Life in the Camps

The conditions in these quickly erected camps, sometimes in abandoned stables, were miserable: no electricity or heating. The male detainees were sent out in teams to work on road construction or in logging camps in Alberta and Manitoba. In 1943, the Japanese who were willing to work further east of the Rockies began leaving the camps only to discover that some Canadian cities wanted nothing to do with them. Toronto was one city that barred them from entering.

The war ended on September 2, 1945, after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by American atomic bombs. Canada subsequently shut down all of its internment camps.

But even after the war was over, the government still continued to harass its Japanese Canadian citizens. After 1945, the Canadian government offered the Japanese a heartrending choice between returning to a war-devastated Japan and relocating east of the Rockies.

More than 10,000 of them left Canada for Japan, forced to abandon their Canadian citizenship and return to a Japan they many had never laid eyes on. Gradually, through political pressure, the Church, labour groups and other Asian countries, the Canadian government was finally persuaded to abandon its deportation plan in 1947.

The Japanese who did remain here bore a strong resentment against Canada for a very long time. To even relocate within the country required a special permit, and this would be the case until 1949. That same year, the Canadian government finally authorized Japanese Canadians to travel freely and to vote in elections.