Police banging on doors at all hours of the day or night, ordering frightened occupants to gather up only what they could carry. Parents and children innocent of any crime ushered from their homes, herded in a central depot and freighted out by train to remote camps. A scene from Nazi Germany? No, it was the internment of the Japanese in British Columbia, 1942.
The evacuation of the Japanese Canadians, or Nikkei Kanadajin, from the Pacific Coast in the early months of 1942 was the greatest mass movement in the history of Canada. By the eve of Pearl Harbour, nearly 23,000 people of Japanese descent made their home in Canada, principally in British Columbia. Three-quarters of that number were naturalized or native-born citizens. The Nikkei were foresters and fishermen, miners and merchants. Except for the industrialists who profited from cheap Asian labour, much of white British Columbia regarded the Japanese Canadians with suspicion, if not rabid hostility. Over the years the Nikkei had been targets of unremitting discrimination and occasional violence.