Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Canada Also Interned Japanese Citizens

Now and then efforts have been made to make me feel guilty about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, although I was only six years old at the time of Pearl Harbor. Only recently did I learn that Canada interned 23,000 of its ethnic Japanese citizens at the same time, and also interned Canadians of German and Italian origin as well. Most of this information comes from Wikipedia, not the best of sources, but it is confirmed by documents in the Vancouver Public Library.

“The evacuation of the Japanese Canadians, or Nikkei Kanadajin, from the Pacific Coast in the early months of 1942 was the greatest mass movement in the history of Canada. By the eve of Pearl Harbor, nearly 23,000 people of Japanese descent made their home in Canada, principally in British Columbia. Three-quarters of that number were naturalized or native-born citizens. The Nikkei were foresters and fishermen, miners and merchants. Except for the industrialists who profited from cheap Asian labor, much of white British Columbia regarded the Japanese Canadians with suspicion, if not rabid hostility. Over the years the Nikkei had been targets of unremitting discrimination and occasional violence.

When war was declared on Japan in December 1941, the cry to rid British Columbia of the Japanese menace was taken up in many quarters, including provincial and municipal government halls and influential local newspapers. Tensions mounted and early in 1942 the Ottawa government bowed to West Coast pressure and began the relocation of Japanese nationals and Canadian citizens alike. While this forced resettlement mirrored the wartime policy of the American government, in Canada there were some important differences. Unlike the United States, where families were generally kept together, Canada initially sent its male evacuees to road camps in the B.C. interior, to sugar beet projects on the Prairies, or to internment in a POW camp in Ontario, while women and children were moved to six inland B.C. towns created or revived to house the relocated populace. There the living conditions were so poor that the citizens of wartime Japan even sent supplemental food shipments through the Red Cross. During the period of detention, the Canadian government spent one-third the per capita amount expended by the U.S. on Japanese American evacuees.

Not until 1949, four years after Japan had surrendered, were the majority of Nikkei allowed to return to British Columbia. By then most had chosen to begin life anew elsewhere in Canada. Their property had long before been confiscated and sold at a fraction of its worth. “ Vancouver Public Library

“Camps and relocation centres in the Kootenay region
Greenwood, Kaslo, Lemon Creek, New Denver, Rosebery, Salmo, Sandon, Slocan City, and Tashme. Some were nearly-empty ghost towns when the internment began, others, like Kaslo and Greenwood, while less populous than in their boom years, were substantial communities.Template:Joy Kogawa, Obasan (Markham, Ontario: Penguin, 1983), p. 118, as quoted in Roy Miki, Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice (Vancouver: Raincoast, 2004), pp. 52-53.

Camps and relocation centres elsewhere in BC
Bridge River, Minto City, McGillivray Falls, East Lillooet, Taylor Lake. Other than Taylor Lake, these were all called "Self-supporting centres", not internment camps.

The first three listed were all in a mountainous area so physically isolated that fences and guards were not required as the only egress from that region was by rail or water only. McGillivray Falls and Tashme, on the Crowsnest Highway east of Hope, British Columbia, were just over the minimum 100 miles from the Coast required by the deportation order, though Tashme had direct road access over that distance, unlike McGillivray. Because of the isolation of the country immediately coast-wards from McGillivray, men from that camp were hired to work at a sawmill in what has since been named Devine, after the mill's owner, which is within the 100-mile quarantine zone. Many of those in the East Lillooet camp were hired to work in town, or on farms nearby, particularly at Fountain, while those at Minto and Minto Mine and those at Bridge River worked for the railway or the hydro company.

Camps and relocation centres elsewhere in Canada
There were internment camps near Kananaskis, Alberta; Petawawa, Ontario; Hull, Quebec; Minto, New Brunswick; and Amherst, Nova Scotia.

Italian Canadian Internment
As of June 10, 1940, Italy joined the war on the axis side. After that, Italian Canadians were heavily scrutinized. Openly fascist organizations were deemed illegal while individuals with fascist inclinations were arrested most often without warrants. Organizations seen as openly fascist also had properties confiscated without warrants as well. A provision in the Canadian war measures act was immediately enacted by Prime Minister King. Named the Defense of Canada Regulations, it allowed government authorities to take the needed measures to protect the country from internal threats and enemies. The same afternoon which Italy joined the axis powers, Italian consular and embassy officials were asked to leave as soon as physically possible. Canada, which was heavily involved in the war effort on the allies’ side, saw the Italian communities as a breeding ground of likely internal threats and a haven of conceivable spy networks helping the fascist axis nations of Italy and Germany. Though many Italians were anti-fascist and no longer politically involved with the homeland, this did not stop over 700 Italians from being sent to internment camps throughout Canada.

The main brunt of Italian prisoners were sent to Camp Petawawa situated in the Ottawa River Valley. By October 1940 the round up had already been completed.

Italian Canadian Montrealer, Mario Duliani wrote, "The City Without Women" about his life in the internment camp Petawawa during World War II which describes a personal account of the struggles of the time. Throughout the country Italians were investigated by RCMP officials who had a complied list of Italian persons who were politically involved and deeply connected in the Italian communities. Most of the arrested individuals were from the Montreal and Toronto areas and pronounced enemy aliens.

After the war, resentment and suspicion still lingered upon the Italian communities.

Laval Fortier, commissioner for overseas immigration after the war wrote “The Italian South Peasant is not the type we are looking for in Canada. His standard of living, his way of life, even his civilization seem so different that I doubt if he could ever become an asset to our country”.[15] Such remarks embedded a large proportion of the country that had negative views upon the Italian communities. A gallop poll released in 1946 showed 73 percent of Québécois were against immigration with 25 percent stating Italians were the group of people most wanted kept out. Such a stance upon the Italian people was evident even though years prior to the war had proven Italians were an asset to the Canadian economy and industry, for they accomplished critical jobs that were seen as very unappealing such as laying track across rural and dangerous landscapes and the construction of infrastructure in urban areas.” Wikipedia


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At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to get an appreciation of how the Japs treated American prisoners of war, check out a true story in a book entitled "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption".

You will wish the USA had dropped the A-Bomb sooner and more often.


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