Updated: People's Party of Canada uses photo of Japanese Canadian internment in ad against multiculturalism
Update (September 27): The video in question has been removed from the People's Party of Canada (PPC) Facebook webpage, but is still viewable elsewhere on Facebook.
A new version of the video, with the previous segment at the 0:13 mark edited out, has been released. The series of historical photos, including one of the Japanese Canadian internment, has been replaced with footage of Bernier talking.
Bernier tweeted the new video today at 10:18 a.m.
However, the PPC has not issued any statement or apology about the original video.
As the Georgia Straight did not receive a response from the PPC for an interview request made yesterday, we have contacted the PPC a second time for comment.
Japanese American activist George Takei, who underwent the internment in the U.S., took to social media to express his condemnation of the use of the image.
Takei had recently visited the former Japanese Canadian internment site of Tashme near Hope, B.C., on September 2 before his Vancouver book-signing event of his graphic novel, They Called Us Enemy, which tells the story of his internment experiences.
Original article (September 26):
An ad released by the People's Party of Canada (PPC) against Canada’s official multiculturalism policy has sparked criticism for its use of a photo from a dark chapter in Canadian history during the Second World War.
On September 23, the PPC released a video ad about Canadian identity and multiculturalism.
The ad features PPC leader Maxime Bernier talking his party’s plan to repeal the Multiculturalism Act and to eliminate all funding for promoting multiculturalism.
Bernier explains that immigrants who came to Canada in the past used to keep “some aspects of culture of origin” and became Canadian but “with a distinct flavour”. He says this type of multiculturalism enriches Canada.
However, he says the current multicultural policy “encourages immigrants to keep the values and culture they left beind instead of integrating into Canadian society and adopting Canadian values and culture”, such as democracy, individual rights and freedoms, and equality for all genders, ethnicities, religion, and sexual orientations.
“Official multiculturalism is based on the idea that there is no unified Canadian society and no distinct Canadian identity to integrate into, and that we are just a collection of ethnic and religious tribes living side by side,” Bernier states.
But as Bernier talks, there is an image that has created concern and confusion.
At the 0:13 mark, Bernier states “In the past, immigrants who came to Canada readily integrated into our society”. As he says this, a series of historical photographs appear. Among them is a black-and-white photograph of Asian people boarding a Canadian Pacific train near a building that says “Slocan City”.
However, that image is of Japanese Canadians who were interned in B.C. during the Second World War as they were being repatriated to Japan. The photo can be found on the website for the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) with the caption " 'Repatriation' to Japan, Slocan, 1946. NNM 1918.104.22.168.". The ad does not specify the historical context of the photo.
During the Second World War, 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forcibly removed outside of a 100-mile exclusion zone along the British Columbian coast under the War Measures Act, and all of their possessions and property left behind were sold off by the government.
Even after the war ended, interned Japanese Canadians were forced to either move to eastern Canada or repatriate to Japan, a country that was foreign to many Canadian-born internees.
Slocan, B.C., was the site of one of the Japanese Canadian internment camps, and it was also a departure point for those who were sent to Japan in 1946, even though Japan had surrendered in 1945. Three of the most famous Japanese Canadians—environmentalist David Suzuki, Obasan author Joy Kogawa, and architect Raymond Moriyama—were interned at Slocan.
The Canadian government officially apologized for the internment and offered redress in 1988. The B.C. government formally apologized in 2002 and the City of Vancouver also apologized in 2013 for its role in the internment.
In response to the PPC video, the NAJC released a statement today (September 26) about the image in the ad, saying that they are "deeply disturbed" by its inclusion.
“This photo depicted in Mr. Bernier’s video is not a moment of welcoming new Canadians,” NAJC director, Young Leaders Committee chair, Alex Miki stated in a news release. “It is a moment depicting Japanese Canadians being derided and subjected to sweeping, merciless political violence. We remain puzzled if Mr. Bernier endorses such actions or if this was an error as a result of ignorance to past injustices by the Canadian Government.”
The NAJC went on to affirm their support for equality in Canada.
"As this year marks the 70th anniversary of Japanese Canadians being granted the right to vote in B.C., we are reminded of those whose civil rights and liberties were denied and we hope that as this federal election approaches, Canadians join the continued fight for a just society committed to equal human rights for all and the elimination of racism and discrimination."
The Georgia Straight is contacting the PPC to find out why the image was used in the advertisement.
On September 23, Global News reported that a former U.S. neo-Nazi group leader, a former Soldiers of Odin member, and a Pegida Canada official were among the signatories submitted to Elections Canada that helped the PPC officially register as a political party.
Bernier made appearances in Metro Vancouver on September 25 at the Hellenic Community of Vancouver and at a Surrey Board of Trade event at a Surrey hotel.