Skip to content

Seizure of Japanese-Canadian boats resonates today, maritime museum says

Seizure of Japanese-Canadian boats still resonates

VANCOUVER — During the Second World War nearly 1,200 fishing boats owned by Japanese-Canadians were seized by Canadian officials on the B.C. coast — an action that followed Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

The seizure is the focus of a new exhibition, "The Lost Fleet," opening March 24 at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

The historical event, with its backdrop of racism and the accompanying internment of Japanese-Canadians, has a contemporary resonance, the museum says.

Planning for the show took place during the rising crisis in Syria, when "discussions of an influx of non-white immigrants bore a strong resemblance to the rhetoric used when speaking about the Japanese and other Asian immigrants in the 20th century prior to WWII," the museum says.

"Current legislation, policies and public sentiment about immigration invite the question of whether this type of injustice could be carried out against other groups."

The exhibition will feature photographs and models of some of the seized boats, as well as replicas of the registry created to redistribute the vessels, which wound up being sold to canneries and non-Japanese fishermen.

In June 1942, a Japanese submarine fired shells at Estevan Point lighthouse on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

A shell fragment from that attack will also be displayed. The artifact highlights "the little known fact" that enemy fire landed on Canadian soil during the war and "adds a level of reality to the threat that was feared by many in B.C.," the museum says.




The Canadian Press

Pop-up banner image