Trudeau Sr. cabinet opposed payments to interned Japanese-Canadians

Not much new here in terms of the substance of former PM Trudeau and his Cabinet’s position but nevertheless of interest:

The cabinet of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau opposed compensation for interned Japanese-Canadians because they didn’t seem unhappy, say secret documents.

The declassified documents, obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, said the cabinet was concerned about the precedent it would set to give cash to people whose property was seized.

“Any assistance should not be addressed only to the Japanese since other groups were treated badly on racial grounds,” cabinet agreed at a confidential April 18, 1984 meeting.

The National Association of Japanese Canadians had sought for years settlement of claims over the seizure and forced sale of property in 1942.

About 22,000 Japanese, including Canadian citizens, were removed from the BC coast after the Pearl Harbour attack and taken to the interior, Alberta, Manitoba and northern Ontario.

The wartime cabinet invoked the War Measures Act and seizing more than $152.4 million worth of fishing boats, real estate and automobiles owned by Japanese-Canadians.

Then-Multiculturalism Minister David Collenette in a censored 1984 report to cabinet proposed a settlement of claims.

“Many Japanese people who were relocated stayed in the new communities and were not unhappy,” said Cabinet Minutes.

“A nation cannot go back and wipe out the past, it should look forward. A more general approach should be taken, if anything is to be done.”

“All minorities will feel they should have a right to redress. Any resolution in the House of Commons should not be related to a single group.”

Cabinet said instead of compensating Japanese-Canadians, “other ways should be looked at, for example endowing chairs at universities,” said Minutes.

“In concluding, Ministers expressed the wish that the Minister (of Multiculturalism) look at the issue again and have it discussed in the cabinet committee on social development.”

Trudeau, Sr. at the time also publicly opposed any apology or compensation for the wartime internment.

“I’m not inclined to envisage questions of compensation about acts which have maybe discoloured our history in the past,” Trudeau told the Commons.

“I’m not sure where we would stop in compensating.”

The Liberal cabinet lost re-election five months later without settling the issue.

When Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was elected, in 1he 988 formally apologized for the wartime internment and approved $21,000 in compensation to some 6,000 surviving internees.

“All Canadians know apologies are inadequate,” Mulroney said at the time.

Japanese were interned under a 1942 order that demanded “all property situated in any protected area of British Columbia belonging to any person of the Japanese race be delivered up” for sale by federal agents.

Japanese-Canadians did not regain the right to vote until 1949.

Source: Trudeau Sr. cabinet opposed payments to interned Japanese-Canadians

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.

5 Responses to Trudeau Sr. cabinet opposed payments to interned Japanese-Canadians

  1. Robert Addington says:

    And what about the 4,000 Japanese-Canadians who were ‘repatriated’ in 1946 to a war-ravaged country most of them had never seen or could no longer remember? A few did eventually return to Canada, but what became of the rest in post-war Japan? No one seems to know, or want to know. Out of sight, out of mind.

  2. Andrew says:

    Surprising if there haven’t been any academic articles and the like.

    • Robert Addington says:

      I’ve yet to see any.

      • Andrew says:

        me neither. Quick search on google didn’t show anything

      • Robert Addington says:

        When Prime Minister W.L.M. King stood before the Supreme Court of Canada on Jan. 3, 1947, to receive the first certificate of Canadian citizenship, he was not coming to court with clean hands. You know the rest of the story.

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