Chatham-Kent Japanese internment camps to be commemorated with heritage markers
Five farm sites will be marked with panels and Japanese cherry trees
A group of Japanese-Canadian men were brought over to Chatham-Kent during WWII as farm labour, and now the municipality hopes to commemorate that part of local history with markers at five of those internment camps.
A report from manager of parks and open spaces Jeff Bray, who worked with the National Association of Japanese-Canadians on the project, will be going to council Monday night.
Bray said farm labour was insufficient during the war and, to meet the demand, a group of roughly 154 men were rounded up in British Columbia and brought over to Chatham-Kent against their will.
"I don't think it's very well-known," he said. "I never learned it in school and I know my kids didn't either."
Plaques and Japanese cherry trees will be planted at five farm sites — or approximate locations — across the municipality at the following locations:
- Lambton-Kent Memorial Agricultural Centre in Dresden
- The English Farm at 8907 Doyle Line in Chatham
- The Eatonville Roadhouse
- 4405 Middle Line in Valetta
- Mitchell's Bay Park in Dover
Japanese-Canadian heritage groups have raised $18,000 to pay for these markers and trees, in addition to $5,000 for in-kind services.
There will be an official opening ceremony on Sept. 7 in Mitchell's Bay Park once the project finishes by end of August.
Bray said all the people he's spoken to in Chatham-Kent have been surprised of the presence of internment work camps. He himself only learned about it when he read David Suzuki's biography.
A whole culture was displaced from the west coast because of race, he said.
"It's just part of our history. I don't think things like this should be forgotten; we don't want history to repeat itself."