I observed the many hardships imposed by camp living but thought little about them at the time. I did not observe anything that suggested there was an emotional toll on the internees. It seemed to me that everyone was trying to adapt and make the most of the situation.
It was only much later as an adult that I learned of the politics that led to the internment and only then did I realize the injustice and racism at play. The forced uprooting, the dispossession, moving to a new location to a new sometimes unfamiliar occupation, the second uprooting when camps closed, and the stress of the events took an emotional toll on families and individuals
I realized that this was not like going to summer camp, which as a child is how I viewed a lot of my experience in Tashme. I began to realize that many, many families had a very difficult adjustment. I learned over time what had happened in sufficient detail that I began to really understand that there was a very serious injustice done to the people of Japanese descent.
For example, fishermen whose livelihood was fishing were sent off to sugar beet farms in Alberta or Manitoba knowing nothing about farming. They had to live in very primitive housing conditions and worked for a farmer who hired them to help him with his crop. Going from being a self-sufficient fisherman with your own business to having to work for somebody in a completely different type of work must have caused enormous emotional trauma.
The so-called “loyalty survey” conducted in 1945 was a huge source of anxiety. Everyone was asked to choose between remaining in Canada or be exiled to Japan. Having lost their assets without consent many felt anger and resentment. Many parents opted to be exiled to Japan even though the children did not want to go. Some signed to be rid of Canada not realizing that life in Japan would be more tumultuous. Some tried to change their decisions and were successful only after a long legal battle. In the end almost 4,000 out of 22,000 sailed to Japan in 1946.
The forced uprooting, the incarceration, the dispossession and dispersal across Canada had a huge physical, emotional and cultural impact on the lives of Japanese Canadians. Their way of life was permanently changed by the experience.