Victoria’s Japanese community is praising an announcement by the provincial government that addresses the internment of thousands of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.
British Columbia is giving $100 million in funding in response to the historical wrongs it caused at the time. The government’s action comes on the 80th anniversary of the first arrivals of Japanese Canadians to the Greenwood, Kaslo, New Denver, Slocan City and Sandon internment camps in 1942.
Premier John Horgan said funds will go toward providing updated health programs for internment survivors, the creation and restoration of heritage sites and updating the provincial curriculum to include what he calls a “terrible chapter” in B.C.’s history.
Tsugio Kurushima, president of the 200-member Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society, said a group of local residents gathered Saturday to watch a livestream of the government presentation.
“What the government is about to offer in the form of B.C. redress is very significant and we’re very pleased,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the redress is for the people that went through that experience 80 years ago and most of them have passed on.
“For the remaining few that are still around, it is quite gratifying to have the government recognize the past wrongs that were perpetuated on the community.”
Some of the funding will go to seniors and it will also go to addressing racism “so that the general public knows the episode,” Kurushima said.
“Hats off to the current government for taking this step,” he said. “It’s been 80 years and it’s the first time the government has recognized that episode.”
Kurushima said about 2,500 people of Japanese descent live in Greater Victoria.
Horgan said the recognition for the people affected by internment is “long overdue,” and the funding symbolizes “turning a page” in how Japanese Canadians have been treated by past governments.
The province said in a statement that this builds on a 2012 apology by the B.C. legislature and responds to a redress proposal advanced in 2021 by the National Association of Japanese Canadians.
B.C. also gave $2 million to the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society last May as a first step toward fulfilling a promise to recognize the internment of almost 22,000 people.
“This endowment will not change the past, but it will ensure that generations that are with us still, and those that come after, will have the opportunity to see something positive coming out of what was clearly a very, very dark period in our collective histories,” Horgan said at a Saturday news conference.