When the war began in 1941 both my parents were attending the University of BC. Their parents were busy and successful in their respective work in the sawmill industry and retail business.
When the government orders came to move Japanese Canadians from the west coast, my parents were expelled from UBC in 1942. My father complained to us bitterly about being stripped of his ROTC uniform. He, my grandfather and uncle were sent to road camp in Schreiber, Ontario, while my grandmother and the younger children were forced to stay in Japan where they had been visiting family. My mother’s family, who had the means to move away, applied to the mayor of Toronto to move there, but were rejected. They were then able to move to Montreal, where my mother was able to complete her university studies at Sir George Williams, now Concordia. My parents met up again in Montreal and married and had their first child there. They moved back to Vancouver in the early 50’s, where I was born.
Since my father’s family were separated during the war, my grandfather became concerned about his wife and young family in Japan, so chose to go there on a Red Cross exchange ship. Because of going there during the war, he was considered a traitor and could not return to Canada following the end of the war, which he had hoped to. The war years in Japan were difficult, to say the least. For my young Nisei uncles, used to speaking English in Canada, and thrust into the Japanese school system, it was very hard and they faced discrimination for being outsiders. My aunt, having grown up in Canada but newly married to a Japanese man, died just a year after her daughter was born, because of the harsh conditions and lack of medical help in the countryside.
My father petitioned long and hard for his family’s return, so finally, his younger brothers and parents were able to return by the mid 50’s. My grandfather, who had been a naturalized Canadian before the war, had to apply for his citizenship again at the age of 81.