Following the attack by Japan
on Pearl Harbor
in late 1941, and following the US's example
, the Canadian government
ordered the internment of all japanese and japanese-canadian people on the west coast, fearing attacks or spying by those sympathetic to Japan. Thousands of innocent people, many Canadian citizens and some whose families has been in Canada for three generations or more, were arrested, had their property seized (and not returned after the war. Years later, the government issued an official apology
and a meager settlement, but in the meantime many, especially those who had property, small businesses & stores, or fishing boats seized, were left with no means to support themselves after the internment ended.), and were herded off to internment camps. Before being sent to the camps, those in the Vancouver
area were held in makeshift barracks in the none-too-clean livestock
pens at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds. Men were separated from women, and often families were split up. Internment camps were located in the Interior of British Columbia
, the largest in Slocan, and later some were shipped off to the prairies, to labour as unpaid slaves
at sugar beet farms and other agricultural sites.
Many of those canadians who lived through this have written about their experiences - the two most famous are probably David Suzuki
, renowned geneticist and environmental guru, though he only touches on it in his memoir, and Joy Kogawa
, who wrote the incredibly vivid and beautiful "Obasan
" about her and her family's suffering in the camps.