The B.C. government is providing $2 million to develop health and social programs for seniors affected by the internment of Japanese people during World War II and the years that followed.
Announcing the project Wednesday, Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh noted that while the war ended in 1945, Japanese people were not allowed to return to B.C. until 1949, where they continued to face hostility after losing their property and possessions and reporting to camps with a day’s notice. Survivors told stories of being held in horse barns at Vancouver’s Hastings Park before being transferred to remote camps in the Kootenays, Shuswap, the Fraser Canyon and other locations.
Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when the Pacific war broke out, and 22,000 Japanese-Canadians were rounded up.
“Talking about our incarceration, the stress is put on the loss of material things, such as land, homes, boats, businesses and personal belongings,” Kitagawa said in a video conference May 5. “With one stroke of the pen, the government stole all of what the Japanese-Canadians owned in 1942, and sent them off to suffer brutal conditions, to live in barns and shacks not fit for humans, to be enslaved on sugar beet farms, to be imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp, or be deported to war-torn Japan.”
Family and social connections broken during the war are the focus of the project, to be directed by the Burnaby-based Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society and other community groups via the National Association of Japanese Canadians.
Susanne Tabata, the association’s B.C. representative, said the funds will allow expansion of services for intergenerational trauma, dementia care, community care and an online “wellness hub” to reach people during the COVID-19 pandemic.