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COMPENSATING VICTIMS OF WAR. Ottawa hears redress claim of Japanese-Canadians

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BUILDINGS and ships in Pearl Harbor were still smoldering from the sneak attack on the United States Pacific fleet on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police began arresting 38 Japanese citizens in British Columbia as suspected spies. Then, after weeks of clamor in the press and among some politicians, Prime Minister MacKenzie King announced that about 21,000 Japanese and Japanese-Canadians in the province would be moved inland for reasons of national security.

These actions are still echoing in Canada today, as similar steps against Japanese-Americans are in the United States.

The US House of Representatives passed legislation last fall to give Japanese-Americans compensation of $20,000 each for their internment during World War II. A similar bill is to be debated on the Senate floor today or tomorrow. It has 74 cosponsors, more than enough for passage.

About 120,000 Japanese-Americans in California, Oregon, and Washington were interned during World War II; 60,000 to 66,000 survive and would be eligible for the redress payments. The total cost would be about $1.2 billion, spread over five years so as not to add sharply to the federal deficit.

The National Association of Japanese Canadians has called a ``national redress forum'' today in a meeting room in Parliament. It has formed a national coalition for Japanese-Canadian redress, winning the support of more than 100 prominent individuals plus such organizations as the Canadian Labor Congress, ethnic and civil rights groups, and some major church organizations. Top politicians from each of the three major parties will address the forum.

Japanese-Canadians are seeking a lump-sum, individual payment of $25,000 (Canadian; US$20,000) from the Canadian government. That would total about $400 million.

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