Japanese Internment Essay

While the United States was trying to negotiate terms of peace with Japan, no one knew or had an idea that the Japanese had made a decision to make war on the United States and Britain. This resulted in the bombing of Pearl Harbor since this was the only barrier to a Japanese victory. At around eight in the morning, on December 7th 1941, the Japanese launched a massive attack on the United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbour. This massive bombing attack was a key factor contributing to the internment of Japanese Canadians.

In the novel, The Whirlwind, Ben Friedman a fourteen year old boy of Jewish culture escapes the anti-Semitism in Germany, and flees to America. There, he meets a friend named John who is of Japanese descent. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, John and his family are sent to Internment camps due to the fact that they were Japanese, possibly because they could be spies. Thousands of Japanese Canadians in Canada were sent to several Internment camps. Inside these camps, the Japanese had to live in poor conditions and work hard, while frequently getting subjected to racism and prejudice.

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However, even before the war, Japanese Canadians were targets of anti-rioting and they were even set aside as second-class citizens. It is evident that the Japanese Canadians in the internment camps were treated unfairly by the Canadian government due to the fact that they were frequently getting subjected to racism and prejudice inside or outside of internment camps, they were forced to work and live in terrible conditions, and the fact that the government had promised to keep all the Japanese people’s valuables in safekeeping, but in the end, everything was auctioned off.

Before the war started, people of Japanese descent were targets of racism and prejudice. They were even regarded as second class citizens. People did not like how the Japanese people were thriving in the fishing industry as well. The Japanese people were even denied the right to vote, teach, or work in the civil service and other professions as well. As the days went by, newspapers, clubs, and many more organizations targeted people of Japanese descent. Then, after the Pearl Harbour attack, things got worse. Muriel Kitagawa, a Japanese Canadian, pointed out the irony of Canadian people’s actions in a letter to her brother. Strange how these protestors are much more vehement against the Canadian-born Japanese than they are against German-born Germans, who might have a real loyalty to their land of birth, just as we do for Canada. I guess it is just because we look different. Anyway, it all boils down to racial antagonism, which the democracies are fighting against”. [1] At first, only a few Japanese men without Canadian citizenship were taken to the camps, but after the War Measures Act and the Defence of Canada regulations, everyone was sent to the internment camps.

However, even before the internment order began, people of Japanese descent were targeted and ridiculed. In the novel The Whirlwind, John Ogatawa gets beaten up for being Japanese. “Spy! Enemy! Traitor! Four tenth graders were shouting as they beat up John in the playground”. [2] This statement shows that even before the war, the Japanese people were ridiculed, including children. The living conditions inside the camps were terrible. Some were living in small shacks or even in stables or barnyards. In these camps, the Japanese people had to work hard and build things such as roads.

Ken Adachi an interned Canadian citizen stated “Born in Canada, brought up on big hand jazz, Fred Astaire and the novels of Henry Rider Haggard, I had perceived myself to be as Canadian as the beaver. I hated rice. I had committed no crime. I was never charged, tried, or convicted of anything. Yet, I was fingerprinted and interned. ”[3] As well, in some internment camps, there was no running water or electricity as well. With these problems, several people would get sick and die. In a letter to Ben, from the novel The Whirlwind John Ogatawa stated “We are prisoners”. [4] This shows that the Japanese people were treated as prisoners.

The Japanese people had to leave behind their belongings behind in government’s hands when they were interned. There was a special government agent for this job called the Custodian of Enemy Property. The Japanese people had no choice but to leave their possession behind hoping that they wouldn’t be stolen or even sold. However, the authorities auctioned off all of this property, including things like boats, cars, houses and many more. In “Whirlwind” Ms. Ogatawa, John’s mother, hands the house key to Ben since they had to leave everything behind. “Thank you for looking after the house Ben, she said as she handed me the key”. 5] However, even after the war ended, the horrible treatment of Japanese Canadians did not stop. Even after the war, Ottawa passed a law to deport Japanese Canadians back to Japan. What the government did was horrible. The Japanese Canadians were always subjected to racism and prejudice, forced to live in terrible living conditions, and as well had most of their valuables auctioned off or even stolen. However, by 1949, the Japanese Canadians had gained the right to vote. In 1988, the Canadian government apologized for the mistreatment of Japanese Canadians and gave out $20 000 for every Japanese Internment survivor as well.

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