Vive Le Canada

A Dark History in Canada: Japanese Internments
Date: Wednesday, November 29 2006
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A Dark History in Canada: Japanese Internments

Audrey Magazine, News Feature, Teena Apeles, Nov 29, 2006

Most in the United States know about the internment of Japanese Americans. But 22,000 more Japanese were interned in Canada as well. Writer Teena Apeles explores this dark chapter in North American history.

Imagine being dropped off in an unfamiliar place, far from home and everything you know. Some of your family members are sent elsewhere, miles away, and you are told you canít leave to find them. Instead of being in the comfort of your own home, your days are now spent in animal stalls, sleeping on a bed of straw, with the unbearable stench of animal waste in the air. There are no walls to your new home. No door to shut out the rest of the world. Instead, hundreds of other people share your same floor, with only hanging sheets separating you. You donít think things can get any worse, but they do. You discover your home, your business and most of your possessions have been either sold off without your consent or looted. You have nothing to go back to. And the country you love and the government that was supposed to protect you is responsible.

In recent decades, Canada has been celebrated for its quality of life, multicultural society and friendly citizenry. It is known for catering to its diverse population, being the first country to pass a national multiculturalism law in 1988 to preserve and enhance multiculturalism, being the third country to legalize gay marriage in 1995, and even designing currency (with tactile features and large high-contrast numerals) that takes into account the needs of its blind and visually impaired citizens. All this coupled with declining crime rates, a reasonable cost of living and government-funded national healthcare system, itís no wonder that thousands immigrate to Canada each year, the largest percentage arriving from Asia.

But Canada was not always so accommodating to those of different ethnicities. Most people in the world ó and even some Canadians ó have no knowledge of the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who had their human rights violated by the Canadian government during World War II, just like their Japanese American counterparts here in the States. They were evacuated from their homes, separated from their loved ones, forced to live in dingy conditions and lost their property just because of their Japanese heritage. It is a somber chapter in Canadian history that survivors still struggle with today.

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