COLUMN: Don’t underestimate hatred

Surrey and Delta should honour Japanese-Canadians

Dec. 7 marked the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese military.

“Pearl Harbour Day” kicked off an intense four-year struggle for supremacy which ranged over much of the world, in what was truly a world war.

Most Canadian households were impacted by the Second World War, but it was here in B.C. that a few citizens felt the greatest impact.

It was here that Canadian citizens, some of whom were First World War veterans of the Canadian Army, were forcibly uprooted from their homes, stripped of their possessions, lost almost all their basic rights and were set upon by their own government with a vengeance which had no precedent.

Japanese-Canadians had lived in many parts of the Lower Mainland for decades. In Surrey, many were farmers, living in the Strawberry Hill and Kennedy areas, near Scott Road. They often were fruit growers who provided for their families from a few upland acres. There were also Japanese-Canadian fishermen living in the Annieville area on the Surrey-Delta border, along the Fraser River.

As a group, they had experienced racism for years. But the invasion of Pearl Harbour gave those who’d had the Japanese-Canadians in their sights a potent weapon.

Federal, provincial and local politicians all begged the Liberal government on Prime Minister Mackenzie King to kick all people of Japanese origin off the B.C. coast, claiming many were “fifth columnists” who would send messages to Japan and allow it to zero in on B.C. targets.

Espionage wasn’t a completely unreasonable fear, but it was exploited mercilessly by people like Ian Mackenzie, an MP and member of the federal cabinet, and Halford Wilson, a Vancouver alderman. It paid political dividends to fan the flames of hatred in others.

A blackout was imposed on the B.C. coast after Pearl Harbour, for fears that Japanese fighter and bomber planes would attack. They did attack the Estevan Point lighthouse, in an isolated Vancouver Island location – but that was it.

My grandfather was an air raid warden in White Rock at that time. He and others patrolled the streets to ensure that there was no light showing anywhere, and no target for any enemies.

Meanwhile, Japanese-Canadians were rounded up, with many taken to the PNE grounds and kept in livestock barns.

They were moved to internment camps in the B.C. interior and as far away as Ontario. Those who owned land, cars, stocks and bonds, boats and farm equipment saw them sold for a fraction of their true value.

They had almost no say in any of this. No one took up their cause, including the CCF (now the NDP), which up to the time of Pearl Harbour had been quite sympathetic to Japanese-Canadians.

Most Japanese-Canadians ended up living in other parts of Canada, and never returned. The few who did found all they had worked for in the 1920s and 1930s was gone.

More than 40 years after the fact, Canada apologized for the atrocious treatment it had bestowed on its own citizens. It was too late for many, but it was both necessary and appropriate.

Some say that such a thing would never happen again, as we now have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Perhaps.

But never underestimate the depth of hatred and ill-will which can be fanned in a time of crisis, and the willingness of many politicians to capitalize on it.

The best place to discover firsthand how Canada treated its own citizens of Japanese ancestry is the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, located in New Denver in the West Kootenay. It is the only internment camp still standing.

It is long overdue that Surrey and Delta remember the Japanese-Canadians who once were a vital part of this area, and honour them in some tangible way.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An electric vehicle charging station in front of Hope’s municipal hall, district hall. (Photo: Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
40 electric vehicle charging stations planned for Surrey

Funding coming from all three levels of government

Police on the scene of a homicide in South Surrey’s Morgan Heights neighbourhood earlier this month. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Crime Stoppers received more than 500 tips related to gang activity in 2020: report

Metro Vancouver organization “urging local residents to keep providing anonymous tips”

In 2017, a member of the Disneyana Fan Club curated a small Community Treasures exhibit at the Museum of Surrey about the early days of Disney and the cartoonist Walt Disney. The museum is now accepting applications for its 2022 Community Treasures exhibition. (Photo: Submitted)
Museum of Surrey wants to spotlight local organizations and clubs

Museum now accepting applications for its 2022 Community Treasures exhibit

The cover of Golf 101 with Bob Dimpleton (left), an instructional book created by South Surrey golf pro Mark Kuhn (inset). Right, a page from the book detailing what to do if your ball lands on the cart path. (Contributed images)
South Surrey golf pro releases new edition of popular instructional book

Mark Kuhn’s Dimpleton family returns in updated Golf 101 e-book

Musician Dana Vande is seen in a screenshot from a music video on Youtube. Vande recently released a pro-lockdown track in response to an Eric Clapton and Van Morrison anti-lockdown track.
Cloverdale musician writes pandemic response song to Van Morrison and Eric Clapton

Dana Vande answers a Clapton-Morrison anti-lockdown track with a pro-lockdown track

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth (Black Press files)
B.C. watchdog says mentally ill children and youth retraumatized in hospital

The number of children held under the Mental Health Act has increased an alarming 162 per cent in past decade

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 walk past a window display at a store in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, December 13, 2020. The association representing businesses across Metro Vancouver says the costs of COVID-19 continue to mount for its members.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Greater Vancouver business organization says members face uncertain outlook in 2021

Many Greater Vancouver businesses are barely treading water as they enter 2021

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Victoria waterfront

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

Most Read