UVic researchers find Vancouver played larger role in Japanese Canadian wartime dispossession

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      A University of Victoria research team has discovered that the City of Vancouver played a much more significant role in the wartime dispossession of Japanese Canadians than previously thought.

      The Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective analyzed city and federal archival documents over two years.

      They found that city planners in the 1940s sought to take advantage of the forced removal of Japanese Canadians from rental housing in the Powell Street area by replacing it with new housing.

      The city sent inspectors to condemn rental housing owned by Japanese Canadians in a bid to convince federal officials that the neighbourhood was uninhabitable.

      "The notion that this neighbourhood was a 'slum' was twisted into additional justification for the forced sale of all property of Japanese Canadians in coastal B.C.," UVic historian and Landscapes of Injustice project director Jordan Stanger-Ross stated in a news release. "I think this new evidence merits further discussion to determine what it means to take responsibility for the past."

      After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, over 21,000 Japanese Canadians were forced to leave their homes and properties and move inland beyond a 100-mile zone along the B.C. coast under the War Measures Act. Although Japanese Canadian citizens were assured their properties would be returned to them, officials instead sold them off. The losses would amount to approximately one billion dollars in today's currency.

      The federal government formally apologized for the internment in 1988 and offered a compensation package.

      Vancouver city council formally apologized in 2013 for the city's role in the Japanese Canadian internment.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.