I am a fourth generation Canadian, and for 3 of those generations my family has called Vancouver home. Unfortunately, our history here has not been free of troubles. My grandparents are Nissei, or second-generation Japanese-Canadian. They were both born in Canada and have Canadian citizenship. Prior to the war, there was a large Japanese-Canadian (or Nikkei) community in Vancouver. During the forced internment of the Japanese, my family along with many others had their homes and belongings confiscated by the government while being either forced off to internment camps or sent away to Japan.
While the promise made at the time was that this property was to be held in trust, in 1943 Prime Minister Mackenzie King signed in the Canadian “Custody of Aliens”. This liquidated all possessions belonging to the Japanese-Canadian community; losing their livelihoods, savings and homes. Property and assets was sold off at below market value, with no capital returning to those affected. The Canadian government at the time hoped that “by selling all personal possessions and property this would deter Japanese Canadians from wishing to return to British Columbia”. Confinement in internment camps eroded my families Canadian citizenship and revoked their right to work.
"It is the government’s plan to get these people out of B.C. as fast as possible. It is my personal intention, as long as I remain in public life, to see they never come back here. Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.'" - Iain Mackenzie MP
Life did not resume for my family immediately after the war. The Japanese-Canadian community was not allowed to return to the coast for 4 years after the end of WWII. Upon their return, they found out that they had lost everything. Against these challenges, many of those affected worked hard to regain their footing and part of the community resettled. My grandparents like many others were able to restart their lives in Vancouver. To this day the Nikkei community remains woven into the fabric of this city. Be sure to check out the annual Powell Street Festival for a celebration of Japanese-Canadian arts and culture.
Home in Vancouver carries worlds of experience with it. How has your heritage been shaped by this city? I would love to hear your stories.