June 10, 2013
Did the Japanese-Canadian Redress compensation and apology truly make amends?
On January 15,1942, a Liberal M.P from New Westminster, Thomas Reid said in his speech to the East Burnaby Liberal Association, “Take them back to Japan. They do not belong here, and here, and there is only one solution to the problem.” He added, “They cannot be assimilated as Canadians for no matter how long the Japanese remain in Canada they will always be Japanese” (Miki and Kobayashi 24). Indeed, the Japanese had never truly fit into the Canadian society in their home, British Columbia, where they had been facing brutal racism even seventy years before Thomas Reid made this statement (law.ualberta.ca). However, this fact alone, should not have accounted for a significant portion of the reason why Japanese-Canadians were persecuted, labeled “enemy aliens”, impoverished by taking away of their possessions, interned and then left rootless. But to a large extent it did and the Redress settlement they fought for after the war was therefore needed and should have compensated for all their numerous losses. There are those that would argue that this settlement did exactly that owing to the government of Canada’s formal apology, $21,000 monetary compensation and more money for the Japanese-Canadian community fund. Yet if one takes into account the fact that not only did the Japanese-Canadians suffer economically- one thing that the Redress settlement seemed to attempt to compensate for- but also intensely suffered socially and politically both unofficially and officially, then it is evident that their ordeals were not, in truth, made amends for by the Canadian government. The long-fought for “compensation” given to the Japanese-Canadians after the war, did not atone for any of their manifold sufferings. One reason that the compensation did not make up for the sufferings of the Japanese-Canadians is that they were put through unofficial and uncalled for pitiless political discrimination and narcissism at various levels, which was a racking experience for them. To begin with, newspapers printed prejudiced cartoons that were acutely humiliating that added to the fears of the general population of British Columbia, which made them hostile towards the Japanese-Canadians. For example, a cartoon from Victoria Times Daily that came out on February 17, 1942 shows a Japanese person murdering a Canadian which was aimed towards asking the public to support the war or to else be preyed upon by Japanese brutality (Hickman and Fukawa 71). In addition, a cartoon printed in June 1943 in the Vancouver Sun pictures two Japanese-Canadians intending to show how it is impossible to distinguish between Japanese-Canadians loyal to Canada verses those loyal to Japan (Hickman and Fukawa 80). Such vicious racism from the media shows that it was trying to feed on the public’s long dormant fear of danger from the Japanese-Canadians and the media’s incredible selfishness in using this fear as bait for the war to be promoted by the public, is abominable and a very unjust action against the Japanese-Canadians. This only added more fuel to the people’s already present doubts in the reliability of Japanese-Canadians, which caused them to be further discriminated against making it even harder for them to integrate themselves in the extremely racist province of British Columbia. Secondly, they faced pointed racism from federal politicians and had to put up with their egocentrism. For instance, Prime Minister Mackenzie King played a nasty game of politics since he never believed the Japanese-Canadian population to be a threat to national security but noticed that their internment would benefit him in terms of gaining votes and support for his conscription policy from British Columbians