Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre National Historic Site of Canada
New Denver, British Columbia
View of the traditional Japanese ornamental garden
© Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, C. Cournoyer, 2006.
306 Josephine Street, New Denver, British Columbia
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1942 to 1942
1992 to 1994
1946 to 1946
Event, Person, Organization:
Roy Tomomichi Sumi (gardens)
Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: 306 Josephine Street, New Denver, British Columbia
This centre is a powerful reminder of the forced removal of the Japanese Canadian population from the West Coast during the Second World War. Approximately 12,000 of the 22,000 displaced persons were sent to internment camps established in remote regions by federal authorities. Located at the site of a former camp, the Nikkei Centre is one of the few places to have preserved traces of this tragic episode, notably a community centre and three cabins built to house the internees. Dedicated to remembrance, this site constitutes an important memorial for the Japanese Canadian community.
Description of Historic Place
Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre National Historic Site of Canada is located in New Denver, British Columbia, on the shores of the northeast end of Slocan Lake in the western part of the Kootenay region. It sits on a large piece of land that was used to grow vegetables until the internment camp was built during the Second World War. The site is surrounded by a tall, wooden fence with two gates at the front to indicate to visitors that they are about to enter a special place. A traditional Japanese ornamental garden and a meandering path contrast with the austere cabins in which the internees lived. The site also includes a Buddhist sanctuary, a number of artefacts and interpretative panels, and a collection of handwritten documents and illustrations. Official recognition refers to the property comprising the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre at the time of designation, as delineated by the fence.
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2007. It is designated because: it is closely associated with a significant aspect of the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, the history of internment camps located in the interior regions of British Columbia; it is one of few sites that still contains resources directly associated with this tragic episode in Canadian history, and is located at the heart of one of the camps constructed under the authority of the British Columbia Security Commission; the buildings associated with the internment contribute to an important place of memory for the Japanese Canadian community, and the ongoing existence of these structures supports the survival of the history of this event.
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre is closely associated with the internment of Japanese during the Second World War. It is in the middle of what is known as “The Orchard”, the site of an internment camp built from scratch by the Canadian government to house forced evacuees from the West coast. The camp is one of the few detention sites built for internment that was not torn down after the war and the only one where descendants of the Japanese Canadians who were displaced have lived since.
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre was created in 1992–1994 in order to preserve buildings associated with the internment and in doing so, commemorate the internees’ experience.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 2006.
The key elements contributing to the heritage value of the site include: its inspiring natural landscape, surrounded by evergreens and mountains and featuring views of Slocan Lake; its location in the heart of one of the camps built under the authority of the British Columbia Security Commission; the commemorative character of the site established by the traditional Japanese ornamental garden, with its gravel river divided into three sections by small bridges; the resources directly linked to the internment, including three wood-frame cabins with gable roofs measuring 8.5 metres (28 feet) long and 4.3 metres (14 feet) wide that are typical of dwellings in internment camps; the original exterior design of the three cabins, namely the façade with a central door topped with a gable and flanked by small six-pane wood windows, the tar paper roof with a chimney-pipe, the wood siding and split cedar shakes; the original interior layout of the cabins, namely a central room that served as a kitchen, flanked by two bedrooms; the latrines, with their wood-framing and tarpaper gabled roof, divided into three stalls, each with a plank door; the Kyowakai centre, the only in situ resource on the site which serves as an ofuro (traditional Japanese bath) and a community centre, its wooden structure, its post-and-beam frame, the tar paper gabled roof, its wood siding, its split cedar shakes, its plank extension, its basic layout, its small set-back door surmounted by a window, its door on the northern façade, its two doors on the southern façade and the irregularly placed six-paned windows; the viewscapes which reinforce the commemorative character of the site.