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Government apologizes to Japanese Canadians in 1988

The federal government issues a formal apology to Japanese Canadians for interning them during the Second World War.

Canadians of Japanese descent were sent to internment camps during the Second World War

A formal apology and compensation package are offered to the Japanese Canadian community. 4:30

During the Second World War, 22,000 Japanese Canadians were uprooted from their homes, separated from their families and sent away to camps. Not one was ever charged with an act of disloyalty. In the wake of the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, people of Japanese origin in both Canada and the United States were considered a threat.

The federal government confiscated and sold their property. Unlike prisoners of war, who are protected by the Geneva Convention, Japanese Canadians had to pay for their own internment. Their movements were restricted and their mail censored.

Men were separated from their families and forced into work crews building roads and railways and laboring on sugar beet farms. The women, children and older people were sent inland to internment camps in northern British Columbia.

After the war ended in 1945, Japanese Canadians were offered a choice: to either be deported to Japan, a defeated country unknown to most, or to re-settle in eastern Canada.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Art Miki, the president of the Japanese-Canadian Association conclude the signing of an agreement to redress the wrong done to 22,000 Japanese-Canadians who were interned during World War II. (Ron Poling/Canadian Press)

In 1949, four years after the war was over, Japanese Canadians were finally given back full citizenship rights, including the right to vote and the right to return to the west coast.

After almost 40 years, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized to Japanese Canadian survivors and their families on Sept. 22, 1988. Art Miki, of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, called the apology and $300 million compensation package "a settlement that heals."

The $300-million compensation package included $21,000 for each of the 13,000 survivors, $12 million for a Japanese community fund, and $24 million to create a Canadian race relations foundation, to ensure such discrimination never happens again.

A Japanese woman recalls her isolation. 17:39