A couple of weekends ago, Debbie and I took a weekend trip up to Vancouver, BC. It had been a while since my last visit to the city but it’s always a novelty to take an international trip and only have to drive less than three hours. I’ve always enjoyed the cultural differences of the Canadians, and it still exists today.
One of the things Debbie and I enjoy doing anytime we travel is to visit local historical museums. Since we’re in the process of converting the NVC hall into a museum, we’re always looking for new ideas that will help tell the story of how the Issei and Nisei overcame adversity to pave the way for future generations.
The Museum of Vancouver is as good as any museum we have visited, outside of the Smithsonian and Holocaust Museums in D.C. Debbie was preoccupied with a temporary exhibit on women’s formal fashions while I was fascinated with an exhibit detailing Vancouver in the 1960’s and 70’s. The exhibit was titled “You Say You Want a Revolution” and they had a mockup display of a hippie’s living room, complete with hanging beads and psychedelic posters. I think it’s kind of cool that a museum display built to resemble a scene from a half a century ago resembles my own house. Although I don’t have psychedelic posters hanging on my walls, I’m very proud of my pictures of the Stones, James Dean, and the Yankee M&M Boys (Mantle and Maris).
What surprised Debbie and I was the section in the museum devoted to the removal and detention of Japanese Canadians during World War II and the eventual redress. The display was quite large, dwarfing similar displays at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in D.C. Since Japan never attacked Canada, I never knew there was as much hostility towards Japanese Canadians as there were against Japanese Americans.
According to John Hartman’s article, “A Hakujin’s View of the Japanese Canadian Internment” in last month’s Newsletter, it was economics and greed that was the basis for the incarceration. Caucasians feared the Japanese Canadians were taking over the local fishing industry. How the fear of losing jobs could be twisted into a potential security threat and the imprisonment of Japanese Canadians makes no sense to me, but prejudice rarely does make sense. Nevertheless, the display at the Museum of Vancouver made it clear that the act was wrong and that the Canadian government was apologetic for the injustice imposed on all Japanese Canadians.
Judging from the space and funds devoted to this exhibit, I would say the Canadians are very serious about this embarrassing chapter in their history and want to make sure it is never forgotten. I think we can learn a lesson or two from our neighbors to the north.