Canadians of Japanese Descent since the 1870s
At the time of the uprooting in early 1942, of the 23,303 persons of Japanese origin in Canada, 75.5% are Canadian citizens (60.2% Canadian-born and 14.6% naturalized citizens).
“Our family history in Canada began in 1896 when my maternal grandfather Kumanosuke Okano came to Canada as a young man 121 years ago. My grandmother, Riyo Kimura Okano followed in 1903 as a picture bride. In order to become fishers, they were naturalized and became a British subject. Their successes in the fishing industry enabled them to own five boats. In order to keep their growing family safe after one child drowned, they sold the boats and bought 200 acres of of prime land in 1920 on Salt Spring Island. They became successful farmers growing tomatoes in six large greenhouses, varieties of berries and vegetables. Their two-storey house was filled with the latest appliances and beautiful oak furniture. They were retired by 1941, leaving the labour to their two adult sons and several sponsored immigrants from Japan.” (Keiko Mary Kitagawa, 2017)
1941: Pearl Harbour and the War Measures Act
On December 7 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and Canada declares war on Japan. Under the War Measures Act, Order in Council P.C. 9591, all Japanese nationals and those naturalized after 1922 are required to register with the Registrar of Enemy Aliens. December 8 1,200 fishing boats are impounded and put under the control of the Japanese Fishing Vessel Disposal Committee. Japanese language newspapers and schools closed. Insurance policies are cancelled. December 16 P.C. 9760 is passed requiring mandatory registration of all persons of Japanese origin, regardless of citizenship.
“At school the next day, my 13 year old sister was accused by her teachers of starting the war. All the students turned toward her as the teacher pointed an accusing finger at her. On the way home she was bombarded by rocks thrown by boys who chased her until she disappeared into the forest. She was bloodied but not wanting to worry her parents; she washed the blood out of her hair and body in the chicken house and went into the house. We were not allowed to go to school or church after that.” (Keiko Mary Kitagawa, 2017).
1942 TIMELINE: All persons of “the Japanese race” ordered to leave the area 100 miles inland from the BC West Coast
“On March 17th 1942, we watched the RCMP pickup truck speed into our yard. The officer came to arrest my father. My mother, knowing that such a day might arrive had his clothing packed in a large bag. […] We were terrified that our gentle, hardworking, loving father was being taken away to be shot. My mother stood still, watching this unbelievable scene, holding tighly to my one and a half year old brother. […] There was no time to grieve. My mother had many tasks to perform: look after the five thousand chickens, gather the eggs, prepare them to go to market, tend to her children’s needs and look after the crops.” (Keiko Mary Kitagawa, 2017)
January 16 An area 100 miles inland from the west coast is designated as a “protected area”.
February 7 All male “enemy aliens” between the ages of 18-45 are forced to leave the protected coastal area before April 1. Most are sent to work on road camps in the Rockies. Some are sent to Angler.
February 24 P.C. 1486 empowers the Minister of Justice to control the movements of all persons of Japanese origin in the protected area.
February 26 Minister of Justice orders all persons of “the Japanese race” to leave the coast. Cars, cameras and radios confiscated. Dusk-to-dawn curfew is imposed.
March 1 Hastings Park buildings were formally leased to the government
March 4 B.C. Security Commission is established to plan, supervise and direct the expulsion of Japanese Canadians. Through P.C. 1665, property and belongings are entrusted to the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property as a “protective measure only”.
March 14 Official announcement notifying that 2500 people would soon be transported
March 16 First arrivals at Vancouver’s Hastings Park from outlying areas on the coast. All Japanese Canadian mail is censored from this date.
“The ship, Princess Mary took us to Vancouver as the darkness of night descended upon us. We were taken to Hastings Park and registered. To our horror we were instructed to go into the animal barn which was vacated by animals not long before our arrival. The pungent smell of urine and feces assaulted our nostrils. A sea of metal bunk beds greeted our unbelievable eyes. Three thousand women and children were being housed there. The men and boys twelve years and older were housed in the forum. My grandfather who was in a state of shock even before we left the Island was separated from my grandmother who was in the barn with us.
On each bunk was a large bag filled with straw which became our mattress and two army blankets. The bunks were so tightly packed together that in order to find some privacy among strangers, blankets and sheets were strung along the railings. Some families had to live in the animal stalls where maggots were crawling out from between the boards. Our toilets, while we were there were the troughs with running water that once carried away animal wastes. Lime was spread around the trough to deaden the smell but it made it worse. Poor unpalatable food was served to us on tin plates in the poultry section of the barn. Hundreds of people got diarrhea and food poisoning.” (Keiko Mary Kitagawa, 2017)
March 25 Population at Hastings Park is 1,593. B.C. Security Commission initiates a program of assigning men to road camps and women and children to ghost town detention camps. June 29 P.C. 5523 – The Director of Soldier Settlement is given authority to purchase or lease farms owned by Japanese Canadians. He subsequently buys 572 farms without consulting the owners.
September 1 Population at Hastings Park is 3866 people
September 30 Hastings Park Assembly Centre officially closed
October Hastings Park hospital remains open with 105 people
October 31 According to the BC Security Commission report, by the end of October, 21,079 people were uprooted from the BC Coast.
• Road camp projects 986
• Sugar Beets, Alberta 2,585
• Manitoba 1,053
• Ontario (males) 350
• Slocan Valley (Slocan City, Bay Farm, Popoff, Lemon Creek) 4,764
• Tashme 2,624
• New Denver/Roseberry 1,701
• Greenwood 1,203
• Kaslo 965
• Sandon 920
• Self-Supporting Projects 1,164
• Independent and Industrial Projects 431
• Special Permits 1,337
• Repatriated to Japan 42
• Evacuated voluntarily (before March 1942) 579
• Internment camps 699
• In detention, Vancouver 57
• Hastings Park, Hospital 105
By the end of 1942, approximately 12,029 persons have been uprooted to detention camps in the interior of British Columbia, 945 men are in labour camps, 3,991 are placed as labourers on sugar beet farms in the Prairie provinces, 1,161 are in voluntary self-supporting sites outside the ‘protected area’, 1,359 are given special work permits, 699 are interned in prisoner-of-war camps in Ontario, 42 are repatriated to Japan, 111 are in detention in Vancouver and 105 are in hospital in Hastings Park, approximately 2,000 were living outside the ‘protected area’ and allowed to remain in place but required to register and give up prohibited items, and subject to restriction of activities. There were 94 who were partners in mixed marriages, with 100 offspring, who were allowed to remain on the coast.
105 people remained in Hastings Park hospital until its official closure on March 31, 1943. The patients and medical staff left Vancouver by train and travelled to New Denver to site of the new Sanatorium – it was an overnight journey due to a rock slide on the tracks.
From Hastings Park, Keiko Mary Kitagawa’s family moved many times.
Places That Matter
On December 1st, 2012, VHF’s Places That Matter plaque for the Livestock Building was commemorated during a ceremony which also unveiled new 1989 Parks Canada Japanese Canadian Internment plaques at the Momiji Garden Wall, at Hastings Park. Please see the facebook photo album here.
In 2015, four commemorative plaques were unveiled at sites around Hastings Park. A Hastings Park Committee has existed since 2010. In 2017, the 75th Anniversary of the Internment, Japanese Problem, a piece created for the Livestock Building and currently showing at the Nikkei National Museum and Archives (in Burnaby, BC) as part of Hastings Park 1942.
Related Places That Matter