Letter: Amend racist bylaws for wellbeing of us all

This letter is not intended to pass judgment or blame, but to ensure that racist acts like this never happen again.

Open letter to Kelowna City Council and the citizens of Kelowna:

This letter is about the significance of motions passed by Vancouver City Council (Sept. 25, 2013) apologizing for two discriminatory motions passed by Victoria and Vancouver city councils on Jan. 19 and Feb. 19, 1942.

Both of these motions by the City of Victoria and City of Vancouver originated from a letter received from Kelowna City Council in early 1942.

The following excerpts are taken from The Bulletin: A Journal of Japanese Canadian Community, History and Culture.

The first motion originated from Victoria City Council with a second motion followed on Feb. 27, 1942 in response to a letter sent by the City of Kelowna council that, “all male Japanese of military age should be interned; that any evacuation of other Japanese to the east of the Cascade Mountains should be under strict supervision of the Dominion authorities and areas where police control could be exercised at all times, and should be effected in a manner that would not arouse popular indignation and outrage; that the Dominion Government should prohibit the sale or lease or rental of any farm land or other real estate to Japanese during the present crisis [Second World War], and further, demanding that the Government take immediate action to deal effectively with this whole matter.”

From this letter, Victoria alderman Williams moved, seconded by Alderman Davies, that the communications be received and placed on file; and that the resolution quoted in the letter from the City of Kelowna be approved and endorsed by the city council; and that the Prime Minister of Canada, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of National Defense, the Minister of Pensions and National Health and Mr. R.W. Mayhew, M.P. be so advised.

These motions, led by the City of Victoria, prompted the federal government 70 years ago to pass an order-in-council authorizing the uprooting of all peoples of Japanese heritage from B.C.’s coast, regardless of age, gender or citizenship. Japanese-Canadians subsequently saw their properties seized and sold off, and a coordinated attempt to banish them permanently from B.C. and Canada.

Furthermore, on Feb. 12, 1945, Victoria city council, upon receiving a copy of the resolution passed by the Kelowna Board of Trade that stated:

“Whereas by reason of Japanese National doctrine, outlook, and expressed intentions, they will never fit into the Canadian scheme of life and work with us wholeheartedly in building Canada’s future; and

“Whereas the Japanese are not assimilable (fortunately, so far, both races have frowned on mixed marriages) but Canada does not want to run the risk of what has happened as a result of mixed marriages in other parts of the world.

“Now therefore be it resolved that this meeting demands repatriation of all Japanese origin after the war to Japan, the repatriates to be allowed to take back with them any assets that they may have here in Canada.

On March 5, 1987, on request by the Inter-cultural Association of Greater Victoria, it was moved by Alderman Levin, seconded by Alderman Carson, that council rescind the resolution passed on Feb. 13, 1942 calling for the removal of all persons of enemy races from the coast of B.C.

It is unclear if the City of Kelowna has rescinded the original racist motion.

The Vancouver J.C.C.A. Human Rights Committee is investigating this important matter to ensure that it has been done.

I have not heard or read about this being done.

I now have a better understanding about the sign erected at the entrance to the City of Kelowna (circa 1942?) stating: “Coast Japs not welcome, stay away.”

As a Japanese-Canadian citizen born in Peachland in 1940 (with rights suspended until 1949), I await Kelowna City Council’s reply.

This letter is not intended to pass judgment or blame, but to ensure that racist acts like this never happen again.

Hajime (Harold) Naka,

Kelowna

 

Kelowna Capital News

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