Mira R.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Red River Heritage Fair

The "Japanese Spies" of British Columbia

Rumors were taken to the absolute extreme in the 1940s in Canada, which eventually resulted in the incarceration of Canadian Japanese citizens. This fundamentally began after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and with a sudden wave of Canadian Japanese immigrating to the western coast, it was rumored that they were all spies. Mackenzie King, who was desperate for the British Columbia vote, initiated the Wartime Measures Act, which resulted in the incarceration of Canadian Japanese citizens.

What was the most interesting thing you learned about your topic?

The most important factor to my project was swallowing the fact that something so discriminatory could occur in Canada, which is known as a multicultural country! It was very interesting that during the imprisonment of these citizens, the federal government initiated the "Customs of Aliens" Bill. The federal government would sell Japanese-owned land and property at measly prices at auctions; primarily, the profits would go towards keeping the Japanese incarcerated. Ultimately, these citizens were unknowingly paying for their own imprisonment.

What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with other Canadians?

Citizens shouldn't jump to conclusions on one another based off of rumors and stereotypes; with Canada being a cultural mosaic, it's important that it's kept this way. Discrimination shouldn't be tolerated in Canada, and it's vital that we learn to accept one another. Throughout history, discrimination has always been a predominant and climaxing issue,and as peacekeepers, we must set an example in our own backyard. The incarceration of Canadian Japanese citizens was an issue that even as present day, is constantly overlooked, and by shedding light on this issue will it finally be recognized.

How would you compare your life today to the lives of those studied in your project?

In similar perspectives, my lifestyle is similar to that of a Japanese citizen because I, too, have faced discrimination based on my religion and culture. However, it's certainly not on the same degree. However, our lifestyles contrast because the discrimination I've faced is far less extreme than that the Japanese had faced. Thankfully, those of my religion aren't currently forced into prisoner camps, and we can continue to thrive and contribute to Canadian society.