After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in the United States,
the Canadian government passed the "Order in council PC 1486"
expanding the power of the Minister of Justice to remove any and all persons
from a designated protected zone (100 mile radius of the BC coast). This
was part of the War Measures Act. On March 4, 1942, the BC Security Commission
was established and 22,000 Japanese Canadians were given 24 hours to pack,
before being incarcerated, interned, and separated from their families.
Like the American assembly centers, which housed internees
at Santa Anita and other race tracks, the Japanese Canadians were initially
housed in a temporary facility just as demeaning in Vancouver called Hastings
Park Race Track.
Men were separated from their families and forced to work
on work crews building roads, railroads, and sugar beet farms. The women
and children and older people were sent inland to internment camps (desolate
ghost towns and farms made into small cities) in the interior of British
Columbia at Greenwood, Sandon, Kaslo, New Denver, Rosebery, Slocan City,
Bay Farm, Popoff, Lemon Creek, and Tashme.
"Self-supporting" camps were established in Lillooet,
Bridge River, Minto City, McGillivray Falls, and Christina Lake. 1,161 internees
paid for their relocation and leasing of farms in these desolate areas that
provided a less restrictive, less punitive environment. These Japanese Canadians
were still considered "enemy aliens" by the government.
About 945 men worked on road construction camps at Blue
River, Revelstroke, Hope, Schreiber, Black Spur. Those men who complained
of the separation from families (Nisei Mass Evacuation Group) as well as
other "dissident men" who violated curfew hours were sent to the
"prisoner of war" camps at Angler and Petawawa in Ontario (699
men). They were forced to wear shirts with round, red targets on their backs.
Similar to the the emasculation and impoverishment of the
Jews before the roundup to the German concentration camps, the Japanese
Canadians had property, businesses, cars, and boats confiscated and sold
by the Canadian government before they were forced into labor camps. Without
their property, assets, or jobs they were then charged inequitably for their
internment. Harold Hirose, a veteran of the second world war, had five acres
of Surry farmland (a neighboring area of Vancouver) which was confiscated
and sold for $36. He received a check for $15 which included charges for
the administrative costs in a transaction which he did not approve. He subsequently
made several appeals to the government to recover the land but these failed.
(see Justice in Our Time, The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement, Roy Miki
and Cassandra Kobayashi, 1991,Talonbooks, pp.81.)
Unlike the Japanese Americans the Japanese Canadians were
not allowed to join the military until after 1945. In spite of the incarceration,
the Japanese Canadians volunteered to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.
In 1945 the Canadian government extended the War Measures
Act which allowed the MacKenzie King government to execute the "final
solution" which forced these Japanese Canadian citizens to repatriate
to Japan (a country most of the Japanese Canadians had never been to before)
or a forced a "dispersal" to eastern or midwest Canada. Until
1949 it was illegal for the Japanese Canadians to return to Vancouver or
western Canada, despite the end of the war.
For the Japanese Canadians there were no homes, farms,
and other property left behind before internment. They were forced to start
their lives over, with no economic resources, in an estranged and racially
repressive environment of midwest and eastern Canada.
In 1988 redress for the Japanese Canadians was passed and
the Prime Minister issued an apology for the miscarriage of justice that
led to internment and incarceration. Yet the $21,000 of redress money hardly
compensates for the lost years of incarceration, property confiscated, family
separations and disruptions, and the invisible psychological scars and memories
of racial injustices that remain.