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Archival description
Wishart, W.J. Alberta
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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.

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.

Camps

File consists of correspondence and related records of W.J. Wishart at Red Pass Junction in the capacities of Superintendent of Camps and Warehouses, Department of Public Works, and Supervising Foreman, Department of Mines & Resources. The records pertain to the set up and operation of the Japanese Canadian road camps, in particular those at Geikie, Jasper and Decoigne, Alberta, and those at Red Pass, Albreda, Red Sands, Rainbow, Grantbrook, Tete Jaune, Yellowhead, Black’s Spur, Lucerne and Lampriere, British Columbia.
Included in the file are operational memos, purchase orders, balance sheets, reports, and other records pertaining to equipment and supplies for the camps, including groceries and other provisions; office, commissary and first aid supplies; horse feed; lumber; and gas and oil. A work report to February 28, 1942 from Geikie Camp lists names of non-Japanese Canadian workers, their occupations, and hours worked per day; the hours contributed by Japanese Canadian workers, who are listed as a unit of fifty; as well as the total hours worked on establishing camp, kitchen duty, and camp duty. April 1942 reports from Lucerne camp and Grantbrook Camp 5 detail camp activities, including the movement of workers in and out of camp. Also included in the file is correspondence from non-Japanese Canadian men looking for employment, correspondence from the hospital car at Lempriere regarding procedures to follow with regard to medical care of the workers, and correspondence pertaining to the establishment of kitchens and kitchen staff.
Correspondence concerning Japanese Canadian road camp workers relates to medical issues of the men; opinions of supervisors towards individual workers; the transfer of workers between camps and to other areas, such as the sugar beet fields; the granting of leave; and workers that either did not arrive or did not return to camp. The file includes an April 27, 1942 document listing men to be transferred from Albreda to Red Sands, organized according to the railway car in which they travelled, with information such as first and last name, parole #, occupation and marital status. Earlier annotated versions of this list are also included. The file also includes British Columbia Security Commission notices published in the New Canadian newspaper pertaining to pay scales, assignment payments, and other conditions placed on Japanese Canadian road camp workers and their families, as well as alternative employment available. Other correspondence from Albreda and Yellowhead Camp B1 pertains to Japanese Canadian workers refusing to work and encouraging other workers to do the same. An April 2, 1942 “list of some of the real undesirables” from Yellowhead Camp B1 lists the names of five men along with their serial and parole numbers, age, marital status, and a description of their alleged undesirable behaviour, for example refusing to work and encouraging other men to do the same.
In addition to textual records, the file also includes architectural drawings for a “Bunkhouse for 50 men” (front elevation, floor plan, rear elevation, end elevation, cross-sections) and a “Mess building for 100 men” (front elevation, floor plan, end elevation, cross-section).