No Need To Wait: December 8 is a day Canada should look back in shame

As we all know, the Imperial Japanese army attacked Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941. It was only a few weeks later that all Canadian and US citizens of Japanese ancestry were arrested and put in concentration camps or prison camps and forced to pay for it themselves.  Let’s not use flowery propaganda like “evacuation” or “internment” and call it what it was.

I have admit that until yesterday I was ignorant of how quickly governments began to imprison them.

It didn’t begin with Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942) when Roosevelt ordered the “round up” of 110,000 US citizens, repeating what had been done to First Nations people less than a century before.  It didn’t begin with the Canadian government’s order of January 14, 1942 to “remove” certain citizens from the coast and imprison them in camps.

The first acts of racism against Canadian citizens began on December 8, 1941, when the Canadian government used the War Measures Act to “impound and confiscate” (read: steal) fishing vessels owned by Canadians of Japanese descent to “prevent spying”.  These weren’t just boats, they were people’s livelihoods.  How would they feed their families?

Canada did eventually pay compensation and apologize to these Canadians citizens, but not until 1988, after decades of resistance and refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing.  I graduated high school in 1985, and “history” class still taught that “their relocation was voluntary”, not at gunpoint.

Another indignity I learnt of today: After the war, the people who had been imprisoned were forcibly removed to the east coast, to a place that few of them had ever been.  Nearly all of the 22,000 Canadians were from British Columbia.  It was not until 1949 that denial of theirs rights stopped and they were allowed to return home to BC or other western provinces.  No doubt at their own expense.


  1. jrkrideau says

    I graduated high school in 1985, and “history” class still taught that “their relocation was voluntary”, not at gunpoint.

    I graduated from high school in 1969 (Ontario) and I don’t remember even any mention of it. Years later I met someone who as a child was swept up in it. He was a rabid NDPer: Apparently only one MP voted against the Bill and he was from the CCF.