Japanese Internment Camps In Canada



This report will discuss the Japanese Internment Camps in Canada. First it will tell why and when Canada put the Japanese in these camps, also what the camps were like including what they lived in. Next it will describe how the Canadian government got the Japanese into the camps. It will even tell what life was like for the Japanese there. Lastly it will explain what happened to the Japanese people after the camps were closed and if Canada apologized in some way.




Research Questions:


  • Why and when did Canada put the Japanese in the camps?
  • What were the camps and camps houses like?
  • How did Canada get the Japanese into camps and where did they all come from?
  • What happened to the Japanese in the camps, what was there life like?
  • What happened to the Japanese after the camps and did the Canadian government apologize in some way?




Not many people know much about Japanese Internment camps in Canada and how they were started. Well, this is what really happened. The December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor influenced British Columbians, members of the Municipal Government, local newspapers, and businesses to call for the internment of the Japanese. The Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia, even the ones living in different parts of Canada have suffered the pain of racism ever since the first Japanese to come to Canada. He was a sailor named Manzo Nagano who set foot on New Westministor in 1887.

In British Columbia there were fears that some of the Japanese who worked in the fishing industry were charting the coastline for the Japanese navy, acting as spies on Canada’s Military. The RCMP and the Canadian Military felt the public fears were unnecessary because there were no facts to back it up and nothing to worry about. Still, Japanese fish boats were forced to stay at port and eventually the Canadian Navy seized 1,000 of these boats, despite many of them were not even in condition to sail.

In January of 1942 a 100 mile wide strip of the Pacific Ocean was created as quarantine. Any of the men in the quarantine between the ages of 18 and 45 were taken to road camps in BC, and sugar beat projects on the prairies or to an internment camp called the Prisoners of War (POW) camp in Ontario. Also just outside the quarantine a few men were employed at a logging operation in Devine.

Also in 1942 an order of council passed under the war measures act giving the Federal Government the power to intern all persons of Japanese origin. The ones who didn’t want to live in an Internment Camp or relocation center faced the possibility of deportation to Japan.



There were ten Internment Camps for men in total which included 3 road camps, 2 POW camps, and 5 self supporting camps scattered throughout British Columbia. Also of the 22,096 Japanese Canadians who lived in BC, three quarters of them were native born Canadians. Over a 9 month period 22,000 were taken from their homes and thrown into these camps. In 1942 8 Internment Camps were set up for woman and children, these were called, Kaslo, New Denver, Tashme, Roseberery, Slocan City, Lemon Creek, Sandon, and Greenwood, which were dusty old ghost towns made into camps. Citizens of wartime Japan sent supplemental food shipments through the Red Cross.

The 5 Internment Camps that are called “Self Supporting” camps include, Lillooet, Bridge River, Minto City, McGuillivary Falls, and Christina Lake. At these camps Japanese men paid to be aloud to farm the land and live in a less restricted area. Living conditions were very poor in an Internment Camp; the walls of the shack were made out of one thin layer of panel board, covered in two-ply paper sandwiching a layer of tar with no insulation. The inside of the shacks were just as crude as the outside with only 4 bunk beds, 1 stove for cooking and 1 stove for warmth.



You may be wondering how Canada managed to get 20,000 people into camps. Well, police went around at all hours of the day banging on doors, ordering frightened civilians to gather up only what they could carry. The Japanese were living all throughout British Columbia. They were taken to Hastings Park (an agribition and rodeo ground) and put into horse and cattle stalls, waiting for as long as a few days until trains carried the woman and children to the 8 separate Internment Camps. As for the men they were taken to those three camps. These camps are not concentration camps like in the Holocaust, where people were tortured and killed. But conditions were very crowded with no electricity or running water.



Living in an internment Camp was a hard life; woman and there children were forced to live in cramped little wooden houses with 10 other woman and there children, sharing 2 stoves. The “Slocan City” camp didn’t even have resources like a stove for the many people living in the houses. If you think that’s bad many of the Japanese were put in tents until houses were available. During the harsh cold winters most of the Japanese put lanterns under their beds to keep warm. The innocent Japanese Canadians were stripped of there rights, given special clothing, and forced to do manual labor.

Also Canada sold all of the Japanese possessions, the “Custodian of Aliens” held auctions for Japanese; farms, houses, clothing and they were sold at a very cheap price. The money raised from these auctions went towards the fees of realtors and auctioneers, and the storage/handling charges, even to pay for the living expenses of the Japanese forced to stay in the camps.



During the war and once the camps ended, the Japanese were forced out of all Canada, that movement of 23,000 Japanese leaving Canada was the largest movement in Canadian history. Even when the war ended in 1945 British Columbians still very concerned about the Japanese living in BC, so the British Columbia government requested the Prime Minister remove the Japanese from BC. Prime Minister King decided to remove all of the Japanese out of British Columbia and give the Japanese a choice, either go to Japan which was currently under attack or move east of the Rockies. Most chose to move east to Ontario, Quebec, and the Prairie Provinces. Public protests eventually stopped the deportations, but not before 4,000 already chose to go to Japan. On March 31, 1949, all controls over the Japanese were lifted once they were able to vote. On April 1, 1949 the Japanese regained their freedom to live anywhere in Canada. And forty three years after the end of the war in 1988, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney acknowledged the wartime wrongs and gave compensation packages including 21,000 dollars for each survivor of the wartime detention for those still living in Canada.



In conclusion the Japanese Internment Camps started because of the 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Canada thought that the Japanese fishermen were charting the coastline as spies for the Japanese Navy. In 1942 Canadian Government ordered the 20,000 Japanese living in BC to be interned. There were ten Internment Camps in total; these camps are nothing an average person would live in. Internment Camp houses were little shacks made out of panel board with no insulation. Police went around at all hours of the day banging on the doors of frightened families ordering them to leave and bring what they could carry. The “Custodian of Aliens” held auctions for all of these Japanese items; farms, houses, clothing and they were sold at a cheap price. During the war 23,000 Japanese left the country because they were forced out. Lastly in 1949 all of the controls over the Japanese were finished and the remaining Japanese living in Canada were free.



Authors Note:


I feel that what Canada chose to do to the INNOCENT Japanese Canadians was very wrong. Why would they take everything away from the Japanese and throw them in protected areas just because there were fears that the Japanese were spies. Also how could they think Japanese woman and little children worked for the Japanese Navy, its not like children are going to attack Canada. Even for the Government to kick all of the Japanese out of Canada is a very big mistake for Canada.

If I were the Canadian government at that time the choice I would have made would have been to ask those of the Japanese working in the fishing industries if they worked for the Japanese navy and put them on a lie detector if there was back then.

Finally the last thing I want to say is, I hope we can realize what we have done in the past and not carry it into the future, because it doesn’t matter if someone looks different then us we can’t blame them for nothing.