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Japanese Canadians reflect on internment hardships

Luncheon in Victoria on Sunday to feature guest speakers
Kanzo and Misuyo Kurushima with their daughter Ritsuko in Vancouver in 1929. Tsugio Kurushima’s parents and older siblings were sent to a internment camp in Slocan in 1942. (Photo courtesy of Tsugio Kurushima)

More than a dozen survivors of the Japanese-Canadian internment camps during the Second World War are coming forward to share their experiences, 75 years after families were ripped from their British Columbia homes and shipped across the country.

Greater Victoria residents will share their stories at a luncheon Sunday (Sept. 10) hosted by the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society, which aims to remind Canadians of this dark part of our country’s past. Tsugio Kurushima, president of the society, said the event is a chance to honour those who experienced this hardship.

“Their rights were trampled, and they were treated as enemy aliens,” he said.

“It’s a [significant] chapter in Canadian history, one that’s not well-known. Time is marching on and the people who actually went through this experience are getting on in age and won’t be here much longer.”

Kurushima’s parents were interned with his older siblings in Slocan, B.C. before they moved to Winnipeg, where he was born. Internment camps are seldom discussed by Japanese-Canadians, he said, because most would rather “forget about it and move on.”

But the camps are something that everyone with Japanese-Canadian heritage has a connection to, and it’s a part of history that cannot be forgotten. “Within the Japanese-Canadian community, they always talk about where your family was interned, so it’s a very common link that we have.”

Also at the luncheon will be a presentation by Jordan Stanger-Ross of the Landscapes of Injustice at the University of Victoria, a project that investigates the history of the forced dispossession of Japanese- Canadians.

Internment camps ran from 1942 to 1949, four years after the Second World War ended. Japanese-Canadians were detained by the Canadian government and relocated to farms and camps in the Interior and across Canada. Their movements were restricted and their personal property sold to fund the camps that imprisoned them.

The luncheon will take place at the Ambrosia Event centre at 638 Fisgard St. on Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $15 (or $7.50 for children five to 12) and includes a buffet lunch. For more details, email or call Patti Ayukawa at (250)-858-8445.

Tsugio Kurushima is president of the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society. Lauren Boothby/VICTORIA NEWS

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