Construction of Otter Creek internment camp, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, November 1915 (Photo courtesy of US National Archives)
Citing the dangers of setting precedents, Multiculturalism Minister Otto Jelinek has rejected the idea that Ottawa pay compensation to individual Japanese-Canadians for its outrageous wartime treatment of them. And he says the formal apology Ottawa will offer may not be to the Japanese-Canadians alone.
Mr. Jelinek should reconsider. If he and his colleagues continue their present course, they will set a precedent worse than any they are trying to avoid.
While the Tories deserve credit for attending to the redress issue, they should not be trying to impose a settlement. They do not seem to realize that if Japanese-Canadians are not to be humiliated once again, redress should stem from negotiations.
The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC), the major community organization, has been unclear about whether it wants compensation for individuals. Ottawa should not rule it out alone. Some talks have taken place. The NAJC is waiting for an accounting firm to estimate the value of the property seized from the 22,000 JapaneseCanadians who were evicted from their homes on the west coast. (Many were interned.)
Ottawa also would be wrong not to give JapaneseCanadians their own apology.
Ottawa's treatment of JapaneseCanadians was not the first time it acted in a racist and arbitrary way. For years its immigration policy was racist; it arbitrarily interned residents of Canada who were citizens of enemy states, including some Ukrainians (Austrian citizens), Germans and Italians. But the move against JapaneseCanadians was unique. Most were citizens of Canada, many native-born.
Mr. Jelinek should not be afraid to help set a precedent of making generous and mutually acceptable amends for racist violations of the fundamental rights of Canadians.
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Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/history/internment/booklet02/doc-004.html
Copyright © 1994 Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Copyright © 1994 Lubomyr Luciuk
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Originally Composed: Saturday September 21st 1996.
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