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Archival description
Mills, T.S.
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Japanese Canadian Blue River Road Camp Collection

  • MsC-140
  • Fonds
  • 17 Feb. 1942-10 Nov. 1943

Covering the time period from February 1942 to November 1943, the collection consists of records created or received by various staff of the Department of Mines and Resources, Surveys and Engineering Branch in the course of their activities establishing, administering and operating road work camps for evacuated male Japanese Canadian nationals along the proposed route of the Yellowhead Highway between Blue River, British Columbia and Jasper, Alberta. Also included among the files are some records of Department of Public Works staff pertaining to their role in the establishment of the camps, as well as a significant amount of correspondence with the British Columbia Security Commission (B.C.S.C) and related records. In addition to documenting the evacuation of Japanese Canadians from the B.C. coast to interior road work camps and other areas in early 1942, and many of the activities and events that occurred in the camps, the records also provide evidence of the economic and labour conditions in British Columbia during World War II.

Records within the collection pertain to the following road work camps: Albreda, Black Spur, Blacks Spit, Blue River, Gosnell, Grantbrook, Lampriere, Lucerne, Pratt, Pyramid, Rainbow, Red Pass, Red Sands, Tete Jaune / Yellowhead, and Thunder River in British Columbia, and Geikie, Jasper and Decoigne in Alberta. In addition, some records reference detention camps at Greenwood, Kaslo, Lemon Creek, New Denver, Roseberry, Sandon, and Slocan.

Record types include correspondence, reports, lists, nominal rolls, bills of lading, invoices, operational memos, purchase orders, and balance sheets. A significant number of records relate to the establishment and ongoing supply of the road work camps; these include supply orders and invoices, architectural plans for camp buildings, and status and other reports concerning the preparation of camps. Administrative personnel records document the hiring, management and activities of non-Japanese Canadian road camp workers, such as foremen, sub-foremen, and carpenters, and include information pertaining to the previous work and life experiences of these men, their age, ‘character,’ medical conditions, and home address, as well as positions and wages expected and received.

Many records within the fonds relate to the management of Japanese Canadian road camp workers, including the administration of pay, Workmens’ Compensation claims, and payment of assignment fees for dependents; medical and perceived psychological issues and the treatment of such issues; and the movement of Japanese Canadian men between camps and the policies and procedures governing these movements. This includes records pertaining to the granting of temporary leave, transfer to other camps or areas, family re-unification, the release of workers to private jobs, either within B.C. or in another province such as Ontario or Alberta, and the attitudes of certain communities towards Japanese Canadians. Correspondence in several files relates to supervisors’ attitudes towards road camp workers, including those identified as agitators or troublesome, and the methods used to deal with them, such as transfer out of camp and the censorship of Japanese Canadian mail. Included also are records relating to the organization and collective resistance of Japanese Canadian road camp workers, their demands, complaints and refusals to work, and the techniques identified to deal with these situations.

Several files include nominal roles and other lists of Japanese Canadian and other road camp workers, including some or all of the following personal information: name, registration number, occupation, previous work experience, age, place of birth, address, marital status, number of dependents, ‘physical defects’ and medical, dental or mental health issues. Some correspondence from Japanese Canadian road camp workers to camp administrators provides insight into their lives both in camp and prior to evacuation.

Canada. Department of Mines and Resources. Surveys and Engineering Branch.

[Camp nominal rolls, correspondence and other records]

File consists of nominal rolls, correspondence, lists, bills of lading and other records, mainly of W.J. Wishart, Supervising Foreman at Red Pass, with a few letters addressed to R.M. Corning, Assistant Engineer, Blue River and Resident Engineer, Red Pass. The file includes records pertaining to road camps at Yellowhead, Lucerne, Rainbow, Tete Jaune, Red Pass, Grantbrook, and Albreda.

The file contains nominal rolls, also called personnel lists, for Japanese Canadian road camp workers (“Japanese Nationals”) at Grantbrook Camp 5, Rainbow Camp 6, Tete Jaune Camp B12, and Lucerne Camp 2. Information listed in these documents includes some or all of the following: last name, first name or initial, registration number, camp occupation, marital status and number of dependents. The file also includes a list of Japanese Nationals to be transferred from Albreda to Red Sands camp, with the following information: car number, registration number, first and last names, pre-evacuation occupation, and marital status.

Amongst the correspondence in the file is a letter from Chief Engineer T.S. Mills to Corning advising him that staff should be aware of “not divulging either orally or in personal correspondence any confidential information regarding any project or work which has resulted from Canada at war” that might be used by enemy agents, and a telegram to a Japanese Canadian camp worker from his wife advising him of the acquisition of a sugar beet contract and the sale of a Japanese Canadian house. The file also contains correspondence pertaining to the medical treatment of Japanese Canadian road camp workers and the hiring of a first aid attendant, as well as lists, bills of lading and correspondence pertaining to equipment and supplies, in particular groceries, required for various camps.
Several letters within the file concern perceived agitation, organization, demands and complaints amongst the Japanese Canadian road camp workers. These include an April 24, 1942 letter from Wishart to J.H. Mitchell, Senior Assistant Engineer, Jasper, regarding Lucerne camp workers’ refusal to work in protest of the planned removal from camp of seven men identified as “agitators”; a May 1, 1942 letter from Wishart to Mitchell concerning the organization of Albreda camp workers and their refusal to work in protest of the planned transfer of thirty men to Red Sands and numerous conditions at camp that they felt to be unsatisfactory, the resolution of these issues, and plans to quickly identify and “discipline” any future “trouble makers”; as well as an October 6, 1942 letter from Supervising Engineer C.M. Walker in Banff to Corning at Red Pass regarding workers’ demands at Thunder River camp and possible methods of dealing with potential strike action.

[Road camp administration correspondence and related records]

File consists of correspondence and related records of R.M. Corning, Assistant Engineer, Engineering and Construction Service, Blue River with the British Columbia Security Commission (B.C.S.C). Some letters are from the B.C.S.C. to A.W. Brereton, also Assistant Engineer at Blue River. The file includes records pertaining to the following camps: Pyramid, Blue River, Thunder River, Lempriere, Red Sands, Black Spur and Pratt, and the movement of Japanese Canadians to and from the housing centres of Kaslo, Sandon, New Denver, Roseberry, Lemon Creek, Slocan and Greenwood.

Records in the file relate to the administration of road camps and the management of camp workers, and relevant policies, procedures and legislation.

A significant portion of the correspondence and related records concerns requests from camp workers to be transferred to other projects, areas or occupations, including men requesting to be reunited with their wives or other family members; requests from sawmills to hire workers; and the policies surrounding the granting or rejection of these requests. Among these records are a couple of letters in which road camp workers describe their lives and occupations previous to evacuation. A December 1, 1942 document prepared by Corning lists camp workers to be transferred from Black Spur, Thunder River and Red Sands to the housing centres of Slocan, New Denver, and Greenwood, B.C., and includes information such as surname, given name (initial), registration number, locations transferred to and from, as well as the protocol for travel and escort. A January 15, 1943 letter from the B.C.S.C. discusses Ottawa’s opposition to any further hiring of Japanese Canadians for employment in the B.C. lumber industry. Also included in the file are records pertaining to the transfer of Japanese Canadian camp workers from Pyramid camp to Alberta logging camps, the use of “propaganda” to encourage camp workers to go to logging camps in Ontario, and the refusal of some workers to go to logging camps.

Other correspondence and related documents deal with the policies and procedures for granting camp workers leave permits and perceived inefficiencies around the granting of such permits. A January 9, 1943 document lists men in Pyramid Camp seeking fourteen day leave, and includes information such as name, registration number, desired destination, and their relationship to the individuals that they will visit. Several letters discuss the attitudes of particular communities towards Japanese Canadians.

The file also contains correspondence and other documents concerning reportedly unsatisfactory or unruly camp workers. This includes several lists of ‘ineffectives’ to be transferred out of various camps. The lists include information such as name, registration number, age, marital status and destination (eg. Old Man’s Home, hospital, other camps), as well as details regarding the reason for being removed or transferred from camp, such as old age, suspected physical or mental health issues, or refusal to work.

Other records in the file pertain to food supplies, the censorship of Japanese Canadian mail, Workmen’s (Workers’) Compensation Board benefits, workers’ assignment payments, and attempts to get monies owed to Japanese Canadian workers from private companies.

No. 2: Employment (foremen and subforemen) [correspondence and related records]

File consists of correspondence and related records of the Department of Mines and Resources, Surveys and Engineering Branch pertaining to the employment of foremen and sub foremen in the Japanese Canadian road camps along the Yellowhead Highway, including Tete Jaune, Red Pass, Thunder River, Rainbow, Lucerne and Yellowhead, British Columbia, and Decoigne and Geikie, Alberta. Predominant correspondents include C.M. Walker, Supervising Engineer, Banff; J.H. Mitchell, the Senior Assistant Engineer, Red Pass Junctions; T.S. Mills, Chief Engineer; and W.J. Wishart, Supervising Foreman.

The bulk of the material consists of correspondence pertaining to the hiring of foremen and sub foremen, and related personnel issues, including letters of application and recommendation, and offers of employment, which detail information concerning positions, locations and wages. Also included are descriptions of men recommended for hire, including such information as age, character and experience, and lists of foremen and sub foremen containing the following information: name, address, experience, date/method sent for, reply, and remarks, such as why a job was turned down or the age of the individual. In addition, a small number of records in the file pertain to Japanese Canadian road camp workers, including a request for the removal of a ‘troublesome’ camp worker, as well as the attitudes of non-Japanese Canadian staff towards the workers.