Japanese Canadian Internment

How Everything started— The Night of December 7

On December 7, 1941, Imperial Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. However, it wasn’t only Pearl Harbour that was attacked by Imperial Japan. Indonesia, Guam, Wake Island, Hong Kong and many more ally military bases were all invaded by Imperial Japan and many fell. The Canadian government immediately declared war on Japan, and along with the war declaration, fear of Japanese Canadians began to rise.

Japanese Canadians were considered as “Enemy Aliens” and were forced to leave the Canadian Pacific coastlines. They had two options, either be exported to the east to the Rocky Mountains where internment camps were; or be sent ‘back’ to Japan. As 85% of the Japanese Canadians were the second generation, many of them had never been to Japan and could not even speak Japanese. Because the Canadian government promised to keep and protect their property, many of them decided to stay. However, they could only bring limited packages when they were sent to Hasting Park.

 

First Stop— Hasting Park

 The Hastings Park temporary internment camp housed Japanese Canadian women, children, and babies in The Livestock Building. Families were separated, husbands were sent to distant road camps, and other men and boys stayed in different buildings. The washroom facilities were crude, with waste flowing through open troughs. Everyone experienced fear and anxiety as they faced life in these filthy conditions. The atmosphere was tense, and there were a lot of people feeling helplessness and fear about the future. Women were busy caring for their families, but men with no work spent their time playing cards, drinking and gambling. Over 8000 Japanese Canadians were put into the Hastings Park facility before expulsion to other internment camps across the country. 

 

Life in Internment Camps

Most white Canadians were not aware of the terrible living conditions in the internment camps. The Japanese Canadians who were put within the camp at Hastings Park had to live in stables and barnyards, where they lived without privacy in an unsanitary environment. Conditions were at some points so bad that the Red Cross had to intervene. 

The food quality was terrible. The people in the internment camps were not given the option of making their own food and were given the cheapest food possible. 

There was little to no privacy and families were often separated while moving around to different places. Everyone experienced fear and anxiety as they faced life in these filthy conditions. Because of the close quarters and unsanitary conditions measles, mumps, chicken pox, and other communicable diseases travelled quickly through the buildings. 

The Japanese Canadians in the camps had almost everything taken away, including their money and property, so finding work was almost essential since interned Japanese Canadians had to support themselves and buy food using the small salaries they had collected or through allowances from the government for the unemployed.

 

43 Years after — Official Apology & Redress

On September 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney offered a formal apology to all Japanese Canadians who suffered in the internment. Along with the apology, internment camp survivors each received symbolic payments $21,000. Although $21,000 is not equivalent to their losses, it is still significant because it acknowledges their losses during and after the war, as well as Canada’s role in 

Furthermore, the Canadian government spent 12 million dollars on Japanese community funds so they could rebuild their community; 24 million dollars was spent to create the Canadian relation foundation, an educational organization that aims to prevent the same kind of discrimination from happening again. 

 

Significance

The story of the Japanese internment should be passed down because of the huge impact it brought to Canada. They struggled through World War II and its racism; however, they never gave up fighting for their rights. The bravery and courage of Japanese Canadians have helped Canada to become a better country. But to this date, not many people know this story. We hope you share this story with others so the same discrimination never happens again.

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