Rare views of Japanese-Canadian internment: 19 images remembering one of Canada’s darkest hours
2016/12/16 Leave a comment
Last week was the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Amid commemorations of the Americans killed in the attack, as well as the brutal war that followed, also came a solemn remembrance of how the United States interned coastal Japanese-American populations that it wrongly believed were a dangerous fifth column.
A similar tragedy, of course, played out in wartime Canada. In a country with an established tradition of respecting civil liberties, wartime hysteria led to 21,000 people of Japanese descent being forcibly removed from a 100-mile “defence zone” along the British Columbia coast.
But that’s only part of the story. The National Post has combed through archives across the country to unearth these rare photos of one of the darkest hours in modern Canadian history.
Beginning in March 1941 — eight months before the attack on Pearl Harbor — Japanese-Canadians were required to obtain these identity cards, which have been recently featured as part of the museum exhibition Registered. Something to note on these cards is that issuers felt the need to stamp them with the words “Canadian born.” It would have been understandable for the owners of these cards, both of them Canadian citizens, to see that stamp as a kind of insurance policy in case of war with Japan. But ultimately, 75 per cent of those interned were Canadian citizens, including many who could not speak Japanese or had fought for Canada in the First World War. With no similar mass internments taken against Italian- or German-Canadians, it was clear to them that this was motivated by a belief that Japanese were racially incapable of loyalty. As U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson summed it up, “their racial characteristics are such that we cannot understand or trust even the citizen Japanese.”