B.C. government apologizes for internment of Japanese Canadians
The B.C. government has formally apologized for the internment of Japanese Canadians in camps in the province during the Second World War.
Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Canadian government in 1942 ordered 21,000 people of Japanese descent to relocate from the coast to camps in the province’s interior. The relocation, which was supported by the provincial government at the time, saw families separated and private property seized.
Members of B.C.’s legislative assembly today (May 7) voted unanimously to offer an apology for the internment, a step that comes on its 70th anniversary.
“The House deeply regrets that these Canadians were discriminated against simply because they were of Japanese descent and believes that all Canadians regardless of their origins should be welcome and respected,” reads the motion, introduced in the legislature by Liberal MLA Naomi Yamamoto.
Yamamoto, the first person of Japanese descent to be elected to the B.C. legislature, said her father, Mas, and his family were among those sent to the camps. He and other Japanese Canadians interned during the war were present in the legislature for the apology today.
Speaking in the legislature, Naomi Yamamoto said the provincial government of the day deserves blame for the internment, which came at a time when baseless accusations were flying about espionage and sabotage.
“The scope of this betrayal of our core values is illustrated by the experience of the Japanese Canadians,” Yamamoto said, according to a draft transcript of the debate in the legislature. “The Canadian government assured the Japanese Canadians that their homes, fishing boats and other assets would be returned upon their release. Instead, they were sold off at auction for cents on the dollar.”
“Despite these injustices, hardships and acts of discrimination, most of the interned chose not to be bitter,” Yamamoto said. “Instead, they rolled up their sleeves and rebuilt their lives and their communities once they were allowed to return home. The painful details of these times are generally not shared with their children until many years later because there was too much work to be done.”
New Democrat Opposition Leader Adrian Dix also spoke about the hardship Japanese Canadians faced, including efforts to bar them from B.C. that continued after the war.
“I think it is an important occasion and one for us to reflect on our past—which we often do with pride—with some realism,” Dix said in the legislature.
“The policies in question with respect to the internment were disconnected from reality. They were amoral and immoral, and they reflected very much on our province,” he said.
“It's impossible to argue that British Columbia wasn't the most responsible, as a province, for what occurred, when compared to other jurisdictions in Canada and neighbouring jurisdictions in the United States.”
An apology and compensation were offered by the federal government in 1988.
May 7, 2012 at 8:23pm
Well I guess that's a start now for Provincial apology for...
- the Chinese Head tax...
The Chinese head tax was a fixed fee charged to each Chinese person entering Canada. The head tax was first levied after the Canadian parliament passed the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and was meant to discourage Chinese people from entering Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The tax was abolished by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which stopped Chinese immigration altogether, except for business people, clergy, educators, students, and other categories.
- turning away east Indians,
"The Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver Harbour
in May 1914; most of the 376 East Indian
passengers were never allowed to leave the ship
A murky chapter in Canada’s racist immigration policies was written during the summer of 1914, when a two-month stand-off took place on Canada’s west coast."
- The whole sale Death on Native Canadians and appropriation of Native Indian Land...
- the poverty on us regular BC folk by PPP partnerships, $565 Million for a leaky Tarp roof & the Owe-lympics :)
- BC Rail
- Drunk Driving etc etc
that's a lot of Apologies for the BC Neo-Cons they'll be out of Office before they can pander to all the groups :)
May 7, 2012 at 8:38pm
Thank you, Ms. Yamamoto. You have done us all a service.
As kids on the river, we saw the ones who had come back, we knew their kids, we remember those magnificent men in their one-man gilnetters!
Just as you say, they never sullied themselves with complaints. They showed guts, and honour. They showed the way.
May 7, 2012 at 10:02pm
It's too easy to paint history in black and white. Bad japanese over there, good japanese here. Many japanese at that time were recent arrivals, many only with landed status. Very hard to have predicted where their loyalties were. Imperial japan was out to conquer the world, it was total war, they were murdering millions in Asia, people here were scared for good reason.
If China goes to war with the USA, are we going to assume that all the chinese here will be loyal to Canada?
May 7, 2012 at 11:08pm
Many times including now whole groups of immigrants are selected as scapegoats. Tougher today as much of BC is very mixed and multicultural. But this great story of Japanese Canadians should not be forgotten. Because in the last 10 years we have seen similar scenes down south and in Europe. Xenophobia like racism is cowardly.
May 8, 2012 at 8:28am
John Smith, a question of loyalty is one thing but there were numerous elements that took the actions far beyond precaution, including:
• the confiscation and selling off of Japanese Canadian property by the government;
• the official repatriation program (which involved sending Canadian-born citizens to a country they never knew) began at the end of the war;
• the fact that the government did not allow Japanese Canadian to return to the coast until four years after the war was over.
May 8, 2012 at 9:32am
Ah yes, another story with zero perspective which coincidentally is all about making politicians of the day look benevolent. Nice. There's nothing like forgetting about tens of millions of dead to score some easy political points. We should ask our local Chinese populations if they think this is a good idea.
Here's some quick wiki facts about who we were up against at the time.
I take no pleasure about dredging up these facts but it disturbs me how few people have any idea in this repsect.
R U Kiddingme
May 8, 2012 at 10:14am
Uprooted en masse from their homes, branded enemy aliens, property taken away, men separated from their families...by rights their descendents should be languishing in the skids, seeking Royal Commissions to explain again how their grandparents were abused by the white colonialists. Unfortunately they seem too busy thriving to demand their rights. Victims of false consciousness, I guess.
May 8, 2012 at 10:21am
I think to try and tar the Canadians of Japanese decent with the crimes of their contemporaries across the Pacific falls back on the same lazy, racist arguments that the provincial politicians at the time used to cudgel the federal government into decreeing internment. If the RCMP and Canadian military, who had been spying on the Japanese for years, were convinced that there were no credible threats, we have to assume that there were other reasons than security for enforcing the relocation.
The motivations behind internment were economic. Hard working Japanese were competing with White businessmen, and groups like the Anti-Asiatic League were active in Vancouver for years before the outbreak of war. War was just a useful pretext, an argument supported by the fact that Japanese Canadians were not allowed to return to the coast for four years after VJ Day.
I think it's important that we own up to what has happened in our past, because, as KiDDAA said, similar racist acts are happening in Europe, and around the world. We haven't eliminated discrimination here at home either. We have to be cognisant of where it leads.
May 8, 2012 at 10:44am
A nice gesture on the part of the government. Useless, but nice. My question is why the writer of the article felt is was necessary to include comments from Adrian Dix ( a politician who altered government documents)? Guess it's part of the Straight's ongoing campaign in support of the New Democratic Party ( a party which in fact is a socialist party, not a democratic party).
glen p robbins
May 8, 2012 at 2:34pm
A shot a one seat in 2013