When Japan invaded Pearl Harbour in 1941, the Canadian government assumed Japanese Canadians to have an invading agenda. These assumptions cultivated a hatred toward a people who were treated as enemies before war took place. In 1907, Japanese Canadians who owned fishing boats were attacked by “The Anti-Asiatic League sought to restrict fishing licenses to white residents”1. Japanese Canadians that fought in WW1 wanted to participate as soldiers in WWII to prove their loyalty to Canada. Instead, they were permitted to serve as interpreters and signal intelligence units in the Canadian Army2. Japanese Canadians were denied the right to serve their own country3. Consequently, after WWII ended, discrimination intensified because of a severe lack of understanding between a people and government. In the novel Obasan, by Joy Kogawa, historical events are revisited through the eyes of Kogawa, as the development of social injustice, discrimination, and hard labour unfold. Japanese Canadians embark on a journey questioning the obscurity of a governing agenda.
The years leading up to World War II was a time where racism and prejudice grew rampant. In British Columbia, the Japanese Canadian population made up 21,000 of which a total of seventy percent were Canadian citizens. Japanese Canadians, did not receive a warm welcome from governing bodies. As “laws quickly denied choice of certain professions, receiving fractional social assistance, forestry, fishing permits and right of vote”4. This was the first of many hardships to come prior to the war.
Japanese communities in 1907, decided to fight back against “a group to limit the number of passports given to male Japanese immigrants”5, they met resistance from the Canadian government. The government deliberately failed to make amends, only to continue what the Anti-Asiatic group started.
Members of Naomi’s Japanese Canadian family from the novel, Obasan, witnessed many injustices. “That was the last Uncle saw of the...