This Week in History
A Time of Tragedy
This story was initially published in 2000
On February 25, 1942, Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced the expulsion of all Japanese Canadians residing within 165 km of the Pacific Coast. This marked the beginning of one of the most tragic episodes in Canadian History.
When Japan bombed the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S. and Canada declared war at once. With Japan joining sides with Nazi Germany, Canada was now at war with Japan. Fear of Japanese invasion, coupled with anti-Japanese feelings in B.C., resulted in a war hysteria, which infected the West Coast and most of Canada. Bending to the pressure of racist B.C. politicians, a federal order-in-council empowered the Minister of Justice to remove and detain "any and all persons" from any designated "protected area" in Canada. In theory, this meant any person in Canada. In reality, it meant the Japanese minority living in B.C.
The abuse did not stop there. The federal government sold all the property seized from the uprooted Japanese Canadians, and in early 1945 forced them to choose between deportation to Japan or immediate dispersal east to the Rocky Mountains. Generations had worked hard to make B.C. their home. Now they were told they could no longer return. In 1946, 4000 were deported and the remaining were forced to move East where they had to start over.
Japanese Canadians form an integral part of Canada's cultural mosaic. In 1988, Canada formally apologized and gave compensation for the humiliations suffered during the Second World War. The Japanese Canadian Internment is commemorated by a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque in Vancouver.
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