If I had been covering provincial affairs in the 1940s, I wonder what my columns on the "Japanese problem" would have looked like.
It's nice to picture myself landing on the right side of history. It's comforting to imagine that I'd fearlessly condemn the internment program and years later be held up as a voice of conscience.
Unfortunately, it's just as easy to picture going along with the prevailing mood and endorsing the gross insult to Japanese-Canadian people.
Far more responsible and intelligent people than I did exactly that.
My not-so-venerable press gallery predecessors from 70 years ago didn't acquit themselves very well (Bruce Hutchison and certain others excepted).
But it's only hindsight that allows me to condemn their efforts. If I was covering an MLA's claim that big Japanese characters had been inscribed on the side of Mount Douglas as a signal by an advance guard of local Japanese-Canadian spies, there's no clear answer to the question: What would I have done?
The legislature library has a copy of "Removal of Japanese from Protected Areas," a report by the B.C. Security Commission, an agency involved in the internment. In the weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the RCMP rounded up 1,500 Japanese-Canadians suspected of being subversives and moved them to road camps in the Interior.
The Japanese Fishing Vessel Disposal Committee was formed to regulate the seizure of such boats and a federal order was signed in February, 1942 ordering them to surrender cars, weapons, cameras and radios.
The report touches on the media's role in determining what happened next.
"The government took no further definite action until public sentiment became inflamed and MPs from this province became so vehement in their denunciation, and the press so vociferous in its expression of indignation, that finally, faced with the necessity of establishing some security against possible attack from within as well as without ... the government established the B.C. Security Commission."
The document is on how the commission did the rest of the job, expelling all the Japanese-Canadians from the coast.
On the Hastings Park Assembly Centre, the report said: "The pathos, and humour, the simple joys, the heart-breaking discouragements suffered by reluctant inmates awaiting dispersement to an unknown future, may have sown the seed in the heart and brain of some young Canadian-born Japanese which will come to fruition in later years in the literary expression of this tale."
All this in prelude to a genuine moment in the legislature on Monday, when it was much easier to recognize right and wrong.
Mas Yamamoto, a UBC professor who spent his teenage years in the internment camps, watched from the gallery as his daughter, Naomi Yamamoto, the first Japanese-Canadian MLA in B.C. history, introduced a motion expressing deep regret at the discrimination.
The government of Canada apologized 25 years ago. But the legislature's apology is significant because it was B.C. officials who goaded the feds into pushing internment to the maximum extent.
Said Yamamoto: "This is a historical injustice for which our provincial government of the time was directly responsible. The scope of this betrayal of our core values is illustrated by the experience of the Japanese-Canadians."
Opposition leader Adrian Dix backed the motion, saying internment was a stain on B.C.'s history.
"There were no political parties in this legislature in 1941 that have any honour in this — none.
"I think one can only appreciate with wonder what people have done subsequent to that, the grace they've shown."
It's so easy to applaud the speeches today. But it's tougher to place yourself back in time and wonder if you would have had anything to be graceful about.
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