This instructional resource is designed to facilitate instruction on topics related to the history of Japanese Canadians. The history of Japanese Canadians is a record of facts. However, the study of history goes beyond the chronology of events to examine meanings, motivations and experiences and, as such, deals with controversial and sensitive issues.
In dealing with the internment of Japanese Canadians, teachers are directed to the following guidelines adapted from “Teaching About the Holocaust”, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
- Avoid simple answers to a complex history.
Allow students to contemplate various factors that contributed to the internment; do not attempt to reduce internment history to one catalyst (e.g., the internment was not simply the inevitable consequence of racism). Present nuances of human behaviour and strive for precision of language (e.g., all Japanese were not put in internment camps and all Caucasian Canadians did not support internment).
- Just because it happened, doesn’t mean it was inevitable.
Too often, students have the simplistic impression that the internment was inevitable. Just because an historical event took place does not mean that it had to happen. The internment occurred because individuals, groups and nations made decisions to act or not to act. By focusing on those decisions, we gain insight into history and human nature, and better help students become critical thinkers.
- Translate statistics into people.
First-person accounts and memoirs provide students with a way of making meaning out of collective numbers.
- Strive for balance in establishing perspective.
Students may assume that victims may have done something to justify the actions against them, and thus place inappropriate blame on the victims themselves. Rather, the focus should be on the impossible choices faced by the victims.
- Make careful distinctions about sources of information.
Students should distinguish between fact, opinion and fiction. All materials should be identified as primary or secondary sources, fiction, or montages.
- Be sensitive to appropriate written and audio-visual content.
Graphic material should be used judiciously and only to the extent necessary to achieve the objective of the lesson. Teachers should provide a safe learning environment.