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Friday, January 16, 2015

Japan and Canada - 1940s - Let's Go To Camp!

I've longed talked about how great Canada is, and how lucky I am to have grown up here in Toronto.

But, I have also talked about having experienced racism growing up and even recently. There are a few jerks everywhere, I suppose.

I used to get into a fight at least once a week growing up as pretty much the only visible minority in my area. While I didn't win many of those physical battles, when I finally grew to my current height and attitude, it was payback time for many a jerk, as I sought out the previous transgressors and savored my revenge.

I'd gladly give you two shots to my one, because my one was going to hurt.

And yet… it was just a few Jerks. Bullies. Racists. 

But, I could go into any shop I wanted, purchase anything I felt like, drink out of any water fountain I cared to, sit anywhere I wanted to on the bus… while in the near past it wasn't always that way for others of color who suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Back during WWII (and early), the Japanese were Jerks. Bullies. Racists… to most of Asia and later to those Allied men and women who were unfortunate enough to be their POW (prisoner-of-war) - so the Japanese military and politicos… they don't get cut any slack here. There was plenty to hate here for every one who felt the whip of Japan's Imperialistic war machine.

We are only talking of WWII, at this time, but many countries had Internment Camps that were created to take citizens of their country who may have been of an ethnicity as the countries they were warring against - and were held against their will.

In many instances, actual citizens of Japanese, Germanic of Italian heritage - or indeed of those nationality living in a foreign country, were placed into crappy internment camps - accused of being possibly loyal to their country's enemies; or were refugees from an enemy country.   

Canada: we interned those of Japanese, German and Italian ancestry - whom it deemed dangerous to national security.

The internment was made legal by the Defence of Canada Regulations of September 3, 1939. Section 21 reads:

The Minister of Justice, if satisfied that, with a view to preventing any particular person from acting in a manner prejudicial to the public safety or the safety of the State, it is necessary to do so, may, notwithstanding anything in these regulations, make an order [...] directing that he be detained by virtue of an order made under this paragraph, be deemed to be in legal custody.

Hey - all you Jews who managed to escape the terrors of Naziism in Europe and got to Britain… they were declared 'enemy aliens' in 1940 and were interned on the Isle of Man, and 2,300 sent to Canada - sent on the same boats that also held German and Italian POWs. They were sent to camps in New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario… and were mixed with Canadian and European fascists, as well as the Germany and Italian POWs. Some escape, eh?

Some 850 German Canadians were accused of being spies or subversives or saboteurs, and had a chance to defend themselves (sort of) and were interned at Camp Petawa in Ontario. Did you know that many of those interned owe their entry in to Canada as far back as 1876… so their kids and grandchildren - born in Canada, but still accused of being loyal to Germany, could have ended up in this internment camp. While none of these Canadians had been back to Germany since leaving, they were somehow accused of being Nazi agents.

The Italians - only involved in the war for a while, had over 700 sent to internment camps.

For the Japanese interned in camps in Canada… over 75% were Canadian citizens.

Canada had two punishments:
1) Relocation: relocation centers for families and relatively well-off individuals who were a low security threat;

2) Internment Camp: usually for single men, the less financially well-off - married or not, the security risk.

The majority of these people lived on the left coast of Canada in British Columbia… mostly Vancouver, and were involved in fishing and farming there.

Canada had relocation camps in: Greenwood, Kaslo, Lemon Creek, New Denver, Rosebery, Sandon, Slocan City, and Tashme.

Here's the thing… while many people were placed here—in less than ideal conditions—I was never sure were they got the financial means to survive…  

So far, the most interesting book I have read on the subject of Internment Camps, is the book Obasan, written by Joy Kogawa, a Nisei in Canada… born in Canada to Japan-born parents and grandparents, who had been living in Brutish, sorry, British Columbia for decades and decades. Now while it's easy to wonder why they never became Canadian citizens, anyone talking to them would realize, at least, just how Canadian this family had become - how much they loved Canada.

Obasan is a spectacular book - with Chapter 7 and 14, in particular being stand-out chapters - perhaps because they were populated by real letters that described the current situation of life around them, first in Canada, and then with letters from a missing mother in Japan… in Nagasaki… in August of 1945.

The majority of the story is told in flowery writing that seems dreamy… and perhaps a tad to accurate in detail to real detail… but what the fug do I know. I can recall exact conversations from 25 years ago, but not know what I had for dinner last night. I can NOT accurately recall anyone's name - ever, and can only describe a room if someone shows me a photo of it as I describe it.

Kogawa is a fantastic writer… her book made me misty-eyed more than a few times… and is the ONLY time in my life I have ever felt emotion like that from reading a book.

Of course, having said that… maybe me the emotional guy is getting more emotional as I get older, as I dropped a minor flood of tears when watching the deathbed scene at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy.


Canada… Canada's soldiers did a great job during WWII. Many died. Many were wounded. Many survived. Many were never the same again. Many a family was never the same again.

Unfortunately, neither was Canada.

Canada dared NOT take every single person of Italian or German heritage from its population and stick them in Internment Camps during WWII. It just took the undesirables.

It could and did send its entire Japanese-related population to Internment Camps. It did strip them of the majority of their belongings, selling possessions to 'good White Canadians' at various government sponsored auctions. Some just had their possessions stolen. Businesses were destroyed. It didn't matter if he was a doctor, a fisherman with his own boat, or the guy running the small fruit stand… if you were a Canadian of Japanese descent or a Japanese person living in Japan for the past 75 years - you lost damn near everything.

That's just flat out racism.

Now… with WWII over, one would assume that the world would go back to normal.

I know… that takes time… but here's a Canadian letter from APRIL, 1946, around eight months after the Allies (U.S.) dropped a pair of atomic bombs on Japan to effectively cause Japan to surrender a week later…

The letter argues against Canada's continued mistreatment of citizens of Japanese extraction… against its own Canadian citizens…  

While I don't pretend to understand everything written in this missive, the one fact is clear. Canada did not want the Japanese to be in the coastal towns of British Columbia… and was also more than okay if every single stinking yellow Jap was to leave its democratic shores and stay with its own kind in Japan.  

Memo sent from the Co-operative Committee on Japanese Canadians to the House and the Senate of Canada - April, 1946.

It is urgently submitted that the Orders-in-Council [for the deportation of Canadians of Japanese racial origin] are wrong and indefensible and constitute a grave threat to the rights and liberties of Canadian citizens, and that Parliament as guardian of these rights and the representative of the people, should assert its powers and require the Government-in-Council to withdraw the Orders, for the following reasons:

1) The Orders-in-Council provide for the exile of Canadian citizens.
The power of exile has not been employed by civilized countries since the days of the Stuarts in England. So seriously was it then viewed, that the Habeas Corpus Act makes it a serious offense for any official to exile a British subject.

2) The Orders and the proposed exile of Canadian citizens constitute a violation of International Law and as Mr. Justice Kellock and Rand have stated, involves invasion of another's territory, and the violation of sovereign rights.
The Congress of the United States has no power to exile citizens, and the British Parliament has not, even in the gravest emergency, found it necessary to assume such a power.

3) The Orders-in-Council put the value of Canadian citizenship into contempt. They cancel naturalization in a wholesome manner, and without reason.
At this time when the Parliament of Canada will be considering legislation designed to enhance the value and dignity of Canadian citizenship, these Orders will have precisely the opposite effect.

4) The Orders-in-Council are based upon racial discrimination. Deportation on racial grounds has been defined as a crime against humanity, and the war criminals of Germany and Japan are being tried for precisely this offense, amongst others.

5) The proposed deportations are in no way related to any war emergency.
The necessity of removing persons of Japanese origin from the coastal regions during the war, was referable to the emergency, but now that hostilities have ceased for some time, it cannot possibly be suggested that the safety of Canada requires the injustice of treating Canadian citizens in the manner proposed.
The Prime Minister has himself made it clear that no instance of sabotage can be laid at the door of Japanese Canadians.
If any of those concerned have been disloyal, there is ample power under the Immigration and Naturalization Acts for their deportation after proper inquiry into individual cases.
Many Japanese Canadians have already settled in the Prairie Provinces and in Eastern Canada and have no desire to return to B.C. There is thereof no need for fear of concentration on the Pacific Coast as in the past.

6) The Orders for deportation purport to be based on alleged requests to be sent to Japan. It is suggested that the signing of these requests indicated disloyalty. This is far from the truth. The signing of the forms was encouraged as an act of co-operation with the Government of Canada. The very form used, implied that the Government approved and sought the signing of these forms. Those who refused to sign were described as uncooperative, and denied privileges according to those who did sign. For the Government, which through its agents obtained and sought the signing of these forms, to claim now that they indicated disloyalty, would be to implicate the Government itself in the encouragement of a disloyal attitude.

7) The Orders constitute a threat to the security of every minority in Canada.

8) The Orders cannot be enforced without grave injustice and inhumanity to innocent persons.

9) The effect  of these Orders will be to cause lasting hostility to Canada throughout the Orient where racial discrimination is deeply resented, The future of Canada's international relationship may depend upon revocation of these Orders.

10) The Orders are directly in contradiction of the language and spirit of the United Nations Charter, subscribed to by Canada as well as the other nations of the world and are an adoption of the methods of Naziism.

Respectfully submitted,
James M. Finlay, Chairman
Andrew Brewin
Hugh MacMillan.  

On the plus side, Canada did open itself up to heaver numbers of immigrants in the 1960s and 70s… especially for those from the British Commonwealth… and then again for the Vietnamese Boat People; Ethiopian and Sudanese refugees in the 1980s, the Russians and other eastern Europeans in the 1990s once the U.S.S.R. and East Germany altered their political mindscape, Chinese fleeing Hong Kong before 1997 when it reverted from UK to China-rule… and more.

Canada is called 'the melting pot' of all the nations - but that's bulls!t, of course.

While many of us earlier immigrants melted in an effort to become Canadian (I know next to nothing about India), more recent immigrants bring to Canada centuries old racial, religious and political tensions… tend to live in enclaves near others of their own ilk… and never seem to fully become Canadian… even when they are born here.

Chinese and Italians live in Markham. Scottish and India(ns) live in Brampton. Blacks are in Scarborough. Yes, I'm over-simplifying things, but these so-called cute cultural areas where people of like mind and color live is simply an excuse for self-imposed segregation.

Chinatown, Little Italy, Little India, Greek Town, Rainbow Village - seriously?

Here's something that floated my way into my e-mail just as I actually finished writing this. I'm going to edit out all the stuff that makes it seem like it is racist (why mention the Muslims when you don;t mention anyone else? That makes it racist - though they did also mention turbans, but turbans need not be worn by only the Muslims).

THIS IS MY COUNTRY! And, because I make this statement, IT DOES NOT Mean I'm against immigration!!!



Welcome! To come through legally:

1. Get a sponsor!
2. Get a place to lay your head!
3. Get a job!
4. Live By OUR Rules!
5. Pay YOUR Taxes!
6. Learn the LANGUAGE like immigrants have in the past!!!
7. Please don't demand that we hand over our lifetime Savings of Old Age Pension Funds to you.

I'm not sure I 'GET' #7... but I do like #4 and #6. I'm pretty sure that we stole this land from the First Nations and Inuit, and I'm pretty sure we still kind of treat them and maybe the Francophones, Metis and Acadians not as well as we should, but I know what you mean when you say that Canada is 'my' country.   

I did my best with Points #4 and #6, which was how I survived and had a wonderful life while in Japan. It also included #1, 2, 3, and 5. #7 was not applicable. 

In Canada, I like that I can go out and buy food from any damn culture on the planet here in Toronto and surrounding areas.

But… I am still pretty much the only Brown minority in the neighborhood… there's another family of Indian heritage (from Africa), there's a Filipino family around the corner, and now there's a Vietnamese family in the freshly built monster mansion across the street from me. 

Yeah… I get… the other 1000 houses in the area are still pretty White… so what? It's an expensive area… but surely people of color can afford it? Not ethnic enough? 

Toronto is many good things, but a 'Melting Pot' - not even close. And the Canada of 2015 is also very color specific for the most part. But it's better than most other countries on this planet.

Canada 2015 is certainly much better than that horrible fascist country known as Canada in the early 1940s.  

Andrew Joseph

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