Final Journal entries: the following three samples came from a grade 4/5 class. First, as a class, the students brainstormed all of the different concepts and activities covered throughout the unit. Second, individually, the students were given the rest of the period to write their final reflections of what they learned by doing the unit. In the fourth sample, students wrote stories in first-person as if they were interned Japanese Canadians.
Sample 1 (grade 4 student)
All the things we talked about were that the Japanese Canadians were sent to jail for a crime they didn’t commit. The government thought they were spies! Basically, they were sent to jail for no reason, but they were also sent there because they were a different colour. That’s RACISM! I think that’s really unfair. One of the things I learned about is that racism is really bad and I think no one should do it! The Japanese Canadians lost their homes and they were told to take everything they could carry and that’s it. It was very crowded in the camp. I think they had no right to be sent there. If that was me, I don’t know what I would do, but I am sure I would teach other people not to be like they were back then.
Sample 2 (grade 5 student)
In 1940-1945, all of the Japanese Canadian people in Vancouver BC, were put in internment camps in Hastings Park in Vancouver. They were taken out of their homes, and their houses and boats were all auctioned off. They were put into small shacks. At that time there was a war going on with Canada and Japan. All of the Japanese Canadian people were put into internment camps because the government thought they might be spies. All the babies, adults, children and old people were put into the camps. It was racism. Canada was also at war with Germany, but all of the German Canadian people that lived in Canada were not put in internment camps. How come all of the German Canadian people were not accused of being spies? In 1945 the war ended. Not one Japanese Canadian person ended up being a spy.
Sample 3 (grade 5 student)
Before these lessons about the Japanese Canadians, I never knew that the government of Canada did these racist acts. They put innocent Japanese Canadians in internment for a stupid reason. The reason is: they thought these people were spies since Canada was at war with Japan. They put babies, kids, teens, adults and seniors. They were put in these small houses. 12 people were in each of these cramped houses. They were treated badly. This all happened in the 1940’s. After the war, these people were released from the internment camps. They were allowed to move to another province other than BC or go back to Japan.
Sample 4 (grade 7 student)
My name is Sanako. Many years ago, when I was only a 12 year-old girl, I was ordered to leave everything. My home, beautifully furnished, with electricity and running water, was left behind. My family had owned a beautiful house. It had a garden in the backyard, where we grew fresh fruit for breakfast. I had my very own room, my own space to relax in. We owned a shop in the city. My father worked as a mechanic to earn his living and support the family. With that money, he sent me to school. I went to public school and had many friends. My younger sister, Sinushu, was not yet old enough to go to school, but would be starting next year. She was so excited. But my sister would never get the education she deserved.
I remember that terrifying day when my family was told to report to the train station immediately. Because of the war between Japan and Canada, people of the Japanese race were not to be trusted. We were forced to go.
As we arrived at the train station, two soldiers approached my father and took him away. I could not hold back the tears that streamed down my face. I thought I would never see him again.
We boarded our train at the station, still unsure of where Father was, and what they had done to him. Sinushu was as happy as ever! She thought that we were going on a big trip! But she wondered where we were going. I did too.
We arrived at a large camp. There were many cabins and tents set up. I saw some of my friends from school. But something was different here. I realized that no matter where I looked there were only Japanese people. Not a single Caucasian, except for the soldiers watching over us all, holding their guns. We were told to report to cabin number five. My mother led the way. The cabin was about the size of my room back at home, but I could see from the beds set up that we’d be sharing this room. There were ten beds in all. Another family had already moved in. That left one bed empty. Who could it be for? “Father!” Sinushu’s cry brought me back to consciousness. Of course! My father! He was back. I still went to school at the camp and now Sinushu could come too! But it wasn’t quite like school at home. We were taught by nuns and children of all ages were in one class. For fun, I played sports and games with the other kids. We had a great time!
Finally, after several years had passed, the war came to an end. My family moved back to Japan. The Canadian government had taken away all of our possessions and sold them. We had nothing in Vancouver to go back to. In Japan, we had family and friends.
Now, at age 56, the government has apologized and offered money to those Japanese Canadians treated unfairly. I do not feel that this is acceptable. They took everything away from us. Our homes, our jobs, our education and our youth are all in the past. No money the government offers us will ever bring that back.