Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre
Non-whites had always faced prejudice in early Canada. On the West Coast, people of Asian descent faced especially overt societal and legal discrimination, as both governments and average citizens feared a perceived “yellow peril.”
Despite these hurdles, immigrants from Asia persisted to build lives for themselves and their families. By the 1940s, thousands of Japanese newcomers were living in British Columbia, mostly along the coast.
In December 1941, prejudice turned to hostility in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Almost immediately, all Japanese Canadians were declared a potential security threat. Claiming they were acting in the national interest, authorities rounded up more than twenty-two thousand Japanese Canadians and forced them to move to internment camps in the interior of B.C. In many cases, authorities seized the property of Japanese Canadians and sold it off.
Today, this dark stain on Canada’s past can be explored at the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, on the shores of Slocan Lake at New Denver, British Columbia. Declared a National Historic Site in 2007, the Nikkei camp was built by the British Columbia Security Commission in 1942. Today it is one of the few internment camps that remain standing in Canada. The site is a reminder of the consequences of wartime fears and the need to remain vigilant in the defence of civil liberties for all Canadians.