The Internment Camps of Japanese Canadians In Canada During World War II

Most Western countries had internment camps during the second world war. In Canada people of Japanese heritage were interned until a few years after the end of the war. Not until April 1, 1949 were they allowed to live where they wanted in Canada.

Every country that was guilty of the internments share the shame of the deplorable conditions that humans allowed other humans to endure. That the children of one culture had to be raised up like animals in some cases because the adults of another culture deemed it so must not ever happen again. It would be nice to think that would happen. The conditions that those who were interned within them differed but on a general rule were the reason that the Geneva conventions were made to insure mistreatment’s never happened again. And yet even today it happens. This article is about what did happen in Canada when fear overtook the way it should have been.

The Canadian government along with the United States government interned people of Japanese Canadian (Nikkei Kanadajin) heritage after the attack of Pearl Harbour.

The “Order in council PC 1486” expanded 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) who were of Japanese heritage. Immediately after the attack 38 Japanese nationals were interned by the RCMP. Later the RMCP rounded up 720 Japanese, most of which were Canadian citizens. Members of the Nisei Mass Evacuation Group had resisted being separated from their families. More than 20,000 Japanese Canadians were removed form the Pacific Coast in 1942 but not interned as is commonly believed. They were housed in isolated areas though and had many restricts placed on them.

On March 4, 1942 22,000 Japanese men were given 24 hours to pack before they were to be imprisoned. Sent off to do labour on road crews or beet farms the men were separated from their families in the initial time period of the internment of the Nikkei Kanadajin. 699 of the 945 men working the road crews complained about being separated from their families and others broke curfew hours. They were sent to POW camps at Angler and Petawaw in Ontario.

Women and children were moved to six inland B.C. towns; Greenwood, Sandon, Kaslo, New Denver, Rosebery, Slocan City, Bay Farm, Popoff, Lemon Creek, and Tashme created to relocate the populace. The conditions were so poor that even the citizens of war torn Japan sent provisions for the detainees. In the latter years of the war they petitioned the Royal Commission for better housing and more stoves. After the petition they were allowed to grow vegetable gardens, dig basements and create extra rooms in the small houses they were living in.

After struggling to obtain the right to teach the children the Lemon Creek camp was given permission to school them until grade 10.

“Self-supporting” camps were established in Lillooet, Bridge River, Minto City, McGillivray Falls, and Christina Lake. At these camps men paid to be allowed to farm the land and live in a less restrictive area.

Before they were interned Japanese Canadians had their property, businesses, and cars confiscated and sold by the Canadian government. The “Custodian of Aliens” allowed for the government to liquidate the possessions of those being interned.

“I was in that camp for four years. When it got cold the temperature went down to as much as 60 below. The buildings stood on flat land beside a lake. We lived in huts with no insulation. Even if we had the stove burning the inside of the windows would all be frosted up and white, really white. I had to lie in bed with everything on that I had… at one time there were 720 people there, all men, and a lot of them were old men.” Hideo Kukubo

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized to Japanese Canadians and authorized the provision of $21,000 (CD.) to each of the survivors of wartime detention in 1988.

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