The Cowichan Valley Museum has a new temporary exhibition titled “Broken Promises” which opened July 15 that takes a closer look at the treatment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War and its consequences.
The exhibition is the result of a Landscapes of Injustice project in partnership with the University of Victoria, the Nikkei National Museum and the Royal BC Museum.
Broken Promises is dedicated to revealing the history of Japanese dispossession in Canada during the Second World War, the generational trauma caused by the mass displacement of residents of Japanese descent, and the strength and resilience of the Japanese Canadian community.
In 1942 the Government of Canada detained and interned 21,460 persons of Japanese descent living in British Columbia. These people ranged in age from infants to the elderly. Within a year, the government authorized the sale of their belongings and properties.
In a further indignity, the Japanese were forced to use the paltry income they received from these sales to support their own confinement in the internment camps. When the internment era ended in 1949, those who had been detained found their homes, farms, businesses, vehicles, pets and personal items gone. They were then forcibly relocated across the country, or to Japan, and had to start over again.
The Cowichan Valley had a large Japanese community prior to the Second World War living in Chemainus, Duncan and Paldi. Many were loggers and sawmill workers, and others were market gardeners, dry cleaners, taxi drivers or working as domestic servants in non-Japanese homes.
Broken Promises illuminates the loss by Japanese Canadians of their own homes and their struggle for justice.
The Cowichan Valley Museum is located in the former Duncan Train Station at 130 Canada Ave. It is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is by donation.
—Carolyn Prellwitz, president, Cowichan Historical Society