Chinese-Canadian veterans fought in secret WWII unit and helped changed laws

Interesting part of our history and how their military contribution forced Canada to reconsider its restrictive laws (e.g., voting):

It wasn’t until two years after the war, in 1947, that Canada allowed Chinese-Canadians to vote and repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which had banned almost all immigration from China since 1923. Chinese immigrants had also been singled out to pay a head tax.

“I think it was after we got our citizenship and our right to vote that they realized we did our duty,” Lee says of the general population in Vancouver, where the return of Caucasian soldiers was widely celebrated while minorities who’d also risked their lives in war were mostly ignored.

Henry Yu, a professor in the history department at the University of British Columbia, says the federal government did not want Chinese-Canadians fighting in the war because of fears they’d demand the vote.

“They’d seen it already because several hundred Chinese and Japanese had fought for Canada in World War I and when those veterans returned they asked for the vote. So they knew from experience in World War I that this was going to be a problem,” Yu says. “They wanted to maintain white supremacy.”

Chinese-Canadians were recruited into Force 136 with the belief they’d blend in behind enemy lines, he says.

Catherine Clement, curator of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum in Vancouver’s Chinatown, says the little-known story of Force 136 has been mostly forgotten and there are few records of the clandestine group of spies that was part of Britain’s Special Executive Operations.

“They created this double victory,” she says of Lee and the Chinese-Canadian veterans. “They helped the Allies win the war and they also helped to win the rights for all Chinese living in Canada.”

via Chinese-Canadian veterans fought in secret WWII unit and helped changed laws | National Post

Advertisements

Japanese internment letters convey betrayal at loss of homes, heirlooms

Good research and reminder of this historic injustice:

Judy Hanazawa says the federal government sold her family’s fishing boats and homes while her parents were in internment camps during the Second World War, but what hits hardest is seeing a 70-year-old letter from her father disputing a government cheque for $14.68.

Hanazawa had never seen the letter until recently, but the Vancouver resident said reading it conveys the sense of betrayal her father must have felt losing family possessions and having to start over with almost nothing after he was held in a camp in British Columbia’s Interior.

“My dad, in writing this letter, was really intent on being dignified in how he approached the government,” Hanazawa said. “He pointed out to them the value of these belongings was much more than he received. For him it was a lot to write this, to point out that this was not really right.”

The Feb. 10, 1947, letter to the federal Office of the Custodian in Vancouver includes a list of Hanazawa family items — a Singer sewing machine, record player, dresser and other household items — with an estimated value of $224.95. The letter also lists a Japanese doll, worth $10, and includes a reward for its return.

Geniche Hanazawa’s letter is one of 300 letters discovered in a federal archive written by Japanese Canadians protesting the sale of their homes, businesses and heirlooms while held in internment camps during the Second World War.

Historian Jordan Stanger-Ross of the University of Victoria came across the letters while researching federal archives as part of a project examining the dispossession of Japanese Canadians. The Landscapes of Injustice is one of Canada’s largest humanities research projects.

He said many Japanese Canadians were prepared to accept being sent to internment camps during the war, but losing everything was not expected. The federal government promised to keep the homes and businesses for internees, but the policy changed during the war and the properties were sold.

The letters reflect the sense of loss and betrayal Japanese Canadians felt towards the government for selling off their possessions and life’s work without consent, he said.

“They wrote these really remarkable letters, some of them are long and lay out life stories of migration to Canada, building a home, building a business, raising children,” said Stanger-Ross. “Some of them are very short and just say, ‘I received your cheque, which I tore up.’ ”

Authors of the letters include the Victoria owners of a successful dry cleaning business, an internee whose cousins died in France serving Canada during the First World War, and a man who put two of his Canadian-born children through medical school.

“We have many letters from people just shocked at the price for which both their land and personal belongings and businesses had been sold,” Stanger-Ross said.

About 22,000 Japanese Canadians were sent to internment camps in Canada from 1942 until 1949.

“Readers of these letters tend to pause and contemplate what it would mean for me to lose my home, my business, lose the opportunity to educate my children in my community and really lose the dream of multiple generations that have built lives here in B.C.,” Stanger-Ross said.

The letters are also set to become part of an online historical exhibition called Writing Wrongs at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby, B.C. The exhibit is scheduled to open in 2019.

Museum curator Sherri Kajiwara said Japanese Canadians were prepared to do their time in internment, but losing everything was not part of the deal.

“The thing I find with the letters is the unbelievable politeness and eloquence,” she said. “The language is so painfully polite; basically saying, ‘kindly, please, stop it. You are not allowed to sell my belongings.’ “

via Japanese internment letters convey betrayal at loss of homes, heirlooms | Vancouver Sun

Quen Chow Lee, lead plaintiff in lawsuit over Chinese head tax, dies at 105

Good story about her life and activism, not to mention the role activism plays in shifting positions:

Quen Chow Lee, one of three immigrant litigants who led a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa over its discriminatory Chinese head tax, has died. She was 105.

Born in China in October 18, 1911, Lee was nicknamed “Nooey Quen” — meaning women’s rights in English.

Her toughness helped her overcome war, poverty, a 14-year separation from her husband, and the drawn-out legal battle for government redress, said her son Yew Lee.

“She was a tough lady, determined, committed and stubborn, someone who had a strong sense of justice,” said Lee. “Yet, she was a very loving mother and grandmother.”

A native of Taishan, Chow Lee married to Guang Foo Lee in 1930, when he returned to China from Canada to find a wife. He was born in 1892, also in Taishan, and paid a $500 head tax in 1913 to come to Canada.

After the marriage, Lee only stayed two years in China because Canadian laws then made Chinese people pay another $500 head tax if they were out of the country for too long. He left behind his wife, pregnant with a third child, and two kids.

Between 1885 and 1923, the Canadian government collected a total of $23 million from some 81,000 people under the various forms of the Chinese Immigration Act.

Because of the Second World War and the civil war in China, Chow Lee and her children lost touch with her husband for almost 14 years.

Chow Lee raised the children on her own until after the repeal in 1947 of the Chinese Immigration Act, which had effectively banned Chinese immigration to Canada for more than two decades. Although Chinese wives could now join their husbands in Canada, most had to wait patiently before the family saved enough money for the fares.

“I’ve endured so many years of hardship. We had no money and nothing to eat,” Chow Lee said in the 2004 documentary, In the Shadow of Gold Mountain, by Karen Cho. “Some women remarried farmers from faraway just to survive . . . but I didn’t want to because of my children.”

Chow Lee arrived in Canada with her three children after Christmas in 1950 and settled in Sudbury, Ont. where the family ran a number of restaurants: the Capitol Café, the Star Restaurant, the China House Restaurant, the Empress Tavern and Lee’s Palace.

After her husband passed away in 1967, Chow Lee once again was left to raise her children on her own — now five of them, with the two youngest ones born in Canada.

Growing up, Yew Lee said his mother would pull out a piece of paper from a leather-and-brass box and just looked at it. It was his father’s head tax certificate.

“She kept it in a steamer trunk above the restaurant. She would pull it out many many times. We knew something was wrong and the paper was significant,” Yew Lee recalled. “She always felt the injustice had to be righted.”

Chow Lee was already retired in her late 80s when the family got in touch with the Chinese Canadian National Council, which had spearheaded the redress campaign. She immediately volunteered to be one of the lead claimants of the class-action lawsuit representing the head-tax-payers’ widows.

Chow Lee would travel in her wheelchair to fundraising events and rallies between Toronto and Ottawa to raise public awareness about Canada’s racist past against the Chinese.

“We approached many head-tax-payers and families to sue the government, but many turned down because they were ashamed of it and didn’t want to talk about it. But Mrs. Lee needed no convincing,” said Avvy Go, one of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit. “She was a true inspiration for all of us.”

Although the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed and subsequent appeals were denied, it set into motion talks with the government that ended in an official apology at the House of Commons on June 22, 2006.

Chow Lee was in the audience when then prime minister Stephen Harper apologized in Cantonese to the Chinese-Canadian community.

“Even though we didn’t win the lawsuit, Mrs. Lee never gave up hope. She never had any regret,” said Go. “She used her suffering to propel her to fight injustice and challenge the government head on for its treatment of the Chinese. She was a model not only for the Chinese, but all Canadians.”

Source: Quen Chow Lee, lead plaintiff in lawsuit over Chinese head tax, dies at 105 | Toronto Star

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

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