City Council Apology Finally Comes for Japanese Canadians

Posted by Rob Parungao & filed under Current Affairs.

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Photo: AP Images

In a long overdue motion, Vancouver City Council has unanimously carried a resolution that apologizes to the Japanese Canadian community for their 1942 decision to intern Japanese Canadians. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the federal government’s apology in 1988, and comes a year after UBC offered Japanese Canadians whose educations was halted due to internment an honorary degree.

In 1942, the City of Vancouver carried a motion that resolved that the 25,000 Vancouver residents of “Japanese racial origin” would “constitute a potential reservoir of volunteer aid to our enemy, Japan…[and that] citizens of Canada’s Pacific Coast look upon this alien population as a potential menace.” This language pretty clearly demonstrates tone of the time towards Japanese Canadians. It was resolved that the Vancouver would “implore the Federal Government to remove all residents of Japanese racial origin and enemy aliens to areas of Canada well-removed from the Pacific Coast.” Apparently, the Federal government heeded this recommendation and soon afterwards Japanese Canadian families were being forcefully relocated to the interior.

While the terrible act on forced internment will have a lasting effect on the Japanese Canadian community, the motion to apologize is a welcome gesture to fix past mistakes. Memorial plaques are being planned at Hastings Park and the motion states that the City pledges to ensure such human rights injustices will not happen again against any of its residents. Schema hopes that those who struggled through Japanese internment can finally find well-deserved peace for their experiences.

As an unrelated aside, one of the only stories I remember from my undergraduate History degree was one about Vancouver’s Japanese Canadian community. In 1907 Vancouver had a series of anti-Asian riots that stormed through the areas known as Chinatown and Japantown. While most Chinese fled their neighbourhood out of fear of violence, the Japanese Canadian store-owners and residents armed themselves and stood their ground against the rioters and fought them off. I always thought that was the most under-told, yet most badass tidbit of Vancouver history.

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