Tales From the Senior Residence
I spent a great hour or so with my 85 year old friend Kay here in my father’s senior residence asking her questions about her time in a Canadian concentration camp for Japanese where as a 10 year year old along with her people she was imprisoned for most of 3 years for the crime of being Japanese .This occurred the day after Pearl Harbor when every Japanese ion the West coast of Canada were deemed to be enemy agents. The kicker is that Kay was born in Canada ..
.I had just read the book The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and i jumped at the chance to interview someone who went through that also Kay was the same age as the Japanese girl in the book.
Kay served my father and I Japanese tea and black soy beans doused in a sweet sauce along with chestnuts .
“these are for the New Year and symbolize prosperity” Kay told us as she handed us chopsticks . Homemade biscotti was also served …
Kay brought out pictures of the camps and Canadian government proclamations that issued orders to all of 22,000 Japanese to be gathered in these camps. All their money and possessions were taken away and confiscated . All bank accounts were seized. All their fishing boats numbering in the thousands were taken. All their businesses and real estate was declared government property and nothing was ever returned. Nothing was ever returned ! It was theft on a grand scale with government consent.
People called them Chinks. Kay showed me photos of fishing boats numbering in the thousands sitting at a dock in Vancouver all waiting to be given away to anyone not Japanese that is.
Kay’s husband was born in the same frontier town of Prince Rupert just a hop and a skip from Alaska.In fact he was born in the same hospital as Dad . My father and his siblings were born in Prince Rupert after Ben my grandfather won in a poker game i on a train heading West the deed to the clothing store in Prince Rupert,a town of 7,000 of mostly First Nation indians . Our family holds the distinction of being the only Jews ever born in Prince Rupert. Kay also came from a small town also on the British Columbia coast.
What is interesting is that Canada was at war with Japan and Germany and Italy yet the Japanese were the only ones treated thus. They were told they could only take one suitcase .. They were deported from their homes with no notice.
The reasons for this was pure unadulterated racism.
Racism and i daresay economic opportunism or just thievery by local politicians who profited economically over the rape of this community’s fortunes. The only other group treated worse was the First Nations people.
In 1988 the Prime Minister of Canada Mulroney issued an apology and 21,000 dollars was issued to each person who suffered in the concentration camps some 45 years later…
Shame on you O Canada !