Victoria’s Japanese community remembered on internment anniversary

Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe moves to have the city rescind offending legislation

Anita Malkiewicz

On April 22, 70 years ago, a ship called the Princess Jones took Victorians of Japanese descent away from their homes for good.

To mark the occasion on Sunday, historians Ann-Lee Switzer and her husband, Gordon, launched their new book about this vanished community at Victoria City Hall.

The Switzers discovered the need for the book while researching the Japanese cemetery in Victoria.

“We thought that we could just look up the history of the Victoria-Japanese community and put it in our book about the cemetery,” Ann-Lee said. “But there was nothing … so we got to work.”

Gateway to Promise: Canada’s first Japanese Community, covers the history of the Japanese community in Victoria until April 22, 1942, when they were exiled to internment camps on suspicion of espionage by the Canadian government.

The book covers the Japanese Tea Garden on the Gorge, the donation of cherry trees, the Methodist church and other contributions.

“Although it was a small community, they were integrated into the (greater) community,” Ann-Lee said.

After the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, many Victorians expressed sympathy for their Japanese neighbours, she added. Through the research project, the Switzers got in touch with many of the survivors who left Victoria for good as teenagers.

“Mostly they had happy memories of Victoria … and they didn’t, most of them, carry much bitterness,” Ann-Lee said. “Many of them still keep in touch with their  friends in Victoria. It’s amazing.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Did you know?

• On Feb. 27, 1942, Victoria city council voted to endorse a resolution passed by the City of Kelowna stating, in part:

“… that all male Japanese of military age should be interned; that any evacuation of other Japanese to east of the Cascade Mountains should be under strict supervision of the Dominion Authorities … and should be effected in a manner that would not arouse popular indignation and outrage.”

• This month Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe told council she would be introducing a motion to rescind council’s original motion from 1942.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grieving together, but apart: How funeral homes are handling the pandemic

‘Hugs are so important and right now hugs can’t happen’

Sidney Lions, Peninsula-raised designer craft nearly 200 masks for area seniors

182 masks were distributed to four Saanich Peninsula care homes

What Sooke School District schools will look like on first day of reopening

No water fountains, rotating schedules and face masks not required

Saanich residents sound alarm after second owl dies of rat poison

Great Horned Owl found in Kings Park killed by three rodenticides

Point-guard lobs no-look, three-pointer for Oak Bay High video

Trick-shot only took three times, says Oak Bay teen

VIDEO: Victoria dental staff dance to *NSYNC to promote reopening

Urban Smiles staff ‘want you back’ after closure in response to pandemic

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Most Read