Japanese-Canadian Discrimination during World War II
In history, numerous acts of atrocities have shocked the world and caused people to wonder how governments and citizens can be so ignorant towards minority races. For instance, the use of concentration camps in the killing of millions of Jewish people during the Holocaust has thoroughly disgusted generations of people to this day, and caused citizens of Canada to rejoice in the safety and multiculturalism of this peaceful and prosperous nation. However, one may not be aware that similar events occurred within the “peaceful” and “accepting” borders of Canada during World War II.
Compared to the European concentration camps, the internment camps which imprisoned hundreds of Japanese-Canadians during war times seem to be child’s play; however, these camps forever changed the way the Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants), the Nisei (second generation, Japanese-Canadian citizens), and the Kibei (born in Canada, educated in Japan, and then returned to Canada) lived the rest of their lives. 1 Furthermore, the conditions inside the camps were atrocious, and often times, large families of Japanese descent would be forced to sleep in barnyards or stables, with little food or warmth during the cold nights. 2 Those of Japanese origin were not given the same rights as other Canadian citizens due to the fear that they were a threat to national security. This fear gave way to xenophobia – fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners, or of anything that is strange or foreign. 3 This phobia of Japanese-Canadians allowed the government to put these citizens under surveillance and seize
Kollenborn, K.P. “Who are the Issei, Nisei, Kibei, and Sansei?” Japanese-American Culture. (7 November 2010) accessed April 2, 2012.
Omatsu, Maryka. Bittersweet Passage: Redress and the Japanese-Canadian Experience. Toronto: Between the Lines, 1992.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. “Xenophobia.” Online Dictionary.
their fishing boats. Finally, Japanese-Canadian citizens were confined in internment camps after the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbour as this event created extreme paranoia in North Americans. The discriminatory treatment of Japanese-Canadians during war times was driven by racism and a government pressured by paranoid citizens. Japanese-Canadians were not given the same opportunities as other Canadian citizens, largely due to the belief that they were “second-class” citizens and a threat to national security. Canadians citizens of Japanese descent held very few rights before and during World War II. Asians as a whole were denied the vote; were excluded from most professions, the civil service, and teaching; and were paid much less than their white counterparts. They also faced many restrictions when applying for social assistance and forestry permits. 4 These actions were committed in an attempt to force Japanese-Canadians to return to Japan, even though many were born in Canada. Other Canadian citizens feared the inclusion of Japanese-Canadians in government affairs. This was due to the constant suspicion that Japanese-Canadians would somehow become the superior race. 5
The Canadian government did not do much to push Canadian citizens to believe any different. In fact, the Canadian government allowed the National Film Board to release “Warclouds in the Pacific”, a documentary examining the presence of Japanese citizens in Canada. This documentary led Canadians to believe that Japanese citizens and leaders were in the same leagues as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis – increasing the pressure on the Canadian
“Internment and Redress: The Japanese Canadian Experience.” Resource Guide for Social Studies 11 (2011): 18-22
Granatstein, J.L. and Gregory A. Johnson. “The Evacuation of the Japanese Canadians, 1942: A Realist Critique of the Received Version.” On Guard for Thee: War, Ethnicity, and the Canadian State, 1939-1945 (Ottawa: Canadian Committee...
Cited: Geisel, Theodor Seuss. Dr. Seuss Went to War. Mandeville Special Collections Library, 1942.
Accessed February 22nd, 2012.
Granatstein, J.L. and Gregory A. Johnson. “The Evacuation of the Japanese Canadians, 1942:
A Realist Critique of the Received Version.” On Guard for Thee: War, Ethnicity, and the
Canadian State, 1939-1945 (Ottawa: Canadian Committee for the History of the Second
World War, 1988), pp
Last modified 2002. Accessed February 26, 2012.
“Internment and Redress: The Japanese Canadian Experience.” Resource Guide for Social
Studies 11 (2011): 18-22
House Press, 1981.
Legg, Stuart. "Warclouds in the Pacific." National Film Board, 1941. Accessed February 20th,
Legion Magazine, September 2011. Accessed February 20, 2012.
Toronto: Between the Lines, 1992.
Toronto (March 2010), accessed February 21, 2012. http://imagi-nations.ca
“Reference Timeline.” Japanese Canadian History.
“War Measures Act, 1914.” Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group. Accessed February
Please join StudyMode to read the full document