B.C. Japanese-Canadian internment-camp photos offer glimpses of normalcy in traumatic times

Good exhibit and reminder:

The black and white picture shows teenage girls posing for the camera with their clothes neatly pressed, their hair in perfect movie-star pin curls, but the background of a dilapidated Second World War internment camp doesn’t fit the image.

That paradox is one of the reasons Carla Ayukawa donated her mother’s photo album to the Canadian War Museum. The pictures document some of Michiko Ishii’s young life in a Japanese Canadian internment camp in southeastern British Columbia.

“These four girls, they’re all posing, but what are they standing in front of? It’s not a movie theatre or some kind of arcade, it’s a shack,” said Ayukawa. “It’s the irony of what’s going on around them and they’re still continuing on as teenagers.”


After Japan entered the Second World War in December, 1941, Michiko Ishii, known as Midge, her family and thousands of other Japanese Canadians were forcibly moved from coastal B.C. to internment camps.

Their houses, businesses and belongings were sold to pay for their upkeep.

News photos of the day show a bleak picture of people behind wire fences or boarding trains or trucks bound for the camps. But Midge’s photo collection of the Lemon Creek interment camp shows a different side of life that her daughter said needs to be viewed by a wider audience.

“These are good photos, such that they depict a very ordinary – or extraordinary – environment, for everyday people,” she said. “It’s not just about soldiers and guns and vehicles and war scenes. These are another dimension of the war.”

Carla Ayukawa points out Michiko in the album.

Source: B.C. internment-camp photos offer glimpses of normalcy in traumatic times – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to B.C. Japanese-Canadian internment-camp photos offer glimpses of normalcy in traumatic times

  1. c. ayukawa says:

    Interesting post. The Canadian War Museum will be including Midge’s photo album in an exhibition that is opening in November 2020

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