British Columbia

Kaslo commemorates 1,100 Japanese-Canadians interned during WW II

Community comes together to reflect on the 75 years since their internment during the war

Clare Hennig - CBC News

October 06, 2017

The Langham building, pictured here in 1974, was originally a hotel and housed about 80 Japanese-Canadians interned during the war. (Langham Cultural Centre )

During the Second World War, the Canadian government relocated 22,000 men, women and children of Japanese descent, labelling them "enemy aliens" even though the majority were Canadian citizens.

Roughly, 1,100 of them were interned in Kaslo, B.C. This weekend, the community is remembering the era with discussion and reflection at Kaslo's Langham Cultural Society.

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The Langham building, where the society and a museum are located, was home for some of the people interned during the war.  

"Over 80 Japanese-Canadians lived in the Langham building in pretty rough conditions, a lot of small rooms with people crammed," said the society's executive director, Paul Grace-Campbell.

Campbell told CBC On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko the events over the weekend are a chance to reflect on what happened, learn from the past and start a discussion about Canada's future.  

"It's very important to remember what happened to Japanese-Canadians and also to look at it in the context of what is going on now globally," Grace-Campbell said.

Globally, in terms of immigration policies and migration movements around the world, Grace-Campbell said, but also in the context of Canada's own multicultural history.

"It's always important to bring experts out, and people who have experience and to discuss multiculturalism and what that means for Canada," he said.

Living memory

Grace-Campbell said the internment and its aftermath had a significant impact on the community. Before the internment, he said, Kaslo was a "ghost town" with only a few hundred residents and a lot of empty buildings.

"They were really responsible for helping to revive Kaslo and that definitely is in the memory of the village here," he said.

Numerous events are being held in Kaslo over the Thanksgiving weekend to keep the memory alive, from theatre performances to film screenings to a panel discussion. 

With files from On The Coast

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