It was February 24, when Japanese Canadians were denied some very basics rights. On this day in history, the Canadian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister King, brought forth a number of orders to immediately gather all persons of Japanese origin to “protective areas.” Even those who were 2nd and 3rd generation Canadians, who had fought for this country, were denied the right to own property. Ten days later, the British Columbia Security Commission removed the first 2500 Japanese to Hastings Park. They were also denied the right to own land or grow their own food.
Within our own province, Ian Mackenzie (Liberal) returned to Cabinet as Minister of National Defence where he had the responsibility for pre-war rearmament. World War II began in 1939 and MacKenzie was moved to the position of Minister of Pensions and National Health. This was partially done because of his role in a scandal involving the awarding of a contract to manufacture the Bren Gun (seems to be a pattern within our provincial government). The ultimate shock for me though is that in 1944, the increasing pressures of war led Prime Minister King to decide to delegate some of his responsibilities in the House of Commons to the new position of Government House Leader, he chose Mackenzie as the first MP to hold that responsibility. During the war, Mackenzie pandered to anti-Japanese sentiment in British Columbia by declaring to his constituents at his 1944 nomination meeting “Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.‘”
This sounds like fiction from another country three centuries ago. The fact is that we must never forget our basic humanity.
In a second year on this date, an ironic twist happened. Tommy Douglas died of cancer on 24 February 1986 at the age of 81 in Ottawa. Douglas was one of two MP’s who opposed the introduction of the War Measures Act in 1970, believing that it took away some basic rights and liberties of Canadians. The act was introduced and passed in response to the Quebec FLQ crisis.
Both of these events had a similar effect. We disenfranchised many people for the small actions of a few. We must recognize that liberty and freedom apply to all in Canada and that it is non-negotiable. It is a slippery slope when a government starts limiting the rights of it’s constituents. Government must learn to act and no re-act without reason.