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Japanese Internment of WW2
“They spoke of the Japanese Canadians,'; Escott Reid, a special assistant at External Affairs, would recall, “in the way that the Nazi’s would have spoken about Jewish Germans.'; Just like in that statement, I intend to expose you to the ways that the Japanese were wronged by Canadians throughout the Second World War. As well, I intend to prove what I have stated in my thesis statement: After the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the Japanese in Canada were wronged by being torn from their homes to be put into internment camps to serve Canadians through hard labour.
The Decision to Uproot Japanese Canadians
Within hours of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour, the federal Cabinet declared war on Japan. The federal cabinet supported their decision by calling Japan’s attack “a threat to the defence and freedom of Canada.
The Japanese Canadians in Canada were devastated by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour and fearful of what it would mean for themselves. Some 3,600 Japanese had become naturalised Canadians before 1923 when nationality made it very difficult for Japanese to obtain it. One of the first decisions made by the government gave the Royal Canadian Navy the power to impound any vessels that belonged to Japanese Canadians and assemble them at special ports along the coast where they were moored to the shore. The government explained the impounding of the Japanese boats as a defensive measure.
Within five days of the Pearl Harbour attacks, the Canadian Pacific Railway began discharging its Japaese section hands and other Japanese porters. At the example of the CPR, hotels and sawmills in Vancouver discharged all of their Japanese employees.
On Jan. 8, 1942, a conference was held to discuss what should be done about the Japanese Canadians. The conference ended three days later without anything having been agreed upon. A couple of weeks later, King and the cabinet agreed that all Japanese Canadians should be removed from the West Coast. The day that the Japanese people had been dreading had finally come on Feb. 27, 1942. The war measures act announced the planned evacuation and internment of all persons that come from Japanese ancestry.
The Japanese were stunned as they heard the announcement that all Japanese Canadians were to be moved from the Pacific Coast into internment camps until the war ended. Five days after the announcement that all Japanese were to be interned, the cabinet passed an order-in-council which empowered the BCSC (British Columbia Security Commission) to remove and detain “any and all Japanese Canadians.
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On March 16, the BCSC started moving Japanese families from the Pacific Coast into the Livestock Building at Hasting’s Park in Vancouver. The facilities at Hasting’s Park were crude. In the woman’s and children’s building, which happened to be the former livestock barn, rows of bunks had been erected. Each bed had a straw mattress, three army blankets and a small pillow. The bunks were arranged so that they were only separated by a three foot slab of concrete which still smelled from the livestock, which had been there only a week earlier. In the buildings, the toilets were open troughs and between the two buildings, there were only 48 showers (10 in the men’s, and 38 in the woman’s building).
In March and April, Japanese men were the first to leave Hasting’s Park for their permanent internment camps. The age of the man designated where they were going. If the men were young to middle aged, they would be headed west of the Caribou Mountains to work in road camps along the Hope-Princeton highway. All the rest of the men aged from middle aged to old, would be headed along the Canadian National Railway between Blue River, B.C., and Jasper, Alberta.
By late April, 1942, they started moving the families as well. To avoid the pain of family separation, some 600 families from the Fraser Valley volunteered for labour in the sugar beet fields of Alberta and Manitoba. The Japanese families provided from between 40 and 50 percent of the labour for the sugar beat industry in Alberta and Manitoba. Also, by late April, the wives and children of the men working in the road camps had begun moving from Hasting’s Park into the ghost towns of the Interior. The decaying buildings were marginally better than the Hasting’s Park facilities but had no insulation from the cold. On some mornings, they would wake up and find everything covered in frost. Some of the smart families would use the corrugated cardboard that their supplies came in but there was always fight to get it.
Fighting For Freedom
In 1944, the Cooperative Committee on Japanese Canadians organised a petition urging the federal government to free Japanese Canadians and to restore their civil rights. The petition fell on deaf ears though, because the east had no idea how bad the camps were and how the Japanese were being treated. In June 1944, King publicly acknowledged that no Japanese Canadian had committed any disloyal act towards Canada but were interned anyway. After King’s confession, both the press and the civil libertarians finally began to understand the innocence of Japanese Canadians and the extent to which their civil liberties were being abused. Now the public too started to support the Japanese and in Jan 1947, Japanese Canadians won the right to resettle themselves across Canada.
Even though Japanese Canadians got back their rights and were able to settle again around Canada they still got the short end of the stick. In the U.S., Japanese Americans were allowed to enlist in the army and after the war most of the Japanese Americans possessions were returned to them.
In this paper I have examined the reasons why Japanese Canadians were forced into internment camps and how they were treated when they were there. I think that you would have to agree with me when I say that Canada unfairly treated Japanese Canadians and over reacted to a small problem. I, one day, would like to go go to Japan, but would never expect to be treated the same way that Canada treated the Japanese. The way that Canada treated the Japanese was inhuman and similar to the way the Germans treated the Jewish Germans.