Chu Lai fought against anti-Chinese discrimination and won

One of the early Chinese Canadian pioneers in the struggle against discrimination and racism:

After he died while asleep at home at age 59, the Chinese community in Victoria turned out in huge numbers to say goodbye to one of the country’s pioneers. Chu Lai is not much remembered today, but in his day in the late 19th and early 20th century, he was known for fighting against racism toward Chinese immigrants at a time when it wasn’t popular. He was one of the wealthiest Chinese merchants in B.C., with a net worth estimated at $500,000.

On Wednesday, June 6, 1906, the Victoria Times Colonist reported about preparations for his public funeral.

The story said ceremonies included building a temporary altar for a Taoist priest to perform last rites in front of where Lai died. Everything was arranged by the Chinese Empire Reform Association, a political party started by the Chinese reformer and exile Kang Youwei in Victoria in 1899 to establish a constitutional monarchy in China. Chu was vice-president of the Victoria chapter when he died.

“Professional mourners who will be clad in sackcloth have been engaged to weep as they walk in a funeral procession,” the story said. “Every carriage in the city has been engaged, as also the services of a local brass band.”

Chu came Canada in the 1860s. A member of the Hakka minority in Guangdong in southern China, he made his fortune trading during the Cariboo Gold Rush. By 1876, he was successful enough to open the Wing Chong Company in Victoria.

In 1885, Chu was a participant in a historic court case. A year before, the provincial legislature had passed the Chinese Regulation Act which put an annual tax of $10 on all Chinese residents over the age of 14.

Chu and another Chinese immigrant were charged and convicted of failing to pay the tax. Chu posted a bond of $250 and challenged the law in B.C. Supreme Court, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

In the precedent-setting case, the court ruled that the act was “ultra vires” — beyond the power of the provincial legislature.

Source: Chu Lai fought against anti-Chinese discrimination and won | Vancouver Sun

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Lillian Eva Dyck, Victor Oh and Yuen Pau Woo: Canada’s sordid history of treating Chinese-Canadians as ‘undesirables’

Good and important recounting of this aspect of our history by these three senators:

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation, another anniversary must not go overlooked. May 14, 2017 marks 70 years since the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act, the only law in Canadian history to bar a specific ethnic group from coming to Canada.

Today, roughly 1.5 million people of Chinese descent live in Canada. Although most arrived over the past two decades, the first significant wave began in the 19th century. Chinese migrants came to Canada during the 1850s for the gold rush in British Columbia’s lower Fraser Valley. Chinese prospectors earned little money because they were prohibited from working in mines until others had moved on from them.

Another wave of Chinese migrants came between 1881 and 1885 to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. They were exposed to harsh weather conditions and were tasked with the most dangerous and backbreaking jobs of building bridges over valleys and digging tunnels through mountains. These conditions led to 600 deaths, among the more than 15,000 Chinese labourers.

After the railroad was completed in 1885, many Chinese labourers remained in the country. Some headed for the prairies and eastern Canada, but most stayed in B.C.

Once Chinese labour was no longer needed, the government passed laws to limit and then prohibit Chinese immigration. In 1885, Sir John A. Macdonald’s government enacted the Chinese Immigration Act, which imposed a $50 head tax (more than $1,000 in today’s dollars) on all Chinese immigrants.

The head tax created poverty and fractured families. The majority of Chinese immigrants were men who came to the country to find work. The costly head tax forced them to leave their wives and children behind. Families that paid the fee would spend years paying off the outstanding debt.

On July 1, 1923, the federal government implemented the Chinese Immigration Act, banning Chinese immigration altogether. Other policies further restricted their ability to vote, hold public office, or practice law or medicine. Municipalities enacted additional policies. For instance, Vancouver barred Chinese from swimming in public pools.

Since the Chinese Immigration Act took effect the same day as the anniversary of Confederation, this day became known as “Humiliation Day” among Chinese-Canadians. In protest, some Chinese-Canadians closed their businesses and boycotted Dominion Day (the precursor to Canada Day) celebrations every July 1 until it was repealed. This community felt compelled to reject the nation’s birthday.

It was not until 1947 that the federal government repealed the Chinese Immigration Act, in large part due to the lobbying efforts of activists from across Canada, including lawyer Kew Doc Yip. There was also broader public support for the repeal, as a result of Chinese-Canadians’ significant contribution to the Second World War effort. However, restrictions on Chinese immigration and other discriminatory laws remained in place.

In the House of Commons that year, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King said Canada had the right to determine who it considers “desirable future citizens.” “Large-scale migration from the Orient would change the fundamental composition of the Canadian population,” he said.

It took another 20 years for this attitude to change. In 1967, Canada introduced a points-based policy that gave Chinese equal opportunity to immigrate to Canada. It allowed immigrants to apply based on education and skills. By the 1980s, Chinese immigration was on the rise, enhancing the status of Chinese communities across the country.

Finally, on June 22, 2006, the Canadian government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, issued a formal apology for the Chinese Immigration Act. It was an important step towards reconciliation. It reaffirmed to Chinese-Canadians that they are full and equal members of Canadian society and that their contributions were valuable to Canada’s development.

Source: Lillian Eva Dyck, Victor Oh and Yuen Pau Woo: Canada’s sordid history of treating Chinese-Canadians as ‘undesirables’ | National Post

B.C. was home to First World War internment camp for Europeans

One of the projects funded by the Canadian Historical Recognition Program endowment to the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund – money well used:

Bill Doskoch was looking for work in Vancouver when he was arrested, for being Ukrainian.

At the dawn of the First World War, the Canadian government rounded up more than 8,000 mostly single men of German, Austrian and Ukrainian ancestry, sending them to 24 concentration camps scattered across the country. One such camp was at Morrissey, not far from Fernie.

As a civilian prisoner of war, Doskoch was moved frequently, eventually incarcerated in five camps between 1914 and 1920 and only released after most others prisoners were long gone.

“He was quite a rabble-rouser apparently and refused to take internment lying down,” said Sarah Beaulieu, an archeology PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University. “He was very angry about being interned.”

Beaulieu is pursuing an excavation at the site of the Morrissey camp this summer. She has already detected an escape tunnel and recovered artifacts, including a barbed-wire crucifix.

Morrissey was regarded as a particularly barbaric experience, with abusive guards, solitary confinement and hard labour.

Bill Doskoch is one of the few prisoners from the Morrissey Internment Camp who talked about his experiences. Here, in 1918, Doskoch is in the back row, fourth from the left, with his collar turned up. FERNIE HISTORICAL SOCIETY / PNG

A report by Consul of Switzerland Samuel Gintzburger, from 1917, notes that prisoners were “absolutely destitute” and were subject to “physical coercion” at the hands of guards. Protests were frequent.

“It was notorious for mistreatment of prisoners,” Beaulieu said. “At the time it received several note verbales (diplomatic protests) from Germany threatening retaliation on Canadian and British prisoners of war should the conditions at Morrissey not improve.”

Beaulieu learned of Bill’s wartime adventures from his daughter, Anne Sadelein, who resides in Edmonton where Doskoch settled in the 1920s. He remained a union activist throughout his life.

“My father spent a lot of time in black holes for writing letters and inciting stop workages or being political,” said Sadelein.

Doskoch was often at the centre of disputes over prisoner labour in the camps.

The Canadian government misinterpreted a clause from the 1907 Hague Convention on the rules of war so that the civilian PoWs could be used as labourers building roads and parks.

Some archival records note that prisoners were paid 55 cents a day for voluntary labour, but that 30 cents a day was deducted to pay for their room and board in the camp.

When civilian internees became aware that the clause in The Hague Convention only applied to military PoWs, Doskoch copied out the entire convention by hand as a reminder of their rights, according to Sadelein.

“He knew that they had been illegally arrested and wanted to do something about it,” said Beaulieu. “Most of the prisoners were civilians with no military connections who had come to Canada to settle the Prairies.”

Morrissey had been a coal-mining camp between 1902 and 1904, but was a ghost town when the federal government converted it into a concentration camp on Sept. 28, 1915. The Canadian government would later use the term internment to avoid the association with German concentration camps after the Second World War.

“They were very badly fed: fat and potatoes,” said a female descendant of a Ukrainian Morrissey internee interviewed by Beaulieu. “No vegetables, fruit or milk and these were young men — a lot of them in their early 20s. They had to work very hard. Ten hours a day sometimes. I can’t say that it was a nice, kind camp.”

Beaulieu has the names and faces of a few prisoners. Unfortunately, in 1954, a lot of the archival material was destroyed by the Canadian government because they had no place to store it. So very little is known about the operations of these camps today.

“When I first came to do interviews people weren’t really aware of the camp at Morrissey and the few that did were under the impression that it had been a sanctuary for destitute foreigners during the First World War,” she said.

A guard watches the fence in winter at the Morrissey Internment Camp. LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA / PNG

The internees have largely stayed in the shadows, even after the government offered to pay them for their labours. Though prisoners were supposed to be paid for their labour on release, those monies were never given to them. Most were too afraid to fight at the time and were loathe to apply for it when it was available in 1929 because it would have revealed to their families that they had been prisoners.

Interviews and documents being collected by academics such as Beaulieu are being gathered and organized by the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, which is also funding her work in Morrissey.

Source: B.C. was home to First World War internment camp for Europeans | Vancouver Sun

Walking In Their Footsteps At A Former Japanese Internment Camp : NPR

Good long read about one family’s visit to a former internment camp:

The military-style camps were intentionally located in remote areas. Manzanar is about four hours north of Los Angeles by car and 3,800 to 4,200 feet above sea level. It is on U.S. Route 395, east of the Sierra Nevada and west of Death Valley. The nearest populated area is a tiny village six miles north named Independence. Before the trip, I debated whether I should go. The drive from Northern California is long, and my car is old. But I decided that I wanted to see Manzanar with my own eyes, so that my understanding of history might feel deeper through the experience of place.

Two reconstructed buildings stand in the former Manzanar War Relocation Center. Once, 10,046 people were imprisoned here.

Melissa Hung for NPR

What we saw was a flat desert with vegetation scrappy and close to the ground, stubborn trees here and there, tumbleweed bounding across the landscape, propelled by the wind. In the distance, Mount Williamson, majestic and snow-covered, looked like a painting.

“I hadn’t pictured it this beautiful,” I said.

“I imagine it must have felt ironic for the people living here,” Erin replied.

Manzanar opened on March 21, 1942, so the weather would have been similar to what we were experiencing on this sunny April day. I was wearing a sweatshirt and a vest. But here spring gives way to summers of up to 110 degrees and winters below freezing. In all seasons, the wind covers surfaces with sand and dust. Like the force of history, it is a constant that cannot be ignored.

Our guide for the day was park ranger Mark Hachtmann. He dressed the way I imagined a park ranger would: a uniform of green pants, a matching green jacket with a U.S. National Park Service patch on the arm, and a brimmed hat. He led us through the few buildings in Block 14, which now serve as exhibits. After the war, most of the buildings at Manzanar were dismantled. After Manzanar became a historic site in 1992, buildings were recreated according to historical photographs. The two barracks in Block 14 were built in 2010.

From what had been rebuilt, we were to imagine the entirety of the camp. There were 36 blocks in all for Japanese Americans. Each block contained 20 buildings: 14 barracks, a mess hall, a recreation hall, a laundry facility, an ironing room, a women’s latrine, and a men’s latrine. Between 250 and 400 people lived in each block, the blocks separated by open areas to prevent fires from spreading, a real threat in this land of wind. The whole camp was just under one square mile.

The residents were resigned to being in the camp ¾ Shikata ga nai(nothing can be done) ¾ and tried to make life a little more normal and comfortable. They created sports teams, published a newspaper, and started a co-op store. I was impressed by their self-organizing and resilience, but also felt a lingering sadness, especially for the older adults who had built their businesses and professions in the face of discrimination, only to have almost everything taken away. Did they ever recover? As we walked from building to building, the boys picked up sticks and dug at the dirt. I wondered how much they understood and if they would remember any of this. They played, I imagined, as kids their ages had done when the camp was full of families.

While in use, the camp included a 250-bed hospital, a fire station, an orphanage for 101 children, and baseball fields. More than 10,000 people ¾ 6,000 adults and 4,000 children ¾ had lived here in a hastily built, temporary city of concrete blocks, wood, and tarpaper. The War Relocation Authority staff ¾ the camp director, police chief, fire chief, social workers, and others who were mostly white and often referred to as the “Caucasian staff” ¾ lived in other blocks with their families, in buildings with their own bathrooms, kitchens, and lawns.

100 years ago today, Canada’s black battalion set sail for WWI and made history

Part of our history:

They faced racism and discrimination, and they had to fight a battle at home before they could represent Canada in the First World War.

Now families of the so-called black battalion say the soldiers’ struggles carry new relevance, given the state of the world today.

Many black men were rejected from enlisting during the First World War because of the colour of their skin.

In 1916, Canada allowed them to form the No. 2 Construction Battalion based in Pictou, N.S. It was Canada’s first and only segregated military unit. Nearly half of the battalion’s 600 members were from Nova Scotia.

“When they were told ‘This is not your war, this is a white man’s war,’ they were in effect being told ‘This is not your country,” said Douglas Ruck.

‘Wall built of bigotry’

Ruck’s father, the late Senator Calvin Ruck, is credited for bringing the battalion’s untold story to the forefront when he wrote a book about their struggles. Douglas Ruck continues to act as a public speaker, championing their accomplishments.

Douglas Ruck

Douglas Ruck says its unimaginable that the Construction Battalion had to fight to represent a country that didn’t want them. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

“They were in effect separated by the rest of the forces and the rest of the country by a wall,” said Ruck, drawing parallels to race debates ongoing in the United States.

“A wall built of bigotry, a wall built of prejudice, a wall built of irrational fears, a wall built of hatred.”

Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the battalion’s departure to Europe. Even getting on the ship was a struggle. They were blocked from getting on their scheduled vessel because they were told they couldn’t travel with white soldiers.

Cultural history

Craig Smith, president of Nova Scotia’s Black Cultural Society, agrees that the timing of this anniversary is significant, coming days after the International Day to Eliminate Racism.

“If there was a time for us to need to come together, for the need for cohesion, the need to bring organizations together, now would be the time,” he said.

“It’s an amazing piece of cultural history in Nova Scotia, not just here, but one that resonates across the country.”

Source: 100 years ago today, Canada’s black battalion set sail for WWI and made history – Nova Scotia – CBC News

Trump Copies the Worst Mistake of FDR – Scott McGaugh, The Daily Beast

Another example of those who forget history …:

Fear and vengeance have again gripped our nation. It’s not the first time that Americans have acted in a most un-American manner when we have been attacked or feel threatened. Throughout our history, we have branded entire ethnic groups as vague-but-dangerous threats. American communities have been forcibly unrooted without due process. Immigrants from China to the Middle East have been banned from our shore, in a passion first captured by Cicero when he wrote, “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”

February 19 marks the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that ordered the removal of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast in 1942, solely because of their ethnicity. There was no due process. No formal charges. Families were given only a few weeks’ notice to sell their businesses, homes, personal belongings, and even family heirlooms. “Japantowns” from San Diego to Seattle were gutted within a few months.

In this century, the 9/11 attack and jihadist-inspired domestic violence have spawned speculative calls for databases of Muslim Americans and mosque closures. Now President Donald Trump has tried to chaotically banish wide swaths of ethnic immigrants, for fear of unknown enemy combatants who may be among them. Out of fear of the invisible few, President Roosevelt authorized the equivalent 75 years ago this month, in what now is considered one of the darkest chapters of American history. President Trump has stopped short of condemning internment camps, despite national apologies by Presidents Reagan and Bush.

Shamefully, Trump is continuing an American tradition of retribution and vengeance against ethnic groups. When Native Americans were viewed as a threat to white settlement and expansion, tens of thousands were forcibly moved onto more than 300 reservations. Indeed, Cicero proved prescient when our Japanese-American neighbors were sent to internment camps about 65 years later in some of the same desolate regions that had been forced upon Native Americans.

It would serve President Trump and his allies well to reflect on Americans’ treatment of their Japanese-American neighbors in World War II. It was euphemistically called “relocation” and “evacuation” at the time. But the reality was far different. It was hysterical payback. Most victims endured nearly two years in a prison-camp environment of barracks where families lived in a single room. They were surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by armed soldiers, weapons turned inward.

Were they truly the American enemies that some feared—just as President Trump views large swaths of Muslims today?

In 1943, President Roosevelt authorized the segregated Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He asked the sons of those incarcerated and others to volunteer for an army commanded by white officers and to possibly die for their country in Europe and the Pacific. Remarkably, 10,000 volunteers from Hawaii stepped forward. Together with about 1,300 volunteers from the internment camps and draftees, army recruiters were overwhelmed by the response.

The 442nd suffered horrendous casualties on near-suicide missions as it compiled a remarkable war record. Ultimately the 442nd became the most-decorated unit of its size in World War II. One of its battalions, the 100th from Hawaii, brutally earned the moniker “Purple Heart Battalion.” The 442nd ultimately earned more than 18,000 awards for valor, more than one for every man. (Yet Japanese-American soldiers were denied Medals of Honor until President Clinton issued 21 in 2000. Only seven were alive to receive them personally.)

They returned home after the war and some suffered continuing hatred from their neighbors. Yet they endured and rebuilt their lives as parents, teachers, merchants, church leaders, and mechanics. Even though their families had been treated as a faceless, homogenous, and undefined internal threat against America, for the most part Japanese Americans suffered silently as they rose above America’s fear and vengeance.

Today their legacy sounds a cautionary note against partisan political talk of Muslim-American databases, muddled policy statements about Muslim Americans abroad, Muslim immigrant banishment, and the dangers of American mosques.

Today’s sweeping characterizations of Muslim Americans and Middle Eastern immigrants are a dangerous echo of America’s World War II treatment of Japanese Americans, as articulated by Oregon Governor Walter Pierce: “Their [Japanese American] ideals, their racial characteristics, social customs, and their way of life are such that they cannot be assimilated into American communities. They will always remain a people apart, a cause of friction and resentment, and a possible peril to our national safety.”

His statement sounds eerily familiar today. It is a sentiment that continues to sully the American spirit. Fear and vengeance must be stifled if thoughtful and constructive decisions are to be made that intelligently protect America’s national security.

Source: Trump Copies the Worst Mistake of FDR – The Daily Beast

John Ivison: Langevin was a man of his time, not a monster, so don’t take his name off an Ottawa building

While I understand the pressures for renaming, I much prefer keeping the original names but with historical plaques that capture both sides of the legacies of historical figures. There are risks in erasing or forgetting history:

To damn Langevin is not only to judge him with the benefit of 135 years of hindsight but also to ignore the political leadership he showed during his nearly 30 years as a cabinet minister. He was not a monster — he was a man of his time.

Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald Laurier Institute think-tank, was not referring to Langevin in his remarks at a “Canada at 150” dinner Thursday, but he may as well have been.

“It is easy to criticize the past and the decisions made there. But it is a conceit of each and every generation that they alone are free from poor judgments and intellectual shortcomings. Looking solely at our past efforts is not the right standards by which to measure Canada and its great achievements,” he said.

Crowley referred to a recent Angus Reid poll that suggested less than half of 18-24 year olds feel a sense of pride and achievement in this country.

Since Canada’s prominent historical figures are increasingly portrayed as a parcel of racists, homophobes and militarists, is it any wonder?

This country is addressing many of the wrongs that have been wrought and has committed not to repeat them. But that does not require we repudiate our past by renaming every bridge, road and building that bears the name of someone whose actions we now deem ill-advised and unacceptable.

As the American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, said: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived. But, if faced with courage, it need not be lived again.”

Source: John Ivison: Langevin was a man of his time, not a monster, so don’t take his name off an Ottawa building | National Post

Africville residents carry on fight for compensation 47 years after black community bulldozed in Nova Scotia

Interesting that the 2010 apology and settlement, which did not include any personal compensation, has effectively been challenged by this case.

But as in federal historical recognition, the likely form of compensation is ex gratia payments, as was the case for Japanese Canadian wartime internment (who also lost property) or those Chinese Canadians who paid the entry head tax:

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia will hear arguments this week about whether to certify a proposed class action lawsuit for dozens of former residents of Africville, the black community in north-end Halifax that in 1969 was cleared of its residents and demolished to make room for industrial development.

The destruction of the site, especially the Seaview United Baptist Church that had stood there for over a century, is widely regarded as a shameful symbol of the treatment of black Nova Scotians, many of whom had fled slavery in America.

“I’m hoping for a settlement,” said Flemming Vemb, a plaintiff and former resident who recalls being forced out of the four-bedroom house on the waterfront where his father had tried to build a dry dock, but was refused permission by the city. “It was an abrupt thing,” he said of his family’s removal from their home.

After years of slow negotiations and growing awareness of the historical outrage, in 2010 then Halifax mayor Peter Kelly signed off on an almost $5-million compensation deal, from three levels of government, which included an apology. As a result, a replica of the church has been built and a park established on the site.

Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives CanadaThe destruction of Africville, especially the Seaview United Baptist Church that had stood there for over a century, is widely regarded as a shameful symbol of the treatment of black Nova Scotians.

“We apologize for the heartache experienced at the loss of the Seaview United Baptist Church, the spiritual heart of the community, removed in the middle of the night. We acknowledge the tremendous importance the church had, both for the congregation and the community as a whole,” Kelly said.

That deal involved no personal compensation and no admission of liability by Halifax, however, and it led to discord, with some plaintiffs saying the settlement was signed over their objections.

The lawsuit is led by the Africville Genealogy Society, which represents the estates of 48 former residents whose identities are known, as well as those who are as yet unknown.

The lawsuit was filed in 1996, the same year Africville was designated a National Historic Site. It includes nearly 40 plaintiffs who are still alive, and families of many more who have died, who claim they were not compensated for the loss of their lands. Many of the named plaintiffs are related, with Carvery, Flint, Izzard and Vemb especially common surnames.

As a judge put it, they claim “Halifax is liable to the former residents and their descendants for a broad array of tortious conduct and breaches of contract over the span of the community’s existence.”

U.S. owes black people reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism,’ says U.N. panel – The Washington Post

Others have argued differently Black Lives Matter is ‘woke’ to old problems — but still sleeping on solutions – The Washington Post):

Reparations presents the most acute challenge. This sounds sensible enough, but a thoroughly “woke” person might say black America has already received reparations.

They’re not called “reparations,” of course, but that’s just an issue of terminology. Affirmative Action has been reparations; the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act battling redlining was reparations; the original intent of No Child Left Behind was to identify disparities between black and other children in scholarly achievement and therefore qualified by definition as reparations; in the late 1960s, nationwide, at the behest of the National Welfare Rights Organization and other movements, welfare programs were reformed to make payments easier to get. This, too, was a form of reparations.

The UN-affiliated group in contrast:

The history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans, argues a recent report by a U.N.-affiliated group based in Geneva.

This conclusion was part of a study by the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, a body that reports to the international organization’s High Commissioner on Human Rights. The group of experts, which includes leading human rights lawyers from around the world, presented its findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, pointing to the continuing link between present injustices and the dark chapters of American history.

“In particular, the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent,” the report stated. “Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching.”

Citing the past year’s spate of police officers killing unarmed African American men, the panel warned against “impunity for state violence,” which has created, in its words, a “human rights crisis” that “must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Source: U.S. owes black people reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism,’ says U.N. panel – The Washington Post

Reflecting on the Canadian government’s apology to Japanese-Canadians | Paul Kariya

28 years after, Kariya, one of the negotiators for the apology, reflects:

What heinous crime was committed that necessitated such harsh treatment with no recourse to justice?  The War Measures Act was employed to infringe human rights and property title and brand these people enemy aliens.  Although the cloak of national security was used to justify the government actions, no evidence has ever been found of sabotage or espionage on the part of any Japanese-Canadian.

 Canada was at war with Japan, Italy and Germany. But the same actions were not taken against all residents of Italian and German descent.  Why Japanese-Canadians?  The instigation and motivation was racism and economic opportunism led by a small number of politicians and other interest groups who used the Second World War as a cover to whip up hysteria and manipulate government to destroy a vibrant, peaceful and contributing community.

Only a few institutions of society opposed the mass uprooting, suggesting it was wrong and unjust.  Municipal governments, political parties, labour unions, service clubs and mainstream churches either led the charge or passively stood by.  Only the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation Party and some evangelical churches said it was wrong.

Could this happen again?  I don’t think so. The Japanese-Canadian community helped draft the emergency Measures Act (successor to the War Measures Act) and today we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  But as we see in the current U.S. election campaign, the ugliness of racism can emerge in seemingly legitimate circumstances.

The only other group of people treated racially in this manner in B.C. with far more devastating impacts and horrors were First Nations peoples.  And despite progress in health, education and economic development, are we really dealing with the very difficult fundamental subject that a past mentor, the late James Gosnell, Nisga’a leader, named 40 years ago, as “the Land Question.”

My father and mother never got their house, fishing boat or possessions back.  The Custodian of Enemy Alien Property was supposed to keep all confiscated private properties in trust for later return, but instead these were almost all immediately sold off.  It was heart breaking to have my father point out to a twelve year old me, “that boat named Marine K used to be ours.”

In 1988 symbolic individual compensation of $21,000 was awarded to surviving internees. But of course, title, property, possessions, lives and communities could not be returned.

I expect reconciliation with First Nations in B.C. will not see all former lands and resources returned. But we can pick up the pace to resolve the injustices through negotiation.

Let me say, I have never felt prouder to be a Canadian than when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney turned to us in the House of Commons Gallery that September day in 1988 and introduced us Japanese-Canadians and then proceeded to read the government’s apology.

Source: Reflecting on the Canadian government’s apology to Japanese-Canadians | Vancouver Sun