December 11, 2009

Densho is located a few hours from the Canadian border. Hapa speed skater Apolo Ohno is a local hero. So, with the winter Olympics about to descend on Vancouver, British Columbia, we read an article by Greg Robinson with keen interest. An American professor at the l’Université du Québec a Montréal, Robinson investigates differences in racial attitudes towards people of Japanese descent among Canadians divided by British and French heritage. The Discover Nikkei website posted Part 1 and Part 2 of the article this month.

The harsh treatment of Japanese Canadians surpassed that imposed on Japanese Americans: their property was seized and sold off, they were sent to work in former mining towns, and until 1949 they could not return to the West Coast without threat of involuntary deportation to Japan. The displaced population migrated primarily to Montreal, where they encountered more indifference than hostility from French Canadians. But after the war, both Anglo- and Francophone politicians nearly succeeded in passing legislation to strip Japanese Canadians of their citizenship and deport them to Japan. Luckily, public opinion prevented further ethnic cleansing.