Journeys of Japanese Canadian sites of National Significance

In the late 1880s, after the collapse of 300 years of feudalism and self-isolation in Japan, the newly resurrected constitutional monarchy was set-up to centralize the nation of Japan.   As a result of the opening up of the country to the outside world, there started to be in influx of immigration to the new world, with new immigrants immigrating to Canada with dreams of riches and adventure.

Many of those dreams resulted in the major contributions of new Japanese immigrants to Canada mainly in the resource industries such as fishing, forestry, mining, and farming.  The fishing industry in Steveston was dominated by the Japanese Canadian community (Gulf of Georgia Cannery; Britannia Shipyards National Historic Sites).  In the Powell Street area, a bustling urban market village grew of 8000 residents, with over 400 businesses situated along Powell Street.

The Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall was founded in 1906 in Historic Powell St.  As a second language school, when WWII broke out in 1941, there were over 1000 students attending the school, as students or involved as alumni.  It served as the educational, cultural and community hub of the Powell St. area. Thanks to community and the organization’s amazing leadership throughout the Internment, it remains one of the only properties returned to any Japanese Canadian after the Dispossession and Internment.  Digging deep into the hearts of the community’s resilience, it continues to adapt to changing forces in our 114th year.

From 1942-49, over 22,000 Canadians of Japanese descent were forcibly relocated to Internment camps a minimum of 100 miles outside the 100 mile exclusion zone.   The Slocan Valley and the Kootenay Rockies was a region where there was the largest concentration of Internees.  Close to half of the 22,000 interned were sent to open farm fields during this period.   The New Denver Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, National Historic Site, stewards the preservation of original tar-paper shacks from the New Denver camp, preserved to exhibit what life was like.

The immigrant story of Japanese Canadians, and how racism changed the course of the community’s history, is an important part of building the commitment to Canada’s multicultural foundation.  In 1949, the Internment ended with the passing of the Citizenship Act, granting all Canadians Canadian citizenship and the right to vote, regardless of race.  This is the legacy of social justice and racial equity which is a privilege and responsibility for all Canadians.

Places

Road Map

Vancouver, British Columbia to New Denver, British Columbia

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