Life at Internment Camps

Posted: May 11, 2011 in Life at an Internment Camp

On March 4, 1942 22,000 Japanese men were given 24 hours to pack before they were to be imprisoned. Sent off to do labour on road crews or beet farms the men were separated from their families in the initial time period of the internment of the Nikkei Kanadajin. The internment camps contained very poor living conditions. Quite often, several families were forced to live in the same shack, which consisted of panal boards with no insulation, rickety walls, and if lucky, a stove. Many Japanese resorted to putting latterns under their beds during the winters to keep warm.699 of the 945 men working the road crews complained about being separated from their families and others broke curfew hours. They were sent to POW camps at Angler and Petawaw in Ontario.

Women and children were moved to six inland B.C. towns; Greenwood, Sandon, Kaslo, New Denver, Rosebery, Slocan City, Bay Farm, Popoff, Lemon Creek, and Tashme created to relocate the populace. The conditions were so poor that even the citizens of war torn Japan sent provisions for the detainees. In the latter years of the war they petitioned the Royal Commission for better housing and more stoves. After the petition they were allowed to grow vegetable gardens, dig basements and create extra rooms in the small houses they were living in.

After struggling to obtain the right to teach the children the Lemon Creek camp was given permission to school them until grade 10.

“Self-supporting” camps were established in Lillooet, Bridge River, Minto City, McGillivray Falls, and Christina Lake. At these camps men paid to be allowed to farm the land and live in a less restrictive area.

Story from Hideo Kukubo tells what life was like during the war:

“I was in that camp for four years. When it got cold the temperature went down to as much as 60 below. The buildings stood on flat land beside a lake. We lived in huts with no insulation. Even if we had the stove burning the inside of the windows would all be frosted up and white, really white. I had to lie in bed with everything on that I had… at one time there were 720 people there, all men, and a lot of them were old men.”

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