Japanese-Canadian Internment

Covering up Racism with the Canadians 101

How it Began

After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and later Hong Kong, people in Canada became wary of the motives of Japanese Canadian individuals. Although with a history of already having prejudiced and racist views towards Asians, the Canadians had the perfect opportunity to blame Japanese folks of being disloyal to Canada to cover up their own racism.

Who Was Involved

  • Prime Minister King and his federal government
  • The RCMP
  • Japanese Canadians
  • Canadian legislator Ian Mackenzie

What Happened

  • Prime Minister King ordered that all Japanese Canadians be evacuated and sent off to "protective areas"
  • Japanese Canadians were arrested by the police, regardless of whether or not they were innocent or guilty by the law, in case they were spies
  • Japanese-run schools and media stations were shut down
  • Male nationals aged 18 to 45 years old were forced to partake in strenuous labour and found temporary jobs
  • At the end of the war, King gave the Japanese two options for permanent settlement
  • All restrictions imposed on the Japanese were lifted on March 31, 1949

Where and When it Occured

  • The internment occurred in British Columbia in 1942
  • Discrimination against the Japanese spread to other parts of Canada
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Why it Took Place

  • Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941
  • They were regarded as threats to national security
  • The Japanese were victims of prejudice and racism prior to the war
  • Racism in British Columbia stemmed from the fact that the white society was proud of their British roots


  • The Japanese had their Canadian citizenship nullified
  • Belongings and property of the Japanese were auctioned off
  • Families were separated
  • Japanese actions were closely monitored
  • Japanese-Canadian community in British Columbia was greatly devastated
  • Many Japanese Canadians were requested to leave British Columbia after the war
  • In the 1980's, the NAJP launched a campaign for compensation
  • On September 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologized for the incident, gave out $21,000 to each interned individual, and returned the citizenship to deportees
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Pearl Harbour legacy lives on for Japanese-Canadians


  • Demonstrates development in power of the government
  • Allowed Canadians to realize their mistakes and treat Japanese like people


Roy Ito, We Went to War. The Story of Japanese Canadians Who Served During the First and Second World Wars. 1984: “The deep rooted fear and hatred of the Japanese that went back for half a century had climaxed in a manner that was perhaps inevitable. The animosity had been nurtured by many men, twisting facts and playing upon racial prejudice until the people of British Columbia perceived the distortions as the truth.”

Takashima, Shizuye. A Child in a Prison Camp, 1971: “I have to pay taxes, but have never been allowed to vote. Even now, they took our land, our houses, our children, everything. We are their enemies.”

Kogawa, Joy. Naomi’s Road, 1986: “Every morning I wake up in a narrow bunk bed by the stove. I wish and wish we could go home. I don’t want to be in this house of the bears with newspaper walls. I want to be with Mommy and Daddy and my doll in our real house. I want to be in my own room where the picture bird sings above my head….But no matter how hard I wish, we don’t go home.”

Japanese Canadian Centennial Project, 1978: “Let us break this self-damaging silence and own our own history. If we do not, estrangement from our past will be absorbed and driven deeper, surfacing as a fragmentation in ourselves and coming generations.”