Japanese Canadian Blue River Road Camps

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Japanese Canadian Blue River Road Camps

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On December 16, 1941, the Canadian government passed Order-in-Council PC 9760, requiring all persons of Japanese origin in Canada, including those holding Canadian citizenship, to register with the Registrar of Enemy Aliens. The order was passed following the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent declaration by Canada of war on Japan. On January 16, 1942, Order-in-Council PC 365 established as a “protected area” all territory within 100 miles of the coast of British Columbia and, on February 7, all male “enemy aliens” between the ages of 18 and 45 were ordered to leave this area by the 1st of April. Under authority granted in Order-in-Council 1486, on February 26 the Minister of Justice ordered all people of “the Japanese race,” nearly 21,000 Japanese Canadians, to evacuate the protected area.

Established by federal Order-in-Council PC1665 on March 4, 1942, the British Columbia Security Commission (B.C.S.C.) was mandated under the supervision of the federal Department of Labour to organize and oversee the evacuation, which was carried out by the RCMP. During the evacuation, 12,029 persons, mainly women and children, were sent to detention camps in the interior of British Columbia; 3,991 individuals were sent as labourers to sugar beet farms in the prairies; 1,161 established themselves in self-supporting communities; 1,359 were granted special work permits; 699 men were interned in prisoner-of-war camps in Ontario; 111 men were kept in detention in Vancouver; and 42 men were sent back to Japan.

Approximately 945 male Japanese Canadian nationals were sent to road work camps along the proposed route of the Yellowhead Highway between Blue River, British Columbia and Jasper, Alberta. The camps were organized by the federal Department of Labour and operated by the Surveys and Engineering Branch of the federal Department of Mines and Resources.

Beginning in the summer of 1942, following the increasing discontent of Japanese Canadian road camp workers and several strikes, some of the more inefficient road camps were closed, and married men were able to transfer to detention camps, such as those at Hope and in the Slocan Valley, where they could be reunited with their families. The remaining road camps stayed open until the end of the war.

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