Japanese Canadian Repatriation/ Deportation in WWII (Canada)
Documentary proposal on Repatriation
The Second World War represents one of the darkest periods in Canadian history as war-fuelled passion led to the commission of activities that in retrospect, most rational people consider unfortunate. The war period was characterized by a strong anti ‘enemy alien’ sentiment with Canadian Japanese ‘enemy aliens’ suffering considerable discrimination and loss of rights during the war (Sunahara 6). In addition, enemy aliens also suffered from vandalism and loss of property as some Canadians used the war as an excuse to vandalize property in a show of displeasure. Japanese Canadians were also victims of official discriminatory policies depicting them as threats to Canadian security (Keyserlingk, 17). Japanese Canadians are easily identifiable due to their unique physical appearance, making them easy targets for bigots (Euwin, 3:55).
The Canadian-Japanese experienced a far greater and traumatizing series of events for the same ‘crimes’ as the Europeans – being enemy aliens. This is despite the fact that shipwrecked Japanese crews had been sighted in the Canadian coast as early as 1833, and the first Japanese had settled in Canada as early as 1873 (Japanese Canadian Timeline, n.p.). However, there still existed a strong racial fear and hostility towards the Japanese population from the Canadians (Ketchell 22), which was exacerbated by the Pearl Harbor attack, leading to the official harassment of the Japanese population (Adachi, 201). Canadian authorities instituted a policy of indiscriminate relocation and internment of Canadians, beginning in 1942, and moved all Canadians with Japanese descent or ancestry at least 100 miles from the Canadian coast (The War Years, n.pag; Greg, 4). This paper shall advance a proposal for an audiovisual exhibit on the repatriation of Canadian Japanese to Japan after the Second World War.
The 7th December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought, for the first time, the horrors of the Second World War into the public consciousness of North American citizens, catalyzing the inflammation of public sentiment against enemy aliens (Roberts-Moore, 66). The sentiment was especially strong against the Japanese Canadian community, which could be easily identified by facial appearance, unlike European enemy aliens who aesthetically blended more readily with a population of European descent. Consequently, the Japanese Canadians suffered discrimination from not only ordinary Canadians but also from hostile government policies, which assumed they were disloyal, and a threat to Canadians and the Canadian way of life (Sunahara, 112). Riding on the popular anti-Japanese sentiment, the Federal government found it easy to restrict the movement of Japanese Canadian whom it uprooted from their homes and moved to internment camps. During the internment process, the government disposed Japanese Canadians, seizing property for ‘safekeeping’ before moving the population to government ‘resettlement’ facilities. These facilities were far away from the Canadian coast, which had been the home of most Japanese Canadians (Hickman and Fukawa, 113).
The Japanese Canadian populations’ dispossession was a prelude to a concerted effort by the Canadian government to ‘repatriate’ the Japanese Canadians to Japan soon after the war concluded in 1945 (McAllister, n. p.). Although the repatriation of Canadians of Japanese descent has been of o oooficially presented as voluntary, the process was weighted in such a way that the options availed to the Japanese were a case of two evils, and they were obligated to choose the lesser. By 1945, there was a generation of Japanese Canadians who had been born and raised up entirely in Canada and therefore to consider these Canadian citizens as Japanese was based on a fallacious presumption (Miki and Kobayashi, 49). A critical evaluation of the repatriation process shows that it was a forced exile, rather than a voluntary return to Japan for the thousands of Japanese who eventually moved back to their ‘motherland’. It is instructive to note that a majority of the Japanese who agreed to repatriate were the issei- the first generation Japanese immigrants who were aged around 60 years and above as well as the sick, and hence could not manage to relocate easily. An analysis of the ‘repatriation’ of is necessary if we are to understand whether the process that took place was a repatriation or merely deportation of Canadian citizens.
Repatriation and Deportation
Authorities presented repatriation as the return of any person with Japanese descent to Japan at the end of hostilities. The Canadian government promised those willing to repatriate full compensation for their property, which was held in ‘trust’ by the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property; in addition, the governments offered repatriates free passage, while those with no property were to be given $200 per adult and $50 per child – a considerable amount of money (Sunahara, 105). By 1944, 10,000 Japanese Canadians had signed on for repatriation, although following the surrender of Japan in 15 August 1945, many attempted to revoke their applications for repatriation. However, the Canadian government denied revocation requests, and by 1947 when the Canadian government stopped deporting Japanese Canadians due to public pressure, 3,964 Japanese Canadians had already been deported. Although the government presented sending Japanese Canadians to Japan as a ‘voluntary’ exercise, the deliberate manipulation of the choices available to this community facilitated the deportation process, considering that most Japanese Canadians sent back to Japan were unwilling.
The aim of this project is to add to the existing literature on the unfortunate events that befell Canadians of Japanese descent during the Second World War. The documentary hopes to inject a fresh perspective on the interpretation of events by contextualizing the actions of both the government and the Japanese Canadians during the war. The documentary shall use a range of media, ranging from audio to visual to bring into life the events and personalities behind the stripping of the rights of Canadian Japanese.
Sources of information
One of the primary sources of information for the documentary is scholarly publications on the historical events that occurred to the Japanese community in Canada during the Second World War. Now-declassified government records for the war period make it possible to obtain an insight into the internal workings of the war cabinet and the reasoning behind some of the decisions that the cabinet made. The exhibition will also use archived information from newspapers, as well as media from the Canadian broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Indeed, it will include interviews with surviving Japanese Canadians and their descendants affected by wartime measures, as well as descendants of key government officials during the war.
Indeed, sources will determine the motivation of wartime officials and their reason(s) in proposing the ‘solution’ of repatriation. To achieve this, personal correspondence and records of the officials must be analyzed to obtain a holistic perspective of the unfortunate events. Personal records of wartime Canadian Japanese will be examined, and analyzed in order to understand personal and community sentiments during this period. The use of this holistic approach is unique as it will provide a balanced view of the events that surrounded the forced repatriation of Japanese Canadians, considering that the human stories on both sides of the divide will be examined.
Justification for the project
Historians have contributed a substantial amount of research on the events that occurred during WW II, especially with regards to the treatment of those considered enemy aliens (Patricia, 13). The focus of most of this research has been the historical events, without much consideration to the personalities, circumstances, and motivations behind decisions. In addition, Japanese Canadian perspectives on the events that occurred to their community during WW II is limited. The paucity of literature on Japanese Canadian feelings about these events is a consequence of the silence that the community maintained immediately after the war (Izumi, 5). The silence of the Japanese community was motivated by a number of factors, chief among them the fear that the racial antagonism and discrimination seen during the war could resurge if they came out openly to protest their treatment (Internment and Redress, 22). During the war, no Canadian publicly opposed the relocation of the Japanese, and so Japanese Canadians were left on their own to fight their battles against discrimination without any public support (Bangarth, 130). In addition, Japanese culture is stoical, often adopting the shikataganai attitude (it cannot be helped); this tends to promote silence as opposed to the voicing of displeasure in public (Duncan, 103)..
However, Japanese Canadians, over intervening generations, have experienced a considerable change in the attitudes, and currently the Japanese Canadian community is amenable to talking about its history in Canada (Japanese Canadian Exclusion, n. pag). This newfound openness – a consequence of assimilation and acculturation – provides researchers with a window of opportunity to look into the past and analyze the community through a Japanese, rather than Canadian, perspective (Naoko 65). Public opinion regarding Japanese Canadians has also changed considerably over the years; the public presently holds the community in high esteem, as one of the model minority communities (Chou 221). Japanese Canadians tend to be viewed as hardworking and industrious, rarely involving themselves in illegal or antisocial activities.
The greater appreciation of civil and individual rights has also changed the opinion of people with regards to what can be considered reasonable treatment of individuals suspected of any crime. This change in opinion of minority communities has led to the rewriting of official history to include the contributions of ethnic minorities, and especially that of Japanese Canadians, in nation-building.
The urge to correct past wrongs, although admirable considering the atrocities and suffering inflicted on communities, has the unfortunate effect of de-contextualizing events, where events are judged on their merits with contemporary understanding. In order to help correct this, this exhibition will contextualize events and present the reasoning behind the decisions of the government and Japanese Canadians in WW II. Although such an approach may be considered anachronistic, I believe that it is a unique interpretation of events, versus that of other research. Examination of past decisions and events that occur in a country is essential for the enhancement of the awareness of any mistakes made in the past. This is important in ensuring that such mistakes are not repeated in the future and that community rights can be guaranteed, even in times of conflict.
Mode of presentation
There is some debate as to whether audio media is more effective than visual in presenting (Lipson and Gur-Arie 47). What is not in doubt is that each of these modes of presentation can be effective under certain circumstances. Even though a picture may be ‘worth a thousand words’, the same picture may mean nothing if the viewer cannot place contextualize the image. When both of these modes of presentation are used together, they reinforce each other and make the presentation more accurate and nuanced, capturing aspects that neither of the media could capture singularly (Cantu and Warren 198).
Considering the proven efficacy of combining both types of media, archival wartime images stored in government and public repositories will provide visual aid. These will help to show the wartime conditions Japanese Canadians at home, as well as present Canadian life in general during this time. In addition, audiovisual media will be obtained from interviews with Japanese Canadian repatriation survivors. The documentary will give special attention to those Japanese who may have made it back to Canada after repatriation, and Canadian descendants and friends of wartime officials shall be examined for their recollections of the events from their association with officials.
There is need to capture the emotional nuances of survivors and perpetrators of the injustice hence video media is appropriate for presenting the perspective of Japanese Canadians as well as Canadian officials’ perspectives. The documentary will employ a semi-structured interview schedule for interviewing the respondents who are willing to provide information to the exhibition. Semi-structured interviews have the dual advantage of keeping an interview within the required parameters while giving the respondent the opportunity to raise related issues during the interview. In addition, the interviewer has the opportunity to respond to issues that an interviewee may raise that were not in the interview schedule, but which may enrich the information being collected. One issue is that the data collected from respondents through interviews may be riddled with factual inaccuracies and inconsistencies because it is mainly personal opinion and feelings. This documentary has to capture the emotions of the respondents while ensuring that untruths are discouraged. In addition, care must be taken to ensure that the structure of the interview schedule will mean that interviewer bias is considerably reduced; the interview must focus on obtaining information from the respondents and not merely confirming interviewer biases.
This exhibition will focus on an event that many Japanese Canadians may still view with a considerable amount of displeasure. Therefore, due care will be taken to ensure that the sensibilities of the community, or its individual members, are not abused. Researchers will work with Japanese Canadian associations to identify the respondents for the interviews, who will then be informed of the interview and its purpose. For those who do not speak or fully understand English, researchers will conduct these interviews in the presence of an interpreter, and for those who do, in the presence of a person of their choice whom they trust. This will ensure that the rights of the interviewees are not infringed in any way. Researchers will seek written consent for the interviews, and the interviewees shall have the freedom to choose the type of recording that will be used during the interview. The interviewees will also be given a choice as to whether the interview shall be directly attributed to them or not. Researchers will present the final transcripts of the interviews to the interviewees for crosschecking and confirm that they have not been misrepresented, making changes as necessary.
A considerable amount of research and documentaries on the Japanese Canadian WW II experiences exists. However, the increased willingness of Japanese Canadians to speak openly about these experiences offers researchers an opportunity to reexamine the war narrative from a minority’s perspective. In addition the declassifying of government war time records in the recent past makes it possible to look at the human story behind the war time decisions. These developments make it easier to prepare a content rich exhibition that is nuanced and offering a fresh perspective.
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In his series of wartime broadcasts, Dr. Euwin argues that despite the differences in language and culture, European enemy aliens could be easily assimilated and acculturated due to morphological similarities with a majority of Canadians, unlike the Japanese, who were different not only in language and culture, but most importantly in appearance.
In 1942, there were 23,000 Canadians of Japanese descent living along the West Coast of British Columbia
 On 16 January 1941, Order-in-Council P.C. 365created a ‘protected area’, which was defined as a 100 mile strip from the Canadian coast. On 7 Febrauary1941, all male Japanese Canadian nationals between the ages of 18-45 were ordered removed, and later on 24 February 1941, Order-in-Council P.C. 1486 gave the Minster of Justice powers to remove all persons of Japanese ancestry from the protected land. The 26th of February saw the beginning of a mass evacuation of Japanese Canadians who were also ordered to surrender cars, radios, and cameras for ‘protective measures’. Subsequently 21,460 persons were forcibly removed from their homes and interred. On 4 March 1942, Order-in-Council P.C. 1665 required that Japanese Canadians to surrender their belongings and property to the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property as a “protective measure only.”
 There were three generations of Canadian Japanese by 1941. The Issei, who were Japanese immigrants with a strong Japanese cultural identity; the Nisei, who were Canadian-born Japanese that had spent some time in Japan schooling and hence identified with both the Canadian and Japanese cultures; and the Nikkei, who were Japanese born and bred in Canada and identified more with the Canadian culture, rather than the Japanese.
The surprisingly large number of people signing up for repatriation was due to the belief of imminent Japanese victory and the unattractiveness of the other option that was presented to them – dispersion. The subsequent requests for revocation were due to the reluctance of the Japanese Canadians to settle in a country devastated by war as well as a misunderstanding that they had the chance to revoke their repatriation consent at a later time.
Previous attempts to research on the Japanese Canadians war-time experiences have been hampered by a lack of access to classified documents. However, with the government no longer finding it necessary to restrict this information, it has now come to the public domain.