Site of the June 16 dinner event: the Odd Fellows Hall (now Legion) in Slocan City in 1944.

Site of the June 16 dinner event: the Odd Fellows Hall (now Legion) in Slocan City in 1944.

Interpretive signs planned for Slocan Valley internment sites

The Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society will be dedicating interpretive signage at two sites on Saturday, June 16.

The Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society will be dedicating interpretive signage beside the sites of the Lemon Creek and Popoff internment sites on Saturday, June 16 — this year being the 70th anniversary of the mass uprooting and relocation of Japanese Canadians.

Between 1942 and 1946, approximately 3,000 Japanese Canadians lived at these two sites which contained hundreds of houses, streets, schools and other buildings. Today, two empty hay fields are all that is left and passersby have no idea of the story these two fields could tell about what once happened here. Nothing remains and not one sign identifies either site. It is as if it is forgotten, vanished and never was.

That will all change this June. Interpretive signage will be displayed on the popular Slocan Valley Rail Trail where the CPR railway once ran beside these camps. Created by local historian Ian Fraser, the signage will tell the story of Japanese Canadian internment in pictures and narrative that document the human story and highlight the national injustice that was perpetrated.

Renowned author Joy Kogawa will participate in the sign dedications, which will take place on the old highway (now Kennedy Road) in front of the Lemon Creek site at 2 p.m., and on the Slocan Valley rail trail adjacent to the Popoff site at 3 p.m.

After the sign dedication ceremonies, visitors are invited to assemble at the former Odd Fellows Hall in Slocan (now the Legion Hall) beginning at 4 p.m. This building is virtually unchanged from the internment days and will be remembered as the site of dances, movies and other social events during that time. Displays, socializing and other activities are planned. A buffet dinner will be hosted at 6 p.m. with presentations and readings by Kogawa and others during and following the meal.

As seating for the $25 a plate dinner is limited to 100 people, visitors are recommended to reserve tickets well ahead of time by contacting the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society at 888-683-7878 or slocanvalleyrailtrail(at)yahoo.ca.

Anyone wishing to make a presentation or speak at the event, or to make a donation to support this event is urged to contact the society as soon as possible. The society totally depends on donations and grants to carry out its work. Cheques can be made out to the SVHTS and mailed to Box 22, Winlaw, V0G2J0. The website — slocanvalleyrailtrail.ca — lists local places to stay on the amenities page.