The University of British Columbia will award degrees to Japanese Canadian students whose studies were ended when they were sent to internment camps during the Second World War.

The UBC senate voted to award special degrees to students unable to finish their studies because of a policy that stripped Japanese Canadians of their rights and forced them into internment camps during the duration of the war.

The decision to award the degrees marks the 70th anniversary of the internment policy.

As well as honouring the estimated 76 students whose studies were disrupted, UBC will also develop ways to educate future UBC students about the internment and to have records of the events preserved and exhibited by its library system.

A UBC Senate committee worked with members of the Japanese community to ensure the steps were appropriate, according to Sally Thorne, a professor of nursing and the chair of the UBC Senate Tributes Committee.

 "We have heard from members of the Japanese Canadian communities through letters and discussions," says Thorne. "The university is deeply grateful for the feedback we have received, and we hope that our tribute will consolidate the strong relationship between UBC and the Japanese Canadian community."

Internment followed Pearl Harbour attack

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941, about 22,000 Japanese Canadians were banned from the West Coast , despite the fact that many were Canadian citizens whose families had been living and fishing on the West Coast for generations.

They were told to pack a single suitcase and sent to internment camps in the B.C. Interior were they lived in rough shacks for much of the war. In 1943 all their property, homes, and fishing boats were auctioned off by the government.

After the war, the federal government decided to remove all Japanese Canadians from British Columbia. They forced them to choose between deportation to war-ravaged Japan or dispersal east of the Rocky Mountains. Most chose the latter, moving to Ontario, Québec and the Prairie provinces.

Public protest would eventually stop the deportations, but not before 4,000 Japanese Canadians left the country. On 1 April 1949, Japanese Canadians regained their freedom to live anywhere in Canada.

Forty-three years after the end of the war, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney acknowledged the wartime wrongs and announced compensation packages including of $21,000 for each individual directly wronged.

With files from The Canadian Press