Canada forced these Japanese Canadians into internment camps. Now they’re at the same nursing home

Good reminder of our history and the lasting memories:

Leaning forward in her wheelchair to look over a massive photo album, Sue Kai delves into memories from decades ago. Kai, 96, and her son, Brian, pore over snapshots of her past, some dating back to the moment her life was irrevocably changed.

Kai was 16 years old, and living with her family in the downtown Vancouver home her father built with his own two hands, when it happened.

“One Sunday everybody is going crazy: ‘Bomb bomb bomb bomb,'” said Kai. “I said, what’s a ‘bomb bomb bomb bomb?’ Then they said ‘Pearl Harbor.'”

Source: Canada forced these Japanese Canadians into internment camps. Now they’re at the same nursing home

B.C. gives $2M to Japanese Canadian seniors as step toward righting internment wrongs

Of note:

British Columbia is offering tangible recognition of the historical wrongs caused by the province when it helped to intern thousands of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

The province has announced a $2-million fund for the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society to enhance programming for seniors and local communities.

A statement from the Ministry of Attorney General says the fund will be used to develop and deliver health and wellness programs to Japanese Canadian internment survivors.

The society and the National Association of Japanese Canadians will also spread the funding to other organizations supporting survivors.

The ministry statement says the grant is a first step toward fulfilling a provincial promise to honour Japanese Canadians by recognizing the traumatic internment of almost 22,000 people beginning in 1942.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the funding will allow internment survivors to connect with others in their community, helping them stay healthy and remain independent.

“The terrible loss suffered by thousands of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s is still impacting the community today, with many experiencing lasting health issues and trauma,” Dix says in the statement.

The Canadian government detained thousands of Japanese Canadians in early 1942 under the War Measures Act. They were held in crowded internment camps in B.C.’s Interior or were offered the option to work on sugar beet farms in Alberta and Manitoba for the remainder of the Second World War.

Their homes, farms, businesses and other property were sold off by the government and the proceeds were used to pay the cost of their detention.

Ruth Coles, president of the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society, says many Japanese Canadian seniors were forced to rebuild their lives outside B.C. and now have “unique needs stemming from internment, forced uprooting, dispossession and displacement.”

Many still feel “shame and a lack of resolution” caused by the internment that have led to a lifetime of challenges, she says.

Then-prime minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized in 1988 for Canada’s role in the internment of Japanese Canadians and British Columbia recognized the discrimination and tremendous losses they suffered when it issued its own apology in the legislature in 2012.

Source: B.C. gives $2M to Japanese Canadian seniors as step toward righting internment wrongs

Japanese camp unearthed in North Shore mountains was likely an escape from racism, until internment intervened

Interesting part of our history:

Hidden away in British Columbia’s North Shore mountains are the remnants of a Japanese-Canadian logging camp, shrouded by forest and veiled from memory after it was apparently abandoned because of internment during the Second World War.

Since 2004, Vancouver archeologist Bob Muckle has been visiting and excavating the site; almost everything had been swallowed by the forest and has been gradually and carefully uncovered. There are as many questions as answers, still, but Muckle has a theory that it was an oasis of Japanese culture, on the fringe of Vancouver, decades ago, that was heretofore unknown.

Sherri Kajiwara of the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby, B.C. says there is no record, yet, of anyone remembering living there, or remembering that their ancestors resided there, although there were plenty of Japanese-Canadians in Canada at the time.

“By the 1940s the community was very established and spread across metro Vancouver and the province,” Kajiwara said.

More than 1,000 artifacts have been collected at the site, researchers say.Bob Muckle

Her museum is putting together an exhibit about the history of Japanese-Canadian internment, and one of the main characters is Eikichi Kagetsu, a successful businessman who had logging rights in the area where Muckle found a settlement.

Muckle’s involvement with the camp began as a search for an area where he could teach his Capilano University students about proper excavation. He found one, a logging camp, by the looks of it, since there were bits of saw blades around. But, the excavation soon revealed it “was not really a typical logging camp at all.”

A typical camp, Muckle explained, would have bunk houses and a mess hall for the men working there. This one has 14 locations that were, to Muckle’s eyes, houses. There is also evidence of a shrine, a garden space and a water reservoir system.

“The most significant find is evidence of what may be a Japanese bathhouse,” Muckle noted. “Very few bathhouses have been excavated outside of Japan.”

Though he doesn’t “have the smoking gun yet,” Muckle’s hypothesis about the origin and life of the camp is that Japanese-Canadians moved to the logging camp around 1918, and remained there even after logging activity ceased. He was most recently on-site for several weeks in May and June.

“In the Vancouver area, where we are, in the 1920s and ’30s there was pretty explicit racism against both Chinese and Japanese, so this would’ve been an escape from that.”

Here they lived, with the men commuting into Vancouver for work, Muckle suspects, until February 1942, when they would have left for internment camps, a policy put in place during the Second World War that relocated families from the B.C. coast.

The evidence for the timing, and reason, for the camp’s abandonment, even in the absence of clear artifacts from the 1940s, is that the departure seems to have been reasonably orderly. Everyone there just walked away, leaving behind clocks, watches, pocketknives, dishes and stoves. There are about 1,000 artifacts in total: beer bottles and teapot pieces and evaporated milk cans, suggesting the presence of children.

“I think (internment) explains why we have so many personal items left behind,” Muckle said. “The dishes tend to be in really good condition, which you wouldn’t expect if people were normally abandoning their site.”

And, some items were hidden, such as a valuable stove secreted away off-site and parts of an early-1900s camera that were inside the walls of the bathhouse.

“I’m thinking this is probably my last season there,” he said. “I’m going through the process right now of figuring out what’s going to happen to all the artifacts.”

Certaintly, some of them are going to go to Kajiwara’s museum. For her part, she’s heard from a number of people about the settlement, as it has received more press, including someone from Japan. “It’s really been quite remarkable that the word has gone out sort of far and wide,” she said. “We’re starting to slowly collect names.”

“That whole generation really didn’t talk about the experience for decades and it’s only now, it’s only recently, that the stories have started to be revealed or shared,” she said. “It will be interesting to see if we can track down any of the descendants.”

Source: Japanese camp unearthed in North Shore mountains was likely an escape from racism, until internment intervened

Japanese internment letters convey betrayal at loss of homes, heirlooms

Good research and reminder of this historic injustice:

Judy Hanazawa says the federal government sold her family’s fishing boats and homes while her parents were in internment camps during the Second World War, but what hits hardest is seeing a 70-year-old letter from her father disputing a government cheque for $14.68.

Hanazawa had never seen the letter until recently, but the Vancouver resident said reading it conveys the sense of betrayal her father must have felt losing family possessions and having to start over with almost nothing after he was held in a camp in British Columbia’s Interior.

“My dad, in writing this letter, was really intent on being dignified in how he approached the government,” Hanazawa said. “He pointed out to them the value of these belongings was much more than he received. For him it was a lot to write this, to point out that this was not really right.”

The Feb. 10, 1947, letter to the federal Office of the Custodian in Vancouver includes a list of Hanazawa family items — a Singer sewing machine, record player, dresser and other household items — with an estimated value of $224.95. The letter also lists a Japanese doll, worth $10, and includes a reward for its return.

Geniche Hanazawa’s letter is one of 300 letters discovered in a federal archive written by Japanese Canadians protesting the sale of their homes, businesses and heirlooms while held in internment camps during the Second World War.

Historian Jordan Stanger-Ross of the University of Victoria came across the letters while researching federal archives as part of a project examining the dispossession of Japanese Canadians. The Landscapes of Injustice is one of Canada’s largest humanities research projects.

He said many Japanese Canadians were prepared to accept being sent to internment camps during the war, but losing everything was not expected. The federal government promised to keep the homes and businesses for internees, but the policy changed during the war and the properties were sold.

The letters reflect the sense of loss and betrayal Japanese Canadians felt towards the government for selling off their possessions and life’s work without consent, he said.

“They wrote these really remarkable letters, some of them are long and lay out life stories of migration to Canada, building a home, building a business, raising children,” said Stanger-Ross. “Some of them are very short and just say, ‘I received your cheque, which I tore up.’ ”

Authors of the letters include the Victoria owners of a successful dry cleaning business, an internee whose cousins died in France serving Canada during the First World War, and a man who put two of his Canadian-born children through medical school.

“We have many letters from people just shocked at the price for which both their land and personal belongings and businesses had been sold,” Stanger-Ross said.

About 22,000 Japanese Canadians were sent to internment camps in Canada from 1942 until 1949.

“Readers of these letters tend to pause and contemplate what it would mean for me to lose my home, my business, lose the opportunity to educate my children in my community and really lose the dream of multiple generations that have built lives here in B.C.,” Stanger-Ross said.

The letters are also set to become part of an online historical exhibition called Writing Wrongs at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby, B.C. The exhibit is scheduled to open in 2019.

Museum curator Sherri Kajiwara said Japanese Canadians were prepared to do their time in internment, but losing everything was not part of the deal.

“The thing I find with the letters is the unbelievable politeness and eloquence,” she said. “The language is so painfully polite; basically saying, ‘kindly, please, stop it. You are not allowed to sell my belongings.’ “

via Japanese internment letters convey betrayal at loss of homes, heirlooms | Vancouver Sun

Walking In Their Footsteps At A Former Japanese Internment Camp : NPR

Good long read about one family’s visit to a former internment camp:

The military-style camps were intentionally located in remote areas. Manzanar is about four hours north of Los Angeles by car and 3,800 to 4,200 feet above sea level. It is on U.S. Route 395, east of the Sierra Nevada and west of Death Valley. The nearest populated area is a tiny village six miles north named Independence. Before the trip, I debated whether I should go. The drive from Northern California is long, and my car is old. But I decided that I wanted to see Manzanar with my own eyes, so that my understanding of history might feel deeper through the experience of place.

Two reconstructed buildings stand in the former Manzanar War Relocation Center. Once, 10,046 people were imprisoned here.

Melissa Hung for NPR

What we saw was a flat desert with vegetation scrappy and close to the ground, stubborn trees here and there, tumbleweed bounding across the landscape, propelled by the wind. In the distance, Mount Williamson, majestic and snow-covered, looked like a painting.

“I hadn’t pictured it this beautiful,” I said.

“I imagine it must have felt ironic for the people living here,” Erin replied.

Manzanar opened on March 21, 1942, so the weather would have been similar to what we were experiencing on this sunny April day. I was wearing a sweatshirt and a vest. But here spring gives way to summers of up to 110 degrees and winters below freezing. In all seasons, the wind covers surfaces with sand and dust. Like the force of history, it is a constant that cannot be ignored.

Our guide for the day was park ranger Mark Hachtmann. He dressed the way I imagined a park ranger would: a uniform of green pants, a matching green jacket with a U.S. National Park Service patch on the arm, and a brimmed hat. He led us through the few buildings in Block 14, which now serve as exhibits. After the war, most of the buildings at Manzanar were dismantled. After Manzanar became a historic site in 1992, buildings were recreated according to historical photographs. The two barracks in Block 14 were built in 2010.

From what had been rebuilt, we were to imagine the entirety of the camp. There were 36 blocks in all for Japanese Americans. Each block contained 20 buildings: 14 barracks, a mess hall, a recreation hall, a laundry facility, an ironing room, a women’s latrine, and a men’s latrine. Between 250 and 400 people lived in each block, the blocks separated by open areas to prevent fires from spreading, a real threat in this land of wind. The whole camp was just under one square mile.

The residents were resigned to being in the camp ¾ Shikata ga nai(nothing can be done) ¾ and tried to make life a little more normal and comfortable. They created sports teams, published a newspaper, and started a co-op store. I was impressed by their self-organizing and resilience, but also felt a lingering sadness, especially for the older adults who had built their businesses and professions in the face of discrimination, only to have almost everything taken away. Did they ever recover? As we walked from building to building, the boys picked up sticks and dug at the dirt. I wondered how much they understood and if they would remember any of this. They played, I imagined, as kids their ages had done when the camp was full of families.

While in use, the camp included a 250-bed hospital, a fire station, an orphanage for 101 children, and baseball fields. More than 10,000 people ¾ 6,000 adults and 4,000 children ¾ had lived here in a hastily built, temporary city of concrete blocks, wood, and tarpaper. The War Relocation Authority staff ¾ the camp director, police chief, fire chief, social workers, and others who were mostly white and often referred to as the “Caucasian staff” ¾ lived in other blocks with their families, in buildings with their own bathrooms, kitchens, and lawns.

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.”

Michiko Ayukawa, right, is shown with a friend.GEORGE METCALF ARCHIVAL COLLECTION, CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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

Lessons from the Japanese Canadian internments: Policies built on fear won’t make us safer

Jordan Stanger-Ross, Eric Adams and Laura Madokoro on some of the lessons from WW II Japanese Canadian interment (for those who have not read it, Joy Kogawa’s novel Obasan captures the reality):

The wartime fates of people of Japanese descent in North America have recently returned to headline news. The National Association of Japanese Canadians, which in the 1980s led the Redress movement, called last year for the repeal of Bill C-51 (the complex omnibus legislation dealing with surveillance, information sharing among government agencies and various new terrorist-related crimes) by reminding the government of what then-prime minister Brian Mulroney called its “solemn commitment” that the mistreatment of Canadians in the name of security would “never again in this country be countenanced or repeated.”

In the fall, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair explicitly compared Bill C-51 to the Orders-in-Council of the 1940s, which curtailed the rights of Japanese Canadians. In the United States, Donald Trump indicated that the mass internment of Japanese Americans during the war may have been the correct policy, shortly before calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Jan. 19, 1943, is therefore a date worth remembering. The forced sale of Japanese-Canadian property marked a moment in Canada’s past when racism, misunderstanding and fear wrapped themselves in misguided notions of security and in the formal language of the law. Other and nefarious agendas could be pursued in a political atmosphere clouded by fear. We live with the legacy of those decisions today – the lost property, livelihoods and connections of a generation of Canadians, the eradication of a downtown neighbourhood in Vancouver, the painful memories of lives dispossessed.

Source: Lessons from the Japanese Canadian internments: Policies built on fear won’t make us safer – The Globe and Mail

Minister Kenney issues statement on the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Government’s Apology for Japanese Internment during the Second World War

Worth noting, as this was the first major historical recognition initiative by the Canadian government, and important acknowledgement of historical wrongs. Read Obasan by Joy Kogawa to understand the internment and related experience. US government also made comparable acknowledgement.

Statement — Minister Kenney issues statement on the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Government’s Apology for Japanese Internment during the Second World War.

From Wrong To Right: A U.S. Apology For Japanese Internment : Code Switch : NPR

Nice story on the history of the US apology for Japanese Wartime Internment. Canada took a similar approach to its apology, also in 1988. With a nice closing statement:

“There is a saying in Japanese culture, ‘kodomo no tame ni,’ which means, ‘for the sake of the children.’ And for us running this campaign, that had much to do with it,” he (Tateishi) says. “It’s the legacy we’re handing down to them and to the nation to say that, ‘You can make this mistake, but you also have to correct it — and by correcting it, hopefully not repeat it again.’ “

From Wrong To Right: A U.S. Apology For Japanese Internment : Code Switch : NPR.