Don't let this happen again, says Japanese Canadian about forced relocation

The Japanese Canadian Association of the Yukon marked the 30th anniversary of Canada’s apology for relocating Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon marks 30th anniversary of Canada’s apology

Art Miki, the boy third from the right, is one of many Japanese Canadians who was relocated from B.C. to Manitoba during the Second World War. (Submitted by Art Miki)

The former president of the National Japanese Canadian Association was in Whitehorse to mark an important anniversary.

Thirty years ago the Canadian government apologized to Japanese Canadians who were relocated from the West Coast during the Second World War. 

Art Miki was a child when his family was relocated from B.C. to a sugar beet farm in Manitoba. In 1988 he led negotiations to get the government to acknowledge that the relocation was wrong, and to compensate the Japanese Canadians for land that was taken from them.

Miki tours the country talking about the redress, which happened on Sept. 22, 1988, because he wants to keep the issue alive and people informed.

In Whitehorse Wednesday, Miki gave an informal talk at lunch time. About 20 people listened to the hour-long lecture. He also gave an evening presentation at the Whitehorse Public Library.

Art Miki was president of the National Association of Japanese-Canadians from 1984 to 1992. He was in Whitehorse to talk about the 30th anniversary of the apology. (CBC)

"It's an opportunity to talk about our past, and to ensure the things that happened to Japanese won't happen again," he says.

While Canada was at war with Japan, Miki says that he discovered in his research the real reason the Japanese Canadians were relocated is because non-Japanese Canadians were threatened by their success in the fishing and farming industries.

For him, it's important to remember that the Canadian government made a policy decision based on racist views.

Hidden History Society of the Yukon

Lillian Nakamura Maguire lives in the Yukon, and says her parents were also relocated during the Second World War. She says she didn't learn about what happened to her family until the 1980s, when Miki was doing his work to get an apology from the government.

Since then she said she's taken an interest in learning her own family history, and Canadian history. That's why she started the Hidden History Society of the Yukon, she said.

Nakamura Maguire agrees with Miki, that it's important to learn our history, to avoid repeating it. But she said that for her, there's more to it than that.

"It's about recognizing that many people who may look different … they've come to this country to make a contribution," she said. "It's not like they're taking away from Canadian society."

Along with talking about the history, Nakamura Maguire wants to see it taught in schools, and represented in museums.