wilson

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On the Occasion ofOur RedressCelebration
Shitsuyo ni
Shinri wa magezu
Tatakaishi
Tsuini kaiketsu
Hosho mondai

Reaching for justice
In time’s persistence,
UnwaveringlyAt last –
Our redress resolution.

Tanka by
Haruko Kobayakawa


Additional Resources


  • Chronicle of Canada, (First edition 1987), p. 692-1023.
  • Democracy Betrayed: The Case for Redress. (1984). Winnipeg: NAJC.
  • Economic Losses of Japanese Canadians After 1941: A Study Conducted by Price Waterhouse. (1985). Vancouver, BC. Winnipeg: NAJC.
  • Enomoto, R. (1987). Prisoners of Prejudice:Canadian Horizon.
  • Japanese Canadian Centennial Project (JCCP). (1978). 1877-1977 the Japanese Canadians a Dream of Riches. Vancouver: JCCP.
  • Ito, R. (1984). We went to War: The Story of Japanese Canadians Who Served During the First and Second World Wars. Stittsville, Ontario: Canada's Wings.
  • Miki, R., & Kobayashi, C. (1991). Justice in our time: The Japanese Canadian redress settlement. Vancouver: Talonbooks ; National Association of Japanese Canadians.
  • Sunahara, A. (1981). //Politics of Racism//. Toronto:James and Lorimer and Company
  • Switzer, G. & A. (2015). Sakura in Stone: Victoria's Japanese Legacy, Victoria: Ti-Jean Pres.
  • Wand, W. & White P. (1978). Canada Forever. Montreal: McGill-Queen University Press.