Letter: Majority of internees were Canadians

Re: April 2017 The Rocky Mountain Goat article titled Finding 19 lost Japanese labour camps: Testing the limits of Google Earth by Leanne Riding, as well as an editorial by Laura Keil.

Dear Laura Keil,

I appreciated your piece on P5 as well as Leanne Rider’s special report regarding the road camps in the Yellowhead Pass area. My father worked on that road and I have his letter somewhere telling me about it years later.

This year will be the 75th anniversary of the internment. This will no doubt be the last one since most of the Nisei people are already dead. I was interned as a baby, but am 75 years old.

One thing that hit my eye was in the grayed box next to your article. It said, “The government declared the west coast a protected area in which Japanese Nationals (those with Japanese citizenship) could no longer live. Soon the government decided to send the male nationals to make the Yellowhead-Blue river highway between Jasper and Blue River.”

They may have been “Nationals” — perhaps 1,000 — initially, but shortly included Naturalized Canadians, which my father was, and, indeed, ordinary born-in-Canada Canadians.

The vast majority of the 23,000 internees were Canadians.

This is what made the interment so horrendous, as the Canadian government did this to its own citizens. After all, I was 6 months old and already designated an “Enemy Alien.”

Later, in Ottawa, top RCMP and military officials said fears of disloyalty and sabotage by Japanese Canadians were unfounded,” according to many media reports.

So the government knew we were harmless, but interned us anyway.

Here are a couple of books you may want to read, if available.

An important first history of our community is The Enemy That Never Was by Ken Adachi.

It is factual, written in 1976, before the Redress Movement was born, and before we got Redress in 1988.

Then perhaps Joy Kogawa’s Obasan. She received awards by the dozens, including Order of Canada.  It’s a novel, and her prose is almost poetry.

Again, my thanks for your thoughtful writing and Leanne’s great writing.

 

Shirley Yamada

Scarborough, Ontario