Between March and September 1942, over 8,000 Japanese Canadians were detained and sent to Hastings Park. Many stayed in the exhibition buildings and stables before being sent to various internment camps.
The anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks marks the displacement of Japanese Canadians in BC
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
December 7, 2021, marks the 80th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor by Japan. Immediately after the attacks, the United States declared war on Japan and soon entered WWII. Canada would als0 declare war on Japan. This action would have significant negative repercussions on Japanese Canadians in Canada.
According to a CBC website about Japanese internment, approximately 22,000 Japanese Canadian citizens were forced out of their homes and sent to live in internment camps in the BC Interior. Others were resettled to other parts of Canada. It was the largest mass exodus in Canadian history and a shameful chapter in Canadian history—alongside residential schools, the Komagata Maru incident and the Chinese Exclusion Act.
According to the Hastings Park 1942 website, the Canadian government confiscated Japanese Canadians’ homes, businesses and possessions. The government impounded approximately 1,200 fishing boats and closed Japanese newspapers and schools. As well, Japanese male nationals were sent to work camps. On February 24, 1942, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, implemented orders-in-council “evacuating” people of Japanese origin to “protective areas.”
Between March and September 1942, over 8,000 Japanese Canadians were detained and sent to Hastings Park. Many stayed in the exhibition buildings and stables before being sent to various internment camps. Others were sent to work camps across Canada. Hastings Park 1942 states, “The conditions at Hastings Park were extremely primitive and unsanitary. The primary memory for many people was the horrible smell, followed by the noise, the boredom and the terrible food.” Another 105 hospital patients stayed at Hastings Park until March 1943.
After Hastings Park, the BC Security Commission removed Japanese Canadians from the 100-mile security zone. It was done in three ways: to road camps across BC and Ontario, sugar beet farms in the prairies, or to towns and camps located in the remote portions of central BC where camps were set up. One of the largest camps built was called Tashme near Hope, BC with a population of 2,636 in November 1942.
After the end of WWII, the Canadian government forced Japanese Canadians to either move east of the Rockies or return to Japan. In 1949, Japanese Canadians were given the right to vote—but many Japanese Canadians did not return to BC.
In September 1988, CBC News reported then Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, stood in the House of Commons and issued a public apology to Japanese Canadians for the treatment they received during internment. The government issued financial compensation to Japanese Canadians who had lost their livelihoods. In 2015, four commemorative plaques were unveiled at the four remaining detention buildings at Hastings Park in Vancouver: Garden Auditorium, Livestock Building, the Forum and Rollerland.
Lastly, the internment of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s revealed how systemic racism based on unfounded and illogical fear can overtake a country and society. The paradoxes are that many Japanese Canadians were Canadian citizens whose rights were removed because of their race. According to Hastings Park 1942, 63 percent of Japanese Canadians were born in Canada and 14 percent were naturalized citizens. Only 23 percent were still Japanese citizens.