Archives opening offers history lesson
Betty Inouye was too young at the time to realize what was happening.
It was 1942 when the seven-year-old and her Japanese-Canadian family were forced to move from Vancouver to Bridge River.
“Life went on,” she told KTW, describing her family’s three-year stay in the small community, one of 15 such camps in B.C. set up to house Japanese citizens living in Canada and Canadians of Japanese origin.
“Kids had lots of fun. We had playmates,” Inouye said.
“There wasn’t that much discrimination because there weren’t a lot of people living there.”
The internment was in response to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, Inouye was at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in North Kamloops for the official opening of the centre’s Japanese-Canadian Museum and Archives.
Inouye was one of eight committee members who helped make the project a reality.
She is the only one who actually lived through internment.
The Museum and Archives, located in the basement of the centre’s 160 Vernon Ave. location, features information displays detailing the B.C. internment camps, documents from the time and even a uniform Japanese men were required to wear at work camps.
Inouye said the process of creating the project has been cathartic.
“I think so,” she said.
“I’ve learned an awful lot.”
But, Inouye already knew an awful lot, too, having worked in the 1980s on getting redress for those interned in the camps.
That wasn’t always the case, though.
At the time, Inouye said, she thought her family had “just moved” to Bridge River.
Inouye’s family was not typical of Japanese internees.
Her father was a physician, so the family was provided special allowances — including the right to keep their car.
And, while many internment camps stayed in place until 1949, Inouye and her family moved in 1945 to Lillooett, where her father had been hired as a doctor.
“By the time I was in high school [in Lillooett], I knew why we had been there,” she said.
The Japanese-Canadian Museum and Archives is open to the public on Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and on the second and fourth Saturday of every month from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
There is no charge to enter the museum and archives.
The internment display is slated to remain in place until the end of the year.