In 1942, 23,000 Japanese Canadians lived on the West Coast of British Columbia. The majorities of them were Canadians by birth or naturalized citizens. While they worked as fishermen and laborers and paid their taxes, they were denied the right to vote. Thirty-five years after thefirst person of Japanese origin settled in Canada, Japanese Canadians continued to face persecution and racism.
Despite the racism, the community continued to develop and prosper. During the years of limited immigration, women arrived and families began to grow. Japanese Canadians, still without the franchise, volunteered for service in WWI. By 1919, Japanese Canadians owned nearly half the fishing licenses in B.C., but by 1925, 1,000 fishing licenses were stripped from them. In 1941, Japanese Canadians were fingerprinted and photographed and were required to carry registration cards. War was imminent.
Immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, 1,800 Japanese Canadian fishing boats were seized and impounded. The government enacted the War Measures Act and vested power from the representative Parliament to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet. Within three months, federal Cabinet Orders-in-Council forced the removal of Japanese Canadian male nationals to camps, and then authorized the removal of all persons of Japanese origin. The RCMP was given expanded powers to search without warrant, impose a curfew and confiscate property. A Custodian of Enemy Property was authorized to hold all land and property in trust.
During the “evacuation”, many people were given only 24 hours notice to vacate their homes, before being sent to “clearing sites” where they were detained until internment camps were prepared. A civilian body, the B.C. Security Commission was in charge of the expulsion orders. By November 1942, after eight months of operation, the Commission managed to breakup and up-root families and sent nearly 22,000 individuals to road camps, internment camps a…

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