Internment and Redress: The Japanese Canadian Experience
The four lessons presented in the Secondary Guide are designed as a cohesive unit. However, each of the lessons can be taught as a stand alone activity. If teachers have limited time for the unit, it is recommended that Lesson 1 and any or all of the case studies in Lesson 3 should be presented. If more class time is available, teachers may wish to use Lessons 1,2, and 4 to give students a fuller understanding of the internment. All of the case studies can be taught independently or as an add-on to any of the other lessons.
- to foster historical empathy and a sense of justice regarding the suffering of others.
- to develop a historical understanding of some of the significant events in Canada during the Second World War.
- to encourage meaningful participation in Canada’s legal and democratic institutions.
- to develop an understanding of the physical, emotional and economic hardships endured by Japanese Canadians before, during and after the Second World War.
- to teach students how to recognize stereotyping, overgeneralization and discrimination.
Lesson 1 – A Lesson in Empathy:
This series of three activities builds an important foundation for the unit. Students will develop a better understanding of the relationship between racist beliefs and discriminatory action. As the foundation lesson for this unit, the “Empathy Lesson” is critical to student understanding of the overall issues. In this series of activities, students will develop a base of understanding about how the prevailing racist and restrictive climate of British Columbia had an impact on the lives of Japanese Canadians. More specifically, students will:
- Define, recognize, acknowledge and understand stereotyping, racism, prejudice, discrimination, bias and point of view.
- Understand and identify the impact of racist and discriminatory practices on the Japanese Canadian population.
- Recognize how easily people can move from stereotyping to discrimination, restriction and exclusion.
- Identify and assess historical examples of groups that have suffered under the burden of racist oppression (e.g. Apartheid in South Africa, Holocaust in Europe, or the “Killing Fields” in Cambodia).
Lesson 2 – A Parliamentary Inquiry:
In this lesson students form parliamentary committees and examine a number of different documents, assessing evidence for and against the federal government’s decision to intern Japanese Canadians. Activities will take students through the process of sorting, weighing and identifying key pieces of evidence for each side. Students will then be required to apply the principles of fundamental justice and due process of law to the factual evidence. Ultimately, the students will make a judgment on the actions of the federal government in the form of a parliamentary committee report. Additionally, students will be asked to compare and contrast the Japanese American experience with that of their Canadian counterparts.
Lesson 3 – Case Studies:
In this section, there are four specific case studies. Each case study may be taught independently of the others or as part of a larger survey of the internment issue. Case study one, entitled “The People Next Door,” is based on a fictional account of how a non-Japanese family may have viewed the uprooting and internment of their Japanese Canadian neighbours. After the students have read the story, a group activity is used for debriefing issues of racism, stereotyping, bias and overgeneralization.
In the second case study, the students are asked to consider a photograph taken at Hastings Park in 1942. It is a photograph of men in the detention centre eating a meal. The unique feature is that one little boy is also sitting at the table. On the reverse of the photograph is the story of how this little boy came to be at the detention centre (students are not shown or told the real story until after they write out their prediction). In this lesson students will examine the picture, then write a personal story describing how the little boy came to be at this place, as well as writing what might be in store for him in the near future. Students will be given a series of focus questions to help guide them in creating an interesting and thoughtful story.
The third case study is entitled “Mary’s Story,” and is a family story told by a Japanese Canadian woman who went through the internment process with her family. In “Mary’s Story,” students are given insights into what it was like to experience the internment. After reading the story, students will be asked to consider a series of questions that will stimulate a serious discussion about the issue of compensation for wartime property losses. Additionally, the summary activity will have students consider the financial compensation given during Redress and draw some conclusions about whether the compensation went far enough in addressing the wrong.
The final case study is in the form of a gallery walk. Students will be provided with 12 different photographs, official documents and personal artifacts from the internment. The artifacts, photographs and documents are placed around the classroom for students to survey and analyze. Students are provided with a chart to complete (they will select only eight of the 12 artifacts) as they walk about the class. The lesson will end with a debriefing on the issues raised by the analysis of the artifacts and a “Free Write” exercise.
Lesson 4 – Redress:
The activities used in this lesson are designed to enhance student understanding of how and why Japanese Canadians were compensated by the federal government. The first activity engages students in an analysis of the actual compensation package and formal apology by the Government of Canada. The second activity asks students to compare the redress in Canada and the United States and then determine whether or not individual governments or the World Court should have addressed these wrongs.
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