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Canada’s treatment of its citizens of Japanese descent during the Second World War should be seen as a black spot on Canadian history.
The tension between the Canadians and Japanese immigrants started as early as 1858 when Asian immigrants travelled to Canada for the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. People were genuinely afraid of the incoming immigrants due to certain beliefs. It was said that the Asian immigrants were content with a lower style of living, they were not sanitary, they were inferior, and due to all this reasoning Canadians concluded that they would not live up to the Canadian standard. In 1907 the United States of America declared that no Japanese immigrants could access the USA through Hawaii, causing a massive influx of immigrants to British Columbia. As a result, an anti-Asiatic league formed. A meeting was held in the Vancouver City Hall with an estimation of 25,000 people. After speakers and presentations, the crowd broke out into a frenzy and attacked Chinatown and Japantown. Afterwards, the league approached the government to have them limit the number of passports given to male Japanese immigrants. During World War One, Japanese Canadians were seen as allies to the United Kingdom. When white men came back from the war and saw that their previous job was taken by a Japanese immigrant, they were enraged. Now Japanese Canadians were interpreted as a threat to their home life and jobs.
During the 1920’s other groups came forward to defend the Japanese Canadians such as the Japan Society. Many citizens were still undeterred by their work and focused on the fact that they steal jobs. Leading up to World War Two, there were 29,000 Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia. They were denied the right to vote and barred from certain careers. Many Canadians still believed that they were still loyal to Japan, even though they inhabited Canada. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1934, and the Japanese inhabitants even born in British Columbia were being judged by their country’s actions.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese Canadians were alienated and put under the War Measures Act. In 1942 the government passed a bill to remove Japanese Canadian males from ages 18 to 45 to a designated place 100 miles inland from the coast, passed a ban on Japanese Canadians fishing during the war, and restricted the use of shortwave radios. Three weeks later, Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which declared for the removal of 110,000 Japanese Canadians from the American Coastline. Many Japanese Canadians that were removed were sent to road camps in the middle of British Columbia. A group of second-generation Japanese Canadians refused to be sent away.
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