Dear community, I invite you to watch this documentary. I think we can learn a ton from it and for this history not to repeat itself. I appreciate it’s approach to shows the “light in the darkness” within this dark time of war. I feel we are “at war” today, a war of human survival within our climate crisis and the mass extinction we are experiencing. People at the top are scared they will lose their power, so we are seeing narratives that show difference and narratives that are designed to divide us are being promoted heavily. Within this climate crisis, it’s too easy for these unhelpful narratives to grow and fester. In the spirit of sharing stories that can connect us and be the antithesis to stories that we chose to let divide us, here’s a little about my family’s story.

My Grand Parents Story of Japanese Canadian Internment

My great grand parents moved to Canada from Japan in the mid to late 1800’s. My dad’s family (my great grand parents, my grandma, grandpa, extended family) were all interned, had their land taken, and were sent to internment camps despite, still to this day, no evidence that any Japanese Canadians were spying. My grand parents were born in Canada and their parents had been in Canada for over 50 years prior to WW2. I have just re-learned they couldn’t vote until 1948. My dad said, “they were labeled and identified as second class citizens.” When I interviewed my grandma about the process of internment 14 years ago, she said, “we were put in a drafty barn, I slept on straw in a animal stall throughout winters. ” My grandma’s family had Vancouver waterfront property, few fishing boats, a store, and a gas station. The property value today would be several million dollars. Our Canadian government gave my grandma and other survivors or these camps $21,000 in 1988 as an apology.

Last year, at a Japanese Canadian celebration event of REDRESS in Toronto that my dad, John Ebata, was playing at, we learned that there were many business people in Vancouver who advocated for the internment. The Japanese Canadian’s had many good businesses in Vancouver, including fishing ones, and so there are some that think this was a strategic move to remove them. The Canadian federal government initially opposed interning Japanese Canadian’s, but eventually caved from pressure from BC government and unknown reasons. At this Toronto event, Mark Sakamoto also shared a story of interviewing his grandma. I’ll never forget what Mark said as he told his grandma’s story, he said that when he interviewed his grandma back in 2012, she said, “hate can come back!” At the time he laughed about this, as if it was the most unbelievable thing, but now he sees it as a “grave warning for our future” and “a less to learn from to avoid history repeating itself.” I’m looking forward to reading his Canada Reads award winning book, Forgiveness: A Gift From My Grandparents. I appreciated the language and message Mark shared, I teared up a bit listening to him.

Does this sound familiar to today? There are so many things that strike me about this film, I hope you enjoy. The film is much more uplifting then how I am feeling right now.

Questions I’m pondering about what we can learn from Japanese Internment

  • Is my family completely spread out in Toronto area to avoid being targeted as a group like they were in BC?
  • What happens when we blindly follow the United States government? Internment happened right after the pearl harbour bombing, yet there was no evidence of any spying and still is none to this day.
  • When does someone become a Canadian?
  • What happens when act in blind fear allow hate and racism to live and guide government action?
  • What can we do to stand up to corporations that are hindering our new economy from happening and influencing our government?
  • What can we do to slow “othering” narratives like “mass immigration, enemy alien etc.” from growing? How can we re-author these narratives within communities and media through empathy building and story?
  • What other lessons can we learn from this?

What strikes you about this? What are things you see happening that are effective in reducing the chances of this happening again?