Author Joy Kogawa is seen at last month's ceremony in Lemon Creek unveiling a sign commemorating the internment of Japanese Canadians there 70 years ago. A letter writer who was present says similarities to the Sinixt First Nation sprang to mind.

Watchfulness required in a just society

The erection of displays along the Slocan Valley rail trail brought the truth about the Japanese Canadian internment into the present.

Re: “An act of memory,” June 22

“Let the truth be told,” said Joy Kogawa on June 16 in the Slocan Legion Hall. And indeed, the erection of the Lemon Creek and Popoff site displays along the Slocan Valley rail trail, the open house and the 70th anniversary dinner brought out truth about the history of the Japanese Canadian internment into the present.

It was impressive and emotional to hear about the personal experiences these internees, children and adults went through in the internment camps 70 years ago.

They all agreed that the internment was primarily based on prejudice and discrimination against another race and culture, a money grab and procurement of cheap labour by the governments of the time, particularly BC’s. During and especially after World War II they intended to drive Canadians of Japanese origin forever out of the country, pretending even children to be enemies of Canada.

Hearing all this, similarities in the history of the Sinixt people sprung into our minds. The greed of white people for land and its treasures combined with diseases they brought decimated the Sinixt and drove lots of them to the southern parts of their territory. The political agreement declaring the 49th parallel border between the US and Canada cut their tribal land apart.

Conveniently the government of this country quickly declared the Sinixt north of the border forever extinct and therefore no longer people of Native status.

Sinixt elder Bob Campbell, commenting on their court appeal said about a year ago: “I have no great expectations, but I have great hopes.”

On the 70th anniversary dinner all internees present, most now in their 80s and 90s, expressed their hope for a future where war and greed and racial hatred would be eliminated.

Joy Kogawa brought it to the point: “Let the truth be told” she said. “Go to the place of your greatest terror, tell your story and you are free.”

Besides telling and keeping the stories alive, constant watchfulness and always questioning political decisions are needed to bring about a society where prejudice and injustices no longer exist.

Elisabeth von Ah and Henry Hutter, Lemon Creek and Appledale

 

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