FOR nearly half a century those Canadians who face the Pacific —the people of British Columbia—have lived under a threat of eventual Japanese domination. They do not propose to do so any longer.
From the beginning the Government of Canada has temporized with the problem. Australia and South Africa passed “Natal Acts” which, although in reality exclusion acts, were based on a requirement that applicants for entry must understand a European language. In 1898 Canada wás advised to do likewise by the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, then Colonial Secretary. In a dispatch to the GovernorGeneral recommending disallowance of an Act that had been passed by the legislature of British Columbia for the purpose of protecting white labor, we find this suggestion:
“—You should not fail to impress upon your Ministers the importance, if there is any real prospect of a large influx of Japanese laborers into Canada, of dealing with it by legislation of the Dominion Parliament on the lines of the accompanying Natal Act, which is likely to be generally adopted in Australia.”
He enclosed a copy of the Natal Act but the Canadian Government did not take the hint.
The result has been that while Australia went into war against Japan with fewer than 2,400 Japanese in the whole Commonwealth, British Columbia faced possible Japanese invasion with 10 times that number, practically all living within her vulnerable coastal area. In proportion to total population this was twice the strength of the Japanese group in California, six times that in Oregon and three and one-half times the strength of the group settled in the adjoining State of Washington; one reason for the difference was that our American cousins prohibited further Japanese immigration some 20 years ago. About that time Canada excluded Chinese but was afraid to treat the Japanese in the same way.
Had Canada enacted a Natal Act in 1898 she would have no Japanese problem today. When it became clear that the Dominion Government would not do so the legislature of British Columbia passed such an Act; this was in 1900 and it was promptly disallowed by the Dominion; passed again in 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905 and for the sixth time in 1908, it was on each occasion likewise disallowed. Meanwhile Japanese had been coming in by the thousand and in 1908 anti-Japanese riots in Vancouver forced the Dominion Government to act. Once more it failed to settle the problem.
This time, instead of passing a “Natal Act,” it negotiated a “gentleman’s agreement” with Japan under which a maximum of 400 Japanese laborers and domestic servants were to be allowed to leave Japan for Canada each year; control of the movement rested with the Japanese Government. In 1928 a variation was negotiated which reduced the number to 150 and gave partial control to Canada. Both of these agreements remained secret until tabled in the House of Commons in July, 1943. During all the time from 1908 until the outbreak of war in December, 1941, Japanese continued to enter Canada and in many of these years women came in larger numbers than men.
IN BRITISH COLUMBIA they first invaded the fishing industry and in a comparatively few years white and Indian fishermen found themselves being forced ashore; eventually the Dormnion Government restricted the number of fishing licenses granted to Japanese. When Japan struck at Pearl Harbor there were more than 1,100 fishing vessels in British Columbia waters manned by Japanese, some of whom had served in their Imperial Navy. Frequently fishermen returned to Japan to spend the time between fishing seasons.
Fishing licenses are only granted to
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Should We Send the Japs Back?—Yes
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British subjects. This has been the reason for many Japanese becoming naturalized, a fact that was established as long ago as 1902 when a Commission appointed by the Dominion Government reported as follows:
“The evidence made it clear that the larger number of Japanese become naturalized, not to become citizens of the country, but to enable them to obtain fishermen’s licenses. Nearly the entire number of Japanese who have become naturalized take out fishing licenses, and but few of those who do not take out licenses become naturalized.”
From fishing they spread into many other industries. With a comparatively low standard of living and, reputedly, with considerable aid through the Japanese Consulate in Vancouver they were able to drive out most competitors. Taught to believe themselves members of a superior race they have never suffered from an inferiority complex; generally speaking they have been hard-working and law-abiding. Their numbers have increased rapidly and the birth rate is higher than that of the people of any other origin in British Columbia.
Perhaps if the Japanese Consulate, with the Japanese Government in the background, had not been so deeply interested in the Japanese in British Columbia there would have been less doubt of their loyalty to Canada. For example, most Japanese children born in Canada were registered with the Consulate. In 1940 the Japanese Government took a census of all Japanese in Canada, which was described as a census of “Japanese citizens abroad.” In February, 1943, the Japanese House of Representatives passed a resolution expressing their “maximum sympathy for all the compatriots residing in enemy countries and sending, in the name of the whole nation, a message of hope,” and requesting the Spanish Consul-General in Montreal to advise the Japanese in Canada to this effect. The message was duly carried in “The New Canadian” of Mar. 27, 1943, a weekly published by second generation Japanese (Nisei) at Kaslo, one of the evacuation centres in British Columbia.
Youths Sent To Japan
For many years before the outbreak of war Japanese children attended Japanese language schools after Canadian day school. It was a common practice to send youths to Japan for training. In 1941 when the RCMP registered all Japanese in British Columbia, parents in the province reported 1,500 of their children in Japan; those who were of military age would have no choice but to serve in the armed forces. This registration found the number of Japanese in BriLish Columbia to be:
Japanese Nationals....... 9,758
Canadian born........... 6,727
United States citizens..... 16
It was complete and accurate, unlike certain esLimates made earlier which were partially based on information given by the Japanese themselves.
Such was the situation when Japan
struck on Dec. 7, 1941, with world domination her objective. Wisely, the Dominion Government at once ordered all Japanese fishermen to report with their boats at designated points; the boats were impounded and subsequently were either sold or taken over by the Navy, the owners being credited with the price. The fishermen returned to their homes up and down the coast.
Some Japanese from this and other industries were interned but no attempt was made to remove those living in the vicinity of fortifications, harbors, airports and military stations. Meanwhile Japanese armies were driving ahead at astounding speed in the Philippines and on the Malay Peninsula, aided everywhere by Japanese civilians who had settled in these lands long before the war. There has never been any reason to doubt that the same thing would have happened in Canada had the Japanese succeeded in landing on her shores; until the battle of Midway in June, 1942, this was a distinct possibility.
In British Columbia the press and men and women of every shade of political opinion joined in demanding the removal of all Japanese from the danger zone; they had the tacit approval of the naval, military and air authorities. Finally the Government moved and ordered the evacuation of Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlottes and all other islands and of a strip of the mainland extending back 100 miles from the coast. A commission, known as the British Columbia Security Commission, was set up to carry out this evacuation.
It was completed by the fall of 1942. Most of the Japanese were settled on a temporary basis in evacuation centres in the southern interior of British Columbia where, with few exceptions, they still remain.
About one quarter were moved east of the Rocky Mountains, the largest group being sent to the sugar-beet farms in southern Alberta; other groups went to Manitoba and Ontario and a few to Saskatchewan and Quebec. Practically all were moved under agreement with the respective Provincial Governments that after the war they would, on request, be taken away again. Taken where? That is one question the people of British Columbia would like to have answered! During the evacuation many more were interned and at the end of May, 1943, more than 600 were held in internment camps.
Must Face Problem
When the war ends what will the Government of Canada do about this Japanese problem? One thing is certain —that it will have to be faced. Another is that British Columbians do not intend to have the problem placed back on their doorstep; they have been pawns long enough in the dealings between Canada and Japan.
One step is being taken that will help to solve the problem. The Commission is resettling some of the younger Japanese in eastern Canadian centres on an individual basis; they are carefully selected and apparently are making good. At the other end of the Japanese group are many who have asked to be repatriated to Japan as quickly as possible. Press dispatches have stated that 1,600 in the different evacuation centres in British Columbia would like to go back, hut in the House of Commons the Minister of Labor would only say that there are “some hundreds.” They include not only
Japanese nationals but also naturalized and Canadian born and no one could object to their request being granted. About 100 have already been repatriated in exchange for Canadians. The same course could reasonably be followed with those who have been interned as dangerous to the State.
What of the remainder? Their ties with the protected zone have been severed. Fishing boats were sold early in 1942 and despite the absence of 2.000 Japanese fishermen the number of fishing licenses issued in that year actually increased by almost 1,800 over the number in 1941, showing that white and Indian fishermen had more than taken up the slack. Berry farms in the Fraser Valley, to the number of about 750, have been taken over by the Dominion Government for disposal to men demobilized from the forces; and homes, stores and furniture of those formerly living in coast centres are being sold; in each case the proceeds are made available to or held to the credit of the Japanese owner.
It may he that the Governments of the provinces in which one quarter oí the evacuees have been placed will not request their removal and that the Commission will he able to resettle the others east of the Rockies. It seems far more likely that Canadians facing the Pacific—and Japan—will he expected to take back the majority of the Japanese. This they will not do and they will look to the rest of the Canadian people to support them in their refusal.
The alternative seems to be for the Canadian Government to insist that one of the terms of any peace treaty with Japan shall be that those Japanese who have not been permanently resettled are to be returned to Japan and that all Canadians in Japanese territory are to return home. The peace treaties that end this war will have to provide for the shifting and exchanging of many groups of people. Another term should be that neither Canadians nor Japanese shall in future settle in the country of the other on a permanent basis; this would not prevent an interchange of students, representatives of mercantile firms and the like. There will be far more chance of good feeling between Canada and Japan in the future if both nations face the fact that their respective peoples do not intermingle without friction.
Some of the Canadians who oppose the repatriation of any Japanese are the same people who in years past insisted on one-sided disarmament, who objected to Canada spending any money on her militia and yet wanted her to fight for the League of Nations. They consider themselves citizens ot the world at large rather than of any nation or empire. In the light of what has happened in the world during the last four years most Canadians will see the dangers of following such will o the wisp leadership. They will insist that problems be faced now, not wished away over the horizon—only to grow more grave and formidable.
Canada’s Japanese problem is one that must be faced.
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