Long-standing racial attitudes of the local population, public pressure and the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 required the Canadian government to make the reluctant decision to evacuate Japanese Canadians from the coastal regions of British Columbia and intern them. The subject matter examined in both articles range from the pre-war racism, attitudes of the Japanese Canadians, the work of intelligence services, and the government’s responses leading up to the evacuation.
The articles share the common view that Japanese Canadians were victims of racism and mistreatment, but deviate in their analysis of the issues leading up to the decision. More than any other group, Japanese Canadians bore the brunt of Canadian animosity . In Ward’s article, he describes an environment of pre-war racism that existed well before the evacuation.
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The article presents an undeniable analysis of the racial discrimination Japanese Canadians were subjected to since the 1850s, and as Ward describes, “west-coast society had been divided by a deep racial cleavage, and over the years, only limited integration had occurred in patterns of work, residential accommodation and social contact. ” As examples to support his claim, he cites that “periodically, federal, provincial and municipal governments had approved legislation and covenants which discriminated against Orientals. Ward proceeds to describe that the driving force behind the renewed social outburst was based on social and economic factors, such as racial tensions, a sense of anxiety due to the war, and a desire to acquire Japanese property at bargain prices. Due too a lack of supporting evidence, Ward dismisses the possibility of subversive actions from the Japanese Canadian community. Granatstein and Johnson argue that the pre-war pro-Japanese attitude of Japanese Canadians and racial tensions led them to their fate. Unlike Ward, they believed that Japanese Canadians were supportive of Japan’s endeavours prior to December 1941.
The authors assert that due to this attitude it could be conceived that there was a real and credible threat from the Japanese community. They also contend that the Japanese Consulate played a key role in encouraging this pro-Japan attitude and wielded considerable influence over Japanese Canadians. A military intelligence report stated that through the Consul’s influence there was, “a strong Japanese spirit and a consciousness among the BC Japanese of being sons of Japan abroad rather that Canadian citizens” . As well, diplomatic ignals were intercepted, which demonstrated that Japan had directed the consulate to collect intelligence on Canadian interests. The authors went on to highlight that Japanese Canadians were supportive of Japan’s expansionist endeavours. This pro-Japanese attitude would not help the Japanese Canadian cause after December 7 1941. An assessment on intelligence gathering was treated very differently in both articles. Granatstein and Johnson’s article detailed the inability of the intelligence services to infiltrate the Japanese Canadian community and highlighted their lack of understanding to possible threats they could pose.
The authors also illustrate the state of the RCMP’s intelligence capability by providing evidence from the prime ministers office, which highlighted the following concerns: “evidence of a total lack of the capacity, education, and training required for real intelligent work” . Military intelligence proved no better as “there is no reason to believe that the army, navy or air force by 1941 were any less clumsy or more sophisticated in their ability to gather and assess information” .
Understaffing, over-work, and lack of adequate training were noted deficiencies in the military and the RCMP’s intelligence capability. The authors also described the intelligence gathered as amateurish and improvised, contradicting Ward’s article. Due to these deficiencies, the authors believe the assessments made by the authorities that Japanese Canadians were an unlikely threat was based on a large part on optimistic thinking. Ward’s article, affirms that “intelligence officers kept watch on the Japanese community since 1937. He states the RCMP had never suspected a credible Japanese threat coming from British Columbia. Ward also stated that “all available signs pointed in one direction only: no significant evidence of Japanese treachery could be seen at this time. ” Ward infers that the lack of intelligence was due to no proven existence of any threat from Japanese Canadians. Although, Ward does acknowledge that the military had a contradictory view on the Japanese community, and was quite concerned about potential subversive activities.
Ward also emphasized that, “British Columbians appear to have reached their conclusions about the Japanese menace with little prompting. ” While the protest movement did not have prominent leaders, local press helped sustain this popular opinion. Though no tangible subversive behaviour was ever observed, British Columbians kept pressing the government for the removal of the Japanese. Prior to the declaration of war, the federal government was not keen to comply with their demands, not wanting to offend British interests in Asia.
Mackenzie King was reluctant to approve the evacuation plan until it was absolutely necessary. With the outbreak of war, the Prime Minister’s hand was forced; the government did not want to risk racial incidents and immediately ordered the evacuation. Both articles imply that senior officials in Ottawa appeared unperturbed by the presence of the large number of Japanese Canadians living along the British Columbian coastline. Further evidence uncovered by Granatstein and Johnson however shows that the Permanent Joint Board on Defence (PJDB) and officers stationed in British Columbia were quite concerned.
Unlike statements by Ward, the authors believed that Americans and Canadians involved in the PJDB had discussed the actual removal of the Japanese Canadians from coastal communities. Reports from Hawaii, Hong Kong and Malaya, coupled with the brutality of Japanese forces in the Pacific made British Columbians uneasy and gave the government more grounds to impose the evacuation. Unlike Ward’s article, they argue that Japan presented a credible military threat to Canada.
Granatstein and Johnson maintains that “there were military and intelligence concerns that, in the face of the sudden attack at Pearl harbour, could have provided Ottawa with a justification for the evacuation of Japanese Canadians from the coast. ” Ward’s came to a very different conclusion where he believed that there was little substantiation to the claims that Japanese Canadians could have been subversive. There are several possible explanations why the authors arrived at different conclusions.
Ward wrote his article in 1976, where he relied primarily on newspapers, diaries and memoirs which can be subjective, and bases his arguments primarily on evidence relating to the racial attitudes of the period. His article is tailored to a general audience providing a quick overview of the period and presents the Japanese community in a favourable light. Granatstein and Johnson’s article was written 12 years later, allowing them access to more resources. Their article is geared toward academics and used extensive research using archival sources and reports.
Those seeking researched information on the events preceding the evacuation will find the essay by Granatstein and Johnson more useful. This essay offers a synopsis of the accepted popular version of the events, but also presents well-researched and compelling arguments. Additionally, portions of the essay regarding the role of the Japanese consulate and the attitudes of Japanese Canadians adds insight into the developments that took place and creates a foundation on which future research can be conducted.
The real value of the article lies in the extensive research on the subjects of intelligence, role of the Japanese consulate and the pre-war Japanese Canadian attitude. By including this extensive academic research from detailed archival resources, the authors have created a well-rounded work that presents a comprehensive appraisal of the events that led to the evacuation. Bibliography Francis, R. Douglas, Richard Jones and Donald B. Smith, Destinies: Canadian History since Confederation. 6th ed. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2008. J. L.
Granatstein and Gregory A. Johnson, “The Evacuation of the Japanese Canadians, 1942: A Realist Critique of the Received Version, in Norman Hilmer et. al. , (eds. ) On Guard For Thee: War, Ethnicity, and the Canadian State, 1939-1945 (Ottawa: Canadian Committee for the History of the Second World War, 1988), 101-129. Morton, Desmond. A Military History of Canada. 5th ed. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2007. Peter W. Ward, “British Columbia and the Japanese Evacuation”. The Canadian Historical R view 57, 3 (September 1976), 298-309.