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Nikkei Memorial Internment Centre hosts 30th anniversary ceremony

The Nelson Daily Staff
By The Nelson Daily Staff
June 25th, 2024

The Nikkei Memorial Internment Centre, the only site in Canada located in New Denver that tells the story of how Japanese Canadians were stripped of their rights and sent to the BC Interior during World War II, celebrated its 30th anniversary Saturday.

“Today, New Denver is too beautiful to imagine that it was ever a prison camp, but it was,” Norm Masaji Ibuki, a descendant of family imprisoned in the Slocan Vally said in a speech read by local award-winning Author of Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit, Diana Cole.

“I came here not as a prisoner, but as someone who was looking for the things that were lost to my generation because of the internment. It was here that I managed to put some of the pieces together.”

In 1942, approximately 22,000 Nikkei, people of Japanese decent, were stripped of their civil rights — labeled as “enemy aliens” — were forced from their coastal homes and sent to camps in the BC Interior.

Families that gathered at Vancouver’s Hastings Park were sent relocations camps or sugar beet farms in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

In September 1988, the historic Redress Settlement was signed by then Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Ari Miki, President of the National Association of Japanese Canadians.

The Canadian government issued an official apology and token monetary compensation for property losses suffered at this time.

” . . . it was a few years after the 1988 Redress Settlement, that I started on my journey to understand what it means to be Japanese Canadian in a country where we were imprisoned just for being people of Japanese ancestry,” explained Ibuki, an elementary teacher in Ontario.

“Mom’s family, the Hayashidas, were imprisoned down the way in Slocan City and Bayfarm. And after Dad’s family lost their farm in Surrey, they laboured at a Manitoba sugar beet farm so they could stay together.”

The Nikkei Memorial Internment Centre is located on the south side of Carpenter Creek, on part of the former “Orchard” internment camp. The Centre is within walking distance of the Kohan Garden, Centennial Park and New Denver Campground.

The day-long event, attracting more than 100 people, began with opening remarks and cake cutting Saturday morning.

There was a Uzume Taiko Performance, Martial Arts demonstrations, Shodu Demo as well as workshops before the evening Celebration Dinner.

“Meeting my Japanese Canadian friends in New Denver as I did in 1994, I’m not surprised by what these survivors managed to create here,” Ibuki said.

“The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre is truly a miracle.”

“Through an alchemy only made possible by the love and determination that was poured into this project by the members of the Kyowakai and the residents of New Denver, you are keeping that original vision alive with the same passion as those who planted those seeds in 1994,” Ibuki added.

“You have succeeded in turning what was once a site of confinement and despair into a place of hope and healing.”

Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre was designated a National Historical Site of Canada in 2010.

The National Historic Site tells the story of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were forcibly relocated during World War II. — Submitted photo

The public is invited to visit the New Denver Nikkei Memorial internment centre. — Submitted photo

This post was syndicated from https://thenelsondaily.com
Categories: General

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