Greenwood event marks the 80th anniversary of arrival of Japanese Canadians

A reunion concert will he held in McArthur Centre Community Hall on July 16

This year marks 80 years since of the internment of Japanese Canadians in the Second World War.

B.C. premier John Horgan announced on May 21 a $100 million initiative to fund resources for internment survivors, education programs, and restoration of heritage sites. May 21 marks the arrival of Japanese Canadians in Greenwood in 1942.

This initiative is the result of consultation with the community through the NAJC (National Association of Japanese Canadians).

Greenwood received 1200 Japanese Canadians in 1942. Mayor W.E. McArthur requested that these people be brought to the city in order to help the local economy.

Internment survivor Chuck Tasaka said that Japanese Canadians were welcomed in Greenwood, unlike other internment camps in the province.

“We were lucky. We had a kind mayor who accepted us,” Tasaka said. “The mayor had a welcoming committee at the train station to greet the new arrivals, whereas the other communities had a ‘keep out’ sign.”

The addition of 1200 people to the community allowed Greenwood to survive, unlike many other small mining towns in the interior of B.C. The Japanese Canadians who arrived in Greenwood in 1942 had been integrated into the community.

When the war ended in 1945, about 800 Japanese Canadians remained in Greenwood, said Tasaka. The Canadian government asked Japanese Canadians to return to Japan or to move across the Rocky Mountains, but the Japanese Canadians who had arrived in Greenwood three years ago had become part of the community.

The Greenwood city council and Mayor McArthur wrote a letter to the Canadian government requesting that the Japanese residents of Greenwood be allowed to stay.

Tasaka highlighted that anti-Asian racism didn’t begin in World War Two, and that discriminatory laws were in place before the war.

The internment had a devastating impact on the lives of internees and their descendants. Thousands were forcibly removed from their homes, lost their businesses and possessions, and were separated from their families.

Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrants) had to bear the burden of looking after their children and families during the internment.

“I really admire and am thankful that they had the resiliency, the fortitude and the determination to carry on, despite what had happened to them.

These values have been passed on to younger generations of Japanese Canadians”, said Tasaka.

Tasaka said that young people were impacted heavily by the internment.

“They lost their education. They had nowhere to go to attend university. They couldn’t graduate, they didn’t have their prom. They couldn’t really lead a normal life,” Tasaka said. “After that, without the right to vote, you couldn’t get any professional jobs, even if you graduated university.”

Tasaka believes that it’s important to remember the internment and learn from it, so that nothing like it ever happens again.

“We should teach history the right way,” Tasaka said. “And make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.”

An event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the arrival of Japanese Canadians in Greenwood will be held in McArthur Centre Community Hall on July 16. The reunion concert will include performances by several Japanese artists.

Tasaka said that many descendants of Japanese immigrants and internment survivors will be attending the reunion.

Tasaka is a volunteer at the Nikkei legacy park, working to repair the garden in Greenwood and honour the Japanese families who lived in Greenwood during the internment.

“The Nikkei Legacy Park isn’t only the internment history. It’s more about kindness and acceptance. And that’s what Greenwood did for us.”

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