Ian Baird, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 17 January 2018

Ian Baird, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 17 January 2018

Abstract
Ian talks about his experience researching his family’s relationship with Asian Canadians and anti-Asian racism, which started with his investigation of the organization Native Daughters of BC of which his grandmother was a member. However, he later discovered another branch of his family which had close relationships with Japanese Canadian fishermen, and led him to meet a number of Japanese Canadians and non-Japanese Canadians from Vancouver Island with fond memories of friendships among the different groups. He makes comparisons between the immigrant experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Southeast Asian communities he interacts with in his primary research, and also emphasizes the affection and lack of anti-Asian racism among white people who grew up with Japanese Canadians, compared to those even a few years younger. He shares many stories from different interviews with Japanese and non-Japanese Canadians of the connections between the groups, and life in Nanaimo and the fishing industry.
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Carolyn Nakagawa (CN)
This is Carolyn Nakagawa, for the Landscapes of Injustice research project. Oh - and I'm here with Ian Baird, it's January 17, 2018, and we're here to do Dr. Baird's oral history. Uh, so, Ian - can I call you Ian?
CN
Yeah, okay Laughs.. Can I start just by asking you to sort of give me an introduction to, yourself, in the context of your family history and the research you've been doing, and?
IB
Sure, so, I was, my family on my dad's side originally comes from Nanaimo, BC, where they immigrated from northern England and Scotland in 1908, or 18- 1908, 1909. So they were immigrants to Nanaimo on my dad's side. Um, my mother comes from back East, in Quebec City actually, but she's a Scottish and Irish Canadian from there. Um, after my parents were married, then, my mum moved to British Columbia, and we, I was brought up in Victoria for the most part, even though I was born in Penticton. But I spent a lot of time as a child in Nanaimo with my grandmother on my father's side. And also, summertimes I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. So I have a lot of relatives, different cousins and stuff in Nanaimo, so I spent a lot of time as a child in Nanaimo. I never really lived there, but I spent a lot of time there and I knew a lot of people. And so, and I have a, even now I own a cabin, on Cameron Lake which is about ... maybe forty-five minutes outside of Nanaimo to the north of Nanaimo on the road to Port Alberni, that my family has owned since 1945. So I have, my links are sort of in the Nanaimo area. Um, I have a...most of my research in the past has been, in Southeast Asia, I won't talk about that in detail, because it's not that relevant for this interview, but, just to give a little bit of background, I went to Southeast Asia first when I was nineteen years old, and I ended up living the better part of twenty-five years there. And it was only in the early 2000s that I came back. Um, started spending part of my time in Canada, in Victoria. And then, after I got my PhD in 2008, then I was hired as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the United States. But most of my research is in Southeast Asia, or with Southeast Asian Americans. And Canadians, especially Hmong and Lao people, and Thai people. So, for that reason, uh, my, and the reason that I really became interested in the topic of Japanese Canadians in Nanaimo is because of the history of my own family there. And, I'll explain that a little bit more afterwards, but I think, as a sort of general background to who I am, so I’m an associate professor right now, of Geography, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I live. I do a lot of research in Southeast Asia. And this is not my major research project, but it is one that I've become interested in, over the last couple years, because I come every year to stay in my cabin, and therefore I'm in that area anyway and I've taken advantage of that to do some archival research and interviews with family members and other people. And then, more recently with a lot of Japanese Canadians.
CN
Hm. So actually could you tell me about the project that you're working on?
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IB
Sure. So, it's, the project that I'm working on now, that relates to Japanese Canadians in particular, really came out of...work that I started to do in um, archival work that I started to do in Nanaimo in August 2016. So at that time I went to the Nanaimo Archives, and I started to actually look into an organization that my grandmother had been a member of. It was called the Native Daughters of British Columbia. And my feeling was, my grandmother had, her, my great-grandmother had immigrated to Canada, just a few years before my grandmother was born. So I was a bit, I was wondering well, why was it that my grandmother was a member of this organization that, they were calling themselves native daughters and yet, they were really quite recent immigrants. And so...I was thinking this was a kind of erasure of, you know, First Nations...claims to nativeness. And, so, because of my interest in sort of ethnic and racial issues, I wanted to kind of, develop a kind of methodology for thinking about looking at one's own family to see their embeddedness, within, you know, injust practices and ideas related to Asians, in particular, because of my work in Southeast Asia, my wife...is from Thailand originally...um, so you know my kids are growing up as Asian Americans. So anyway that was, that was kind of...so, as a result of that, and then I learnt about the Native Sons, of British Columbia, the archivist in Nanaimo said, you know the Native Daughters, you know, they weren't doing that much, but the Native Sons, you know, they were the ones that were more, uh...politically active. And so I looked at a bunch of materials they had and, there was a lot of material, including a kind of a manifesto in which they were arguing for, not giving citizenship to Japanese Canadians. And they were also arguing, against giving citizenship to Canadian, Chinese Canadians, as well. And, so, I wrote an article that was recently published in the Canadian Geographer, in which I look at the Native Sons and Daughters, what their policies were, in particularly, focussed on Nanaimo, and also linking that up to my own family members, and their own involvement, their involvement of some of them, within, not in a very, uh...they weren't in leadership positions really, but they were members and they were involved, and uh, so assumably, they agreed with some of their policies. And so I was sort of interrogating that a little bit, through the archival materials, and also some, of my own personal memories from when I was a kid? And some of the things that, uh, and also thinking about the transformation of my family. When my father was a child, he was in Nanaimo, if he saw an Asian person, a Chinese person cooking, in the kitchen of a restaurant, he would refuse to eat the food.
CN
Hm.
IB
At that time. Okay? And. Uh...but, later on, he worked for the Bank of Montreal, and later he met some Chinese Canadians in Victoria, Ed Chu and Jim Wong, who became his lifelong business partners. And, close friends. He worked for them for over forty years. So he went from, refusing to eat food, to, them being his trusted, business partners and always got on well with them until he retired. So he owned some pubs with them and restaurants and stuff, so they did a bunch of business together, and got on very well for many many years. So I was interested in that transformation, and I was interested in...you know I know Nanaimo, I spent a lot of time there as a child, so I kind of know that it's a very working-class, blue-collar community, and I know there's a lot of racism, against Asians. When I married my wife in 1990, you know, my grandmother was still alive, and, she never said anything, but I certainly got the sense that she was a little bit disappointed? You know, she never said anything, she knew it would have been improper to do that, but...you know, it was something...there was, there was big changes over the course of her life. I think. Um, and so I was interested in interrogating that, and I wanted to also, um, rather than always studying places that...that were far away, and not...linked to my own family's history, I wanted to look at my own family's history in places and reconnect a little bit with that place and Nanaimo in particular, and some of my relatives there.
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IB
So then I wrote this article which I kind of developed what I would call, the title of it is An Anti-Asian Racism kind of...methodology, so...that included really interrogating, my own...entanglement of my own family members in, racist structures that existed. Okay, so that was how it started. Then last summer, in August, 2017, I returned again, for another month, and I went back to the archives, and I connected with another branch of my family. Who I had not really had any contact with for thirty, forty years. So I knew who they were, they're basically like second cousins, or second cousins once removed, and, I didn't really know them that well when I was a kid, but I kind of knew who they were a little bit, so I kind of reconnected with them, they're actually the Bairds, so on my father's side, my grandfather's side. And I encountered some very surprising things, for me, because my first research had really been focussing on...the injustices that my family had been part of? And untangling that? In a non-...you know, without being defensive about it. Right, as a kind of a way to contribute to making the world a better place and a more just place. Right, but, when I went and visited...it actually started when I visited one of my dad's, my, second cousins? Her name is Mary Baird. It's now Mary Dougan, but it used to be Mary Baird. And she was the son of a fisherman, Eke Baird, who was another, he was a cousin...and she's eighty-six years old now. And she has Alzheimer's, but she went to Brechin School in Nanaimo? And when I went and met her, I couldn't really talk about present-day things with her, she thought she was still living in another city...even though they've sold her house now, so she couldn't really tell me much about present-day events, but she had a wonderful...she made some very interesting comments about when she was a child. And one of the things she said to me right off the bat was what a travesty...and she, the thing about it is, is that because she has Alzheimer's, she doesn't always remember what she said to me a few minutes ago? So she repeats herself? So she would ask who I was quite often. And one thing that came out was she kept saying...what a travesty it was when the Japanese internment happened. And she mentioned to me two girls that had been in her class, in grade one or grade two, named, one of them's named Emiko Yoshida. And there was another Yoshida girl who, she couldn't remember the name of, but they had been her very close friends, in school and she lived down...her father was a fisherman right, in the Japanese area, in Stewart Avenue, in Nanaimo, and so, not only was she going to school with these Japanese kids, but she was also, um, her father was fishing with them, and she lived, you know a few doors down from them, and so she had a very uh, a lot of interactions with Japanese Canadians at that time. And so, she kept telling me, about her two best friends being taken away from her and how traumatized she was by that, and then we would talk about something else, and she would come back and say it again. And it became clear to me that, this was something that, this was an event in her life that had been meaningful. That had - you know, because she kept saying it over, again, you know, and she didn't know that I, what my interest is. She didn't understand what my research was about. I was just asking about her life, and I didn't really, I wasn't expecting her to...if anything I was expecting her to have those older racist views, not to be coming out and saying how terrible it was that this happened. And she was telling me about how her mother gave bracelets to the Japanese kids when they left, and so...she was, this was a kind of a different kind of picture than what I had...seen in the archives and what I had been researching initially. This was somebody who...was outraged by what had happened. And she's a totally white person, right, and. So that was the first thing where I started to realize oh, there's something else going on here. Then I went and met another cousin of mine, named Glen Baird. He's actually my third cousin. Um, and he had some photographs. And we were looking through the photographs. And, there was a postcard. There was a postcard that was sent by, uh, Kashi, Uyeyama, who's, who uh, and so he had sent this postcard to....Glen Baird's grandfather, who is a close friend of his, saying dear, Ed and Peg, I'm writing you this letter, to let you know that I’ve gotten married, that I've, met Marge, Uyeyama, we've gotten married, this is a picture of us, and it's a picture of the couple on the postcard, and it's dated, you know 1943, sent from Slocan. So it's, sent from internment. Okay, so...they, and he ends by saying, my good friends Ed and Peg. So, he was corresponding with my relatives, my cousins, at that time, and...uh...Glen was also telling me, you know how they had a lot of interaction with Japanese kids when they were growing up, and how - so this was a totally different story than what I'd initially done my research on the year before. It was like wow, these are...and then I went and met his father, Gord Baird, who was a fisherman for over twenty-seven years, and he had, started fishing from before...internment. When he was very very young, with his father. And then had also continued to fish after internment with, with Jap- with the Uyeyamas. And so, he had a lot of, and these guys are kind of you know, they're...blue-collar, people, very working-class people from Nanaimo who've, you know, hardly been out of Nanaimo for their lives, fishermen, loggers, their family were miners when they came to Canada. I mean, these are, poor people. And you know, you would typically, think of them as kind of, like, rednecks or something like that. In that, they're kind of like that. And yet...they could all, they told me, oh we can all eat with chopsticks, we can all eat, like, we know, we're like very familiar with Japanese food, we used to go out fishing, and, you know, the Japanese, like, we would raft up our boats together, and then we would, like, one of the Japanese would have made food and then we'd all sit down and eat together. And so, I was hearing all this stuff, which really surprised me based on what I'd done my research on the year before. It was, it seemed to be a totally, and I even heard...and then, you know Gord Baird started telling me all these stories. One of them was, about him and his father, coming back from fishing, and they would, there was a Japanese family on one of the islands, a very small island, it's adjacent to Jesse Island. Um, it was a very small island that just had one house on it. And they would stop, coming back fishing because they knew this family really well. And...he doesn't remember the full name of them but they, they called them K.I.. Which is probably an abbreviation for a Japanese name, and so they'd...uh, you'd dock their boat, but there wasn't really a shore, you had to like a, have a ladder, to climb up onto the island. So they would climb up, and, always this, family would have...they would always have food. So they would go there to get food after, they were friends with them and they would go up there and they would eat with them and Gord remembers, that the woman of the house...you know he asked...initially when he went there...he asked well, do you have a fork to eat with? And, she said oh nonononono, you have to USE the chopsticks. Once you learn how to eat with the chopsticks...then I'll give you a fork. And of course, he learned how to eat with chopsticks. And then, he never got the fork. Carolyn Laughs. Um.
00:17:26.000
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IB
And so he would go there, commonly with his father. And so this was his, kind of early experience, with Japanese...you know, Canadians who were living there, before internment, you know, he's in his eighties now, so he was a young boy at that time. But, you know, the stories went on, because...one thing that became clear was that Ed Baird, who was Gord Baird's father, who is now dead...he...appears....he, I was told that he was a great friend of Kashi Uyeyama, that they were very close friends. And I even started to hear stories that Ed Baird had helped him when he came back after internment. When he finally came back to Nanaimo in the 1950s. And I even heard that him and, a great-uncle of mine, who was also a fisherman, named Joe Antrobus, who also lived down on Stewart Avenue with the Japanese, had, they had...on the offseason, the fishing offseason, they would go and work up at Comox, building barracks for the military. And somehow they'd gotten some extra wood and they'd built a house or they'd helped to...get some accommodation for Kashi when he had his family when they came back to Nanaimo. So this was uh... you know really the opposite of what I'd kind of written about in terms of the Native Sons and Daughters. And, my initial thought was, okay, well, this is really interesting. But uh...you know. Maybe they're just like...disillusioned, like, maybe this is, maybe the Japanese Canadians have a very different view of this, they might not...maybe they didn't see the friendship as being so close or, you know, maybe they...maybe this is just in their heads, you know and this is, and really the relationship wasn't as good as, you know there's power dynamics that exist and maybe there was more power dynamics than they realized, and in fact, uh, these people were being oppressed but they, you know dominated, but maybe they just weren't...letting on, or something like this. So I was a bit skeptical, I said, well I can't, you know, base some kind of writing just simply on the reports from my relatives, right, I need to check into this. So I started to say well how can I talk to some Japanese Canadians, and they, by that time there's almost no Japanese Canadians living in Nanaimo. So they gave me some names, they said oh, look for Midori, or Shig Uyeyama, you know, we knew them when they were kids, but, I don' t know where they live now, we heard that maybe Shig's in Ottawa but I haven't heard from him for years, so...I started to search around, to try to find people, eventually I did find Midori, and I did find Shig - I came, I actually came to the Vancouver Maritime Museum and looked at the exhibition that they had there, and then I got the book that Masako Fukuda (Fukawa) and Stan had written, and then from there I got, the email address of here, of the National Museum
the interview is taking place in the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre
, and then from there I managed to get Masako's email, and then from Masako I managed to contact Shig, and Midori, and so...anyway, I eventually connected with them, and then from them I connected with other Japanese Canadians, some of who are, in the mainland, like Ron Araki and Mits Sakai in Vancouver and Steveston and then...you know other people who had some Nanaimo roots as much as I could find? The Yoshidas, and the Shimozawas. Uh, who had. And so I started to interview them, and talk to them about what their experiences had been, in Nanaimo, both before internment and after internment, those who had returned. And I started to learn about that part of the story. And, you know, they largely, kind of confirmed what my relatives had told me, that their relationships were very close. And they knew my relatives very very well. And they hadn't had much recent contact with them, but they had very good experiences with them earlier. And so I thought wow, okay, this is interesting, and then I also started to realize that, you know, there'd been almost nothing really written about the Japanese community in Nanaimo, that there's been very very little, written, it's kind of one of the forgotten communities, there's been much more work done in Steveston and Vancouver, and much less so in those smaller communities. I started to talk to people like Paul Kariya who, mentioned that, you know that there had been like, hadn't been much in Ucluelet, where he comes from, and so we, I started to realize that there was a research gap. I had kind of assumed that all this work had been done years ago, and it started to become evident to me that it hadn't all been done, at least for Nanaimo. So that it was something that was worth doing. And...in terms of, my decision, initially was, okay I'm going to write a second article. And, while the first article had been focussed on, sort of creating, a...you know an anti-Asian racism methodology, I sort of realized well actually there's, one part of that methodology is sort of, confronting one's own histories, the negative sides of that and acknowledging what happened, in a non-defensive way as a way to kind of moving on, and you know, and so that's, why, that's the point I make in the first article, but I realize that really there's another part of that methodology that I didn't mention in the first article, and that is that...as much as we need to confront the negative, and the aspects of our families' histories, in certain things that happened, we...might also benefit from...celebrating when, when warranted...and not celebrating for...you know, just for the purposes of being celebratory, but, when there is justification, to celebrate those, positive relationships that existed at that time. Uh, as well. Because that's also part of an anti-Asian racism, is to understand that there were good relationships that also existed. And then, I also started to notice that there'd been a lot of, there's been you know, a fair bit of research done...on the, internment issue, which is obviously, focussing on the trauma, that Japanese Canadians went through at that time, and rightly so, I mean that's what the focus should be, you'd expect that that would be the starting point. But, there has been much less, on the uh...if one was to read that...research, one might assume that, almost all the white people were happy for the Japanese Canadians to leave. That this was a systemic thing that, virtually every white people wanted Japanese Canadians out of here, because, that's what the focus has been is all the atrocities that were committed. And I'm not denying that any of those things didn't occur. In fact, I'm sure they did. But I think the other side of it is...that they were...as much as they were racist people and they were racist actions and they were unjust things that happened, all of which are important to acknowledge...but they were also some, positive friendships that existed between Japanese Canadians and white people. And that really nobody had written about those, I mean there was one, when I went to the exhibition at the Maritime Museum...there was one picture of a white...guy, with a whole bunch of Japanese Canadians, they were fishing together, or something was going on, but there's no commentary about who this guy was or, were they friends, but clearly there was something, they'd been doing something together. I'm not sure where the photo came from, but there was no really...but apart from that, if you go through that exhibition, or you look at the books, there's no mention of relationships with white people. As if they didn't exist at all. And...so I thought okay, maybe it's worth looking into this a little bit more. You know, what, you know...and I think, through the research that I'd done...and it's not that I found that there have never been any, that there was no racism at all, there was. And, there were, some stories that I've heard that were, you know, after, before and after, internment in Nanaimo that did indicate that there were some nasty things said and there were some painful experiences that people went through. So it wasn't...you know ALL good, but at the same time, there were also some surprising things that happened, that seemed to indicate, for example, one woman was telling me, the other day, in Nanaimo, she's ninety years old now. Her name is Pauline Parkin. And she went to Brechin School in 1934-35. She's ninety years old. And, at that time, judging from the school photographs, it was about forty percent of the student population were Japanese Canadians. There were no Chinese Canadians living in that area. There were just white people, of various ethnicities. And Japanese Canadians. And so...you know she...told me about, Japanese Canadian friends that she had, and, she also sort of said something similar to what Mary, my cousin Mary had said, earlier, you know how, what a travesty it was, and she also said that you know, when the Japanese Canadians were being taken away, that, you know a number of people who had been friendly with them, had gone down to see them off? And that everyone was standing around and they were all crying...you know, that everyone was so sad, that this had happened and nobody could understand WHY it was happening, and so...you know. That's part of the story. Um, that I started to hear.
00:27:18.000
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IB
Another, interesting thing that happened, when I was in Nanaimo was, there was a volunteer at the Archives. Who is named Jill Stanford. She's ninety years old, and she said, oh, I've got a friend who knew Japanese when they were in Nanaimo. And so she phoned up this woman, who's named Daphane Niven, nee Smith. And uh, she said to me oh yeah, I had this friend, who's Mary Shikatani. Who was, who I went to school with, and she's also ninety years old. And so I went over and interviewed Daphane, and she told me about how she had gone to school with Mary, and then Mary had left with internment and then she felt so badly that, she hadn't had a chance to say goodbye to Mary? And so, she, tried to find her. She doesn't know exactly when, maybe sometime in the 1970s? She sent a letter to Chatelaine magazine, and asked to post, that she was looking, they had this thing where you could look for people that you had, lost touch with? So she, put in the name Mary Shikatani and what she knew about her, and she put it in Chatelaine, and somehow...somebody read it, and...got her in touch with Mary. So then she got in touch with Mary and they started corresponding and she said oh, I'm still in touch with Mary now! I said well where does Mary live, well she lives in New York City. But she's born in Nanaimo. So then I got her phone number and I phoned Mary, and talked with Mary. And she's in very good health, even though she's ninety years old. Born in Nanaimo, she didn't leave there until she was twelve or thirteen, so she has some vivid memories. And, generally she confirmed what others had said, which was that you know, it wasn't a bad place in Nanaimo in those days, generally she felt that she was treated pretty well, and that she has another friend there, a white woman named Catherine, Russell...oh not, it's actually Catherine Griffin nee Russell, who she had been friends with at school, who she ALSO still keeps contact. So then she connected me back to this ninety-year-old woman, ANOTHER ninety-year-old woman, in Nanaimo, who I wrote, who I talked to on the phone, and she...also said oh, what a travesty when that all happened and, you know we were all kinds of ethnic groups when I was going to school, she said. She actually said, in those days it was like the League of Nations. Which of course, you know, predates the United Nations, and just gives you a sense of, you know the time period that she's growing up. Right, but anyway, she said this, but, I think the most interesting thing about what Mary...told me, I think, was that...when...you know, she had had a generally positive experience, her father was a relatively better off Japanese Canadian, he had a shoe shop or he - oh, he actually worked for a lumber company called Bevan Lumber but, was somehow involved in a shoe shop, shoe repair shop as well. And, were better off than some of the other Japanese Canadians living in Nanaimo. Um...and, you know, her experience was generally positive, but there was one thing that happened, that...stuck in her head up to now. Uh, there was a shopkeeper, that she used to walk by, every day, in her, as she was in the neighbourhood that she lived in, which was sort of downtown Nanaimo. And, the shopkeeper would call her Sunshine. Somewhat of an affectionate term, and you know, that you say for a kid, you know? And fairly positive. And, uh...so this guy would, frequently...do this, say this to her, when she came by, and she had a positive impression of him. The day that they left. When they had all their luggage packed up and...her siblings and her parents were walking down the street, you know on their way, out of Nanaimo, carrying whatever they could carry, when they were leaving, that same shopkeeper that had called her Sunshine...yelled out to them, came out of the shop and yelled out, oh, you, you dirty little Jap. To Mary.
CN
Oh.
IB
And, Mary...was very hurt by that. Because she had been... you know, always...called Sunshine by this guy, and then, at the moment she's leaving, this guy is, calling her a dirty little Jap. You know? And, um...that stuck in her head for over seventy-five year, almost seventy-five years now. You know, since that happened. You know, over seventy-five years. And I've been thinking a lot about that comment myself...how does that happen? How does somebody go, I mean...if the shopkeeper did not like her before, didn't like Japanese before, you think he would have just been quiet and said nothing. But instead he was calling her Sunshine. And then all of a sudden he's calling her a dirty little Jap. I mean, how does that transformation happen? Is it, you know a societal...fear, that occurred in the war. You know, what was it that happened, what was the...societal process that led to that kind of comment? I've been asking a few Japanese Canadians myself. They don't quite know what to make of it either. But I think...it does indicate...a huge contradiction. That existed, and I think...overall, I think the conclusion of my second paper, is going to be that in some ways...maybe those days in the past were as complicated as the present day, in the sense that we have people there, in those days who...were generally friendly, and felt that these Japanese Canadians were their close friends...and there were others who were, you know much less positive, either avoided or, maybe outrightly, occasionally outrightly, racist, but probably more often just, being a little distant? You know. Um, so...you know, we need to think about the past and the people involved there in a diverse way, and not just stereotype them all, and think of them as all of having the view, because many of them did not understand what the government was doing at that time, they didn't agree with it. And yet, it happened. And so I think that's...kind of an important, lesson that I'm taking from all this, and that we need to, that there's a real value in thinking about, studying those relationships that existed. Rather than just, right now...the BC government and the BC, uh, you know a lot of the people, who were involved in, you know the...they're treated in a kind of monolithic way. Without maybe sufficient...I mean not everyone does that , but I mean it, there's a...I think there's, there needs to be more of an effort to look at what the common people thought. Who were not involved in creating policy, I mean there's been, written about, you know the debates that occurred within the government, of high-level officials but what about, those kids that were going to school, what about the families that, all of a sudden...this was all happening around them? What did they think? I think there has been less...done on that, and so, I felt that this is something that I would like to look at.
00:34:39.000
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IB
I mean, to come back to my own relatives a little bit...so. Um...Ed Baird, who was my dad's second cousin...no I guess he...yeah. Second, yeah, uh, well actually first cousin once removed I guess he was. He...you know, appears to have, either gone to school, or at least he lived very close by, Kashi Uyeyama, they were born around the same time, I think, they probably went to school together, Kashi Uyeyama was the first Japanese Canadian to go to school in Nanaimo in the public school, in the mid-1920s. And, Ed Baird probably went to that same school around that same time. They lived next to each other and later on they fished together. And, this was before the war. Kashi Uyeyama was twenty-seven when internment happened. And him and his brothers, and father, they all were sent away for internment, but...they, after they had been in Slocan, the father and the children, the father decided to take everyone back to Japan. So they returned to Wakayama, where they came from. And...you know...according to the youngest brother, there's still one, youngest brother of Kashi Uyeyama who’s alive now who lives in Toronto named George Uyeyama, he's about eighty years old now. He's a prominent member of the Japanese community in Toronto. I've spoken with him on the phone a few times. And he...doesn't have much of a memory of Nanaimo, he was two years old when he left to go to internment, but...he remembers, studying in a secret Japanese school, in internment camp that was disallowed by the RCMP but yet they were studying there. And then...his father was distributing the Shinpo Japanese newspaper from Colorado? He was the distributor in Slocan for that newspaper? And then when the war ended and they went back to Japan...because he'd been studying at that secret school, he had some background in Japanese language, in terms of not only speaking but, he could read and write a little bit. So he could integrate into Japan not too, difficultly, and he did very well, actually in school there and, didn't really have any problems himself. However his older brothers, who by then were...in their late twenties, early thirties, when they went back to Japan, and had all been born in Canada, and went to school in Canada. They spoke Japanese, but...not like people in Japan. They were treated very poorly, when they went back. They had a hard time, according to him. They were labelled as Americans. Nobody knew what Canadians were. It was a hard time to go to Japan in 1946. You know after the war, you know it was a hard economic time, and then they were labelled Americans and they weren't really accepted, they didn't have the Japanese education, like other people. And so, you know after some years, Kashi Uyeyama he wanted to return to...when he realized, in the early fifties that it was possible to come back to Nanaimo, to the coast again, his desire was to return. So he was the first one to come back. And, he contacted, uh, the details of it are something we're still looking into, but, it appears that he made contact with my cousin Ed Baird who has been described as his best friend, one of his best friends. And that, and they had fished together but...at the time, Ed Baird was...fishing for Western Fish, company? And it looks like what happened is he kind of guaranteed Kashi...allowed Kashi to come back and, fish with Western Fish. Because he was fishing with them and he knew them, and he sort of said this is my old friend and he, we used to fish together and...was helped to arrange for that. So then Kashi came back. Was fishing, during the offseason one year though, he was working with Ed Baird to replank a dock there in Nanaimo and uh, he fell off the wharf. And broke his leg very badly. So then, you know they had to help him to, you know. So then he had to fish even more because, he couldn't really walk around in the docks anymore, he couldn't work on the docks. So he had to, but he could still sit and...so he was able to make some money. And then he, got his wife and his kids that were in Japan to come back. So they came back in the mid-fifties to, Nanaimo. And, meanwhile, his brothers, his two brothers...uh, oh I think, maybe Jimmy may have come back with him, but Noboru, had gone to Toronto, with George, his youngest brother. And they had gone to work in a mushroom factory, that's how they manage to get their fare to go back, so they had a contract to work three years in a mushroom factory, farm in Ontario. And then he'd heard that Kashi was out there, he also had been an adult when he left Nanaimo, so he knew how to fish. He'd also been fishing, he was the second son. And so he...I think Kashi was born in 1914 and Noboru was born 1916. So anyway...Noboru came out and fished for a couple summers just to see how it was and, use some of those Western, Fish Company boats that Kashi had already gotten, his foot in the door, and got his brother, to do that, and after he saw that things were good, then he moved his whole family, out to Nanaimo, but, you know, the youngest brother George, he had never been a fisherman, he had left for three years, didn't have that background. Therefore stayed in Ontario and never came out West. And still lives there now. But the others came, the ones who had been fishers, they wanted to go back to fishing again. So they had come out, and so the three brothers that ended up fishing in Nanaimo again were Kashi, and then Noboru, who, his nickname was Gump, and then Jimmy, was, I forget what his Japanese name is, but, they call him Jimmy. So they came and the three of them fished. And they came back and fished with my three cousins who were, Ed Baird, but also he had two brothers, one was Eke Baird and the other one was Jack Baird. And those three cousins, and then also with my great-uncle, who was married to my grandfather's sister, who was also a fisherman, Joe Antrobus, and they all fished together, and they made up what they called the Nanaimo Fleet. And they would fish up near Spider Island together and they would raft their boats up together at night, and they were fishing for salmon, and they were fishing.
00:41:16.000
00:41:16.000
IB
So this was um...you know, this, and when I've talked to, you know Japanese Canadians on the mainland, about white people, rafting, putting their boats together at night with Japanese when they were fishing, they were very, they said Oh we've never heard of that before. That that typically didn't happen in the mainland. So there seemed to be something...unusual about the situation in Nanaimo. Um, and the relationships that existed there, that the fact that they were, fishing so closely together. Um, and so I think...that also indicated to me that, there was some need to document this because, yeah the three Uyeyama brothers, the three Baird brothers and, you know another, some other white, and they had called the Nanaimo Fleet and they would...go together and stuff like this. So this I think is a kind of important thing. Now, one issue that I should...that's also come up, through my research, is the question of boat confiscation. So...um. And since I'm, sort of focussing on the Uyeyama family. Because there were two other families that came back to Nanaimo as well? One was the Shimozawa family, so Walt Shimozawa came back? With his wife Audrey, who still lives over here? Walt's dead but, she's still alive, she was born in Port Alice actually? But, she hadn't been brought up in Nanaimo, but she came back with Walt, in the early sixties from Alberta. They'd been in the sugar beet farms and then...returned. But, he didn't come back to fish. By then, he'd become a... a body man, on car repair, so he came back to work...as a body man. The Yoshidas had come back and opened up the Grotto, which was a very, which was like, one of the best restaurants they had in Nanaimo in the 1970s and '80s. And so, they had opened the Grotto. But the ones that, only ones that came back to fish were the Uyeyamas. The others had returned, two other families had returned, but not to fish. So, I kind of focussed on the ones that were really close to my relatives were the Uyeyamas, because they were fishermen and, so were my relatives. So they fished together. So, that's why I’ve been kind of focussing on them a little bit. In fact Noboru himself was, sent to Angler, Ontario. Because he had...uh, he had gone to Vancouver after December, '41, and was staying there, and somehow went out...after curfew. And they caught him, and then they assumed he was doing some sort of subversive activities, even though apparently he was not? But just because he was out after curfew, the assumption was that, he was? So he was sent off to, to Angler, Ontario, for his internment period. Uh, separated from his family at that time. So, but one of the things I think that is, I been thinking about a little bit was, the confiscation of the boats, so. Noboru had one boat that was confiscated, and we have a record of that. Um, a fairly...regular process. Kashi Uyeyama, according to his interview with Kirsten McAllister in 1990, Kashi did a one and a half hour interview which is available online, of Kashi, which is a great resource, actually. And in that interview, he explains that he actually had three boats in 1942. In fact, one of those boats was the one his father used, which was probably under his name, but it was actually his father's boat. And then the other two were his boats. One of the boats, he seemed to have sold between December '41 and April '42, he'd sold it on his own. Because, there were only two recorded as being confiscated. And he explains in his interview that he seem to have sold one. Which I think in itself is an interesting observation, that there were some, that it was possible to sell a boat...between the time that Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the time that people were interned. Because, I think the assumption has been that all the boats were confiscated but, he may have been able to sell that one boat, because it's not listed. But he says in his interview that he had three. And that two were confiscated. And the other one he sold. So anyway, the point is that he, so those were the boats that were sold, but, the other aspect of it is that some of my relatives, those same ones that were fishing with the Japanese, and considered themselves to be friends of the Japanese, and in fact they...so Joe, my great-aunt, uh, Aunt Violet, or Auntie Vi we called her, um, she was married to Joe Antrobus, who was the fisherman. The first boat that Joe Antrobus bought was in 1942 was a Japanese boat. That was bought from, uh, through the confiscation, auction process. We know that because he sent a cheque to Ontario when he bought it. It wasn't, so this was not a - this was a confiscation purchase. In fact, it's the very first boat on the spreadsheet that Linda
Kawamoto Reid
has. The very very first, top, of a thousand boats listed there, number one, is Joe Antrobus. So he bought that boat, it was a cod boat, which most of the boats in Nanaimo at that time were cod boats. It was mainly cod fishermen that lived there. They sometimes refitted those boats for salmon, for gillnetting or trolling in the season, but mainly they were cod fishermen, for ling cod. And other bottom fish, using herring. And they had this live tanks that they would keep the herring live and they would also keep the cod alive when they caught it. Because the packers only showed up once a week or so, so that was the way they fished. Um, so, he bought his very first boat in '42, he had been a miner prior to that, and he became a fisherman in '42 as the mines were closing down. Because the mines closed down in '41. Uh, the North Field Mine in Nanaimo, so then he became a fisherman at that time. And he was use, you know, had bought this boat, it was actually not a Nanaimo boat, it was a boat that the Japanese owner had been in Ucluelet. Because there's a record of who he was. I don't know who he was but he bought that boat through the process. Another relative, so Ed Baird had two brothers I mentioned earlier, Ed Baird and Eke Baird, and Eke Baird was considered to be...whether this is true or not, maybe it's just urban legend but, he was known as the best fisherman on the coast of BC. If you believe it or not, I don't know that it's true, but that's what they seem to think. Okay? He was also a bit of a lush, drank a lot, but anyway. All, these guys died fairly early. But they...Jack Baird was one of the brothers, so Ed, and Eke, and there's also a record of him buying a Japanese boat. So one of the things...I was interested in is okay these guys were, well may- Joe Antrobus later on fished with them after the war, I don't know if he knew them that well before the war, but he lived right down in the area they lived in, so presumably he did know them. Apparently the relationships were fairly good. So, when he bought this boat, you know in 1942, was this, somehow betraying those Japanese people that he was buying their boat from, through the auction process? You know, how did people understand that? Did people understand this as an act of betrayal? Or, or did they...understand it in a different way? And so, this is one of the things I've been trying to figure out. So, I talked to Ed Baird's son Gord Baird, who's in his eighties now, and was around when this all happened, and he was the one who's been able to confirm that it was a cod boat that was bought, by Joe Antrobus. Because it wasn't listed, it just said it was a boat, it didn't say it was a cod boat. But he said no, it was a cod boat. And, so I said well, did, you know, when he bought that, what was he thinking? You know, did he think this was a betrayal? breath And he said no, in those days it was just like, tough times, it was, you know, second world war, and, people didn't think they were betraying anybody, they just thought that, you know, if I don't buy it somebody else is going to buy it, if I buy it, you know, at least I'm, you know, they'll get some money from it, you know or whatever. They didn't think of it as...betraying those people. It wasn't...searching for words he said they didn't even think about it that way. That they just...you know, they, like it was...people were gone already. And these boats were for sale, and if you don't buy it somebody else is going to buy it, so that's, not betraying anyone, and life is tough so, if you can get a boat, for cheap, but it doesn't mean that they...supported internment. It just meant that, it was already a done deal. And so, what could they do about it? You know. Um, so that's what...happened. Um, you know I'm still open to other perspectives on that. Because I think, my sense was is that, you know, one could easily interpret this as betraying these people. And so my assumption was is that, there might have been some people in those days who felt that way as well. But, at least according to, you know, my cousin, he doesn't think that was the case. He doesn't think that they thought of it that way. But I don't really know. And like this is still something that I’m looking into. You know, to understand this. You know, because I know there were a few cases where...you know, white people bought properties at a very low price and, and I know there are a very few cases, but there are a couple cases where people came back and they returned the property to them, you know at, like they bought it for a dollar and they sold it back to them for a dollar and - but I know there's one case in Haney that, that happened like that. But I know that's the exception, it's the vast, it's the exception, it's not - the rule. And there were certainly many people like, you know the...you know some people in Salt Spring Island, other people who you know greatly benefitted you know, from getting all the people's property, you know they became, enriched as a result of that. But...you know, in my relatives’, they, those ones who were fishing, they were pretty poor, low-caste, you know, they were poor, low-class people, and it doesn't appear that, you know, the Uyeyamas...you know, held it against them. Because when they came back...you know, the Bairds helped them get back into fishing and then they fished together for many years...you know, for twenty years together. So it...you know, if they had felt...that they had been betrayed in some way, you know would they have been willing to fish with these guys for so many years afterwards? So assumably, you know, they didn't blame them, they didn't blame them for that. You know. But, you know, I would be...quite happy, to...acknowledge that they had betrayed them if I had any evidence to support that. It's not that I have any, you know, basis of my first article was basically, you know...admitting all the things that my family had done, I had openly engaged, you know, was searching that out, right, searching out the things that they had done that was, that were not appropriate. So it's not that I have a problem with acknowledging that, or you know. I'd like to expose that if it occurred. But I don't think I should expose something if I don't have any evidence, right, I mean. But, i think it is an interesting question you know, what people thought about that, in those days, and I don't think I have all the answers to that, yet. And there maybe, maybe as I continue my research I'll...understand that, more. Unfortunately many of the people that were around, most of the people almost all of the people that would have, you know were adults back then are dead now. You know we, have a few people who were, you know, students, that were still alive, you know, but. Not, you know the adults are pretty well all gone now. Most of them. So. You know that's, that's...it's unfortunate that we didn't have a chance to really look into this, or there wasn't more research done...with the older white people that were involved in buying these boats, back in the seventies or eighties or nineties when this research started. To better understand, how THEY understood things. Because...and I know there was limited resources so the focus of course was getting the stories of the Japanese Canadians themselves, which of course is also hugely important. But unfortunately I think, strategically, it would have been great if they'd also gotten stories from the white people more, as a way, you know, very targeted, asking tough questions. Like...you know. What does it mean to buy property, from Japanese Canadians, because, the interviews I've heard, that did exist, were not really tough questions. You know, so nobody really interrogated that issue. There have been some, you know old-timer, white, you know which they mention Japanese and stuff, but there's never, they were never, as far as I can tell, they, the questions were not...probing? In that sense, so. Unfortunately we don't really know entirely what everyone thought, maybe some people...you know just didn't care, you know maybe, maybe it was like that shopkeeper - was friendly one day and then, next day was not friendly and had no sympathy, because of the war situation and people were, riled up, you know, at that time? I don't know. Right? I don't know, you know exactly what happened. But I think it is an interesting...it's something that's worthy of more investigation. You know, and so I think that...um...I guess what I'm interested in doing and I'm not saying that I'm the only one doing it, but...it seems that I’m best positioned, because when I go around Nanaimo and I talk to people, you know they often, you know, if I mention who my family was, a lot of them remember my father's trucking business in Nanaimo and...you know, so it gives me...a little bit of legitimacy and I think they, may open up a little bit more to me because I’m considered to be a kind of a...proxy for a local, sort of thing? You know I mean, and so...I do think that there...that we need to see...the Japanese Canadian community, before the war, and after the war, as somewhat embedded within - especially in the smaller communities, like, on the island. Like if you’re in Steveston or Vancouver, you could be more...you could be more isolated and not necessarily interact much at all with white people. I mean, when I've talked to fishermen who came out of Vancouver like Ron Araki who says well the shrimp fishermen, we didn't interact with white people at all, hardly. But, in Nanaimo it seemed to be different. So there are some geographical differences, it was a smaller community there, maybe only twenty, twenty-five families, living on very small houses in pilings in the tidal zone, right, on Stewart Avenue? You know...there was a Japanese school, that they went to after school, but it was considered to be the biggest, or one of the biggest, you know Japanese...fishing communities on the Island. And yet...there's been almost nothing written about it, virtually nothing. We don't know, we know very little about that community. And so...it seems that there needs to be more done to understand the dynamics that may have been quite different, in a smaller community, with a smaller Japanese community.
00:56:32.000
00:56:32.000
IB
But the other thing I heard that might have also been the difference between why Nanaimo was different than let's say, Steveston, was in Steveston...you know the fishermen, were mainly fishing for salmon, and they were gillnetting, or trolling for salmon, so that put them in competition in some ways with you know, Greek Canadians, Italian Canadians, I mean all the other groups of people that were also trying to get that fish. And, you know, it was an abundant resource but, the geographical area was, you know fairly narrow, so you could imagine that, they would have been,fishing next to each other and that could have resulted in some tensions, I mean you know, I'm sure it did. Lead to some tensions, and we know that, you know some licences were taken away for salmon fishing from Japanese Canadians, we think, you know, according to Paul Kariya a lot of the Japanese Canadians that moved to the west coast of Vancouver Island came from Steveston, because...there was a push and pull factor where they were losing their licences in Steveston but also they kind of wanted to get away from the tension there, and this was kind of, you know more fertile grounds, and there wasn't many people in the west coast of Vancouver Island. So it was like an easier place, with less tension? So...you know. But in Nanaimo, most of the people were fishing for cod, and there weren't that many white, there were almost no white people fishing for cod. So...because most of the Japanese were fishing for cod....they didn't, and I don't know, I wish I knew if this was a direct strategy? To avoid racial conflict with white people? Certainly in the movement to Steveston was partially about that? But, it may well have been that people had cod licences because you could catch cod and you weren't competing with white people. And that may have made, was maybe one of the reasons why...the Japanese, were, you know, why there was, there SEEMS to be, a relatively high regard for Japanese Canadians, in Nanaimo, maybe more so than existed in Steveston, I mean I’m not sure about that. But, it seems that it might have been partially because of their economic activities, they weren't in competition, they weren't...you know, that...for the Chinese community in Nanaimo, for example, they had been working as miners a lot of them, they had been, you know...competing with some of my relatives. And, getting paid half the price for it. And that was like...a threat to their wage. And, therefore that would have resulted in more racial tensions. Right? But the Japanese were not, mainly mining. They were mainly fishing,...they were doing other things too, but in Nanaimo, in particular they were mainly fishing. And in you know, Cumberland and stuff they were working in the sawmills, and they were mining and doing other things as well. Working as farm labour. But, in...so, the fact that their occupation, was not...seen as threatening, to the white community may have been a big reason why they were relatively...you know, there were relatively less tensions, around there, compared to other places. Also they seemed to be relatively poor? They lived on relatively small shacks, they didn't...you know one of the big concerns that white people had at that time was, and it's clear from some of the stuff that the Native Sons wrote, that they were concerned about being out-competed. By Japanese, they didn't actually think that Japanese Canadians were inferior to them, they thought that they were...a big threat to them. And this is one of the arguments is we can't let these people, you know have equal rights to us because they'll out-compete us and next thing you know we'll be working for them rather than them working for us. I mean they were quite blatant about it, in terms of their opinions. So, um...but if you're a, poor group of fishermen who live in a small shacks on pilings, and you're fishing for cod that nobody else fishes for...you're not a threat to anybody. Right? And so, that may have been part of the reason why it existed. But you know, even amongst Japanese, one of the things that Mary Shikatani pointed this out to me, she said, well you know, my family was, has a shoe shop, you know, we lived in a relatively, more prosperous situation, they didn't own property apparently, but they did...you know, work, her father had a good job. She commented on the Japanese houses that lived on the coast. And said oh, geez that, those people were living in terrible conditions. And she kind of like, looked down on them a little bit and said that, they didn't have running water, they didn't have toilets, they were living in these shacks on pilings, you know the floating village they called it. And fishing generally was, and I think even in Japan, was considered a kind of lower-class...activity. So, you know. It wasn't something that everyone necessarily wanted to do I mean, a lot of Japanese got into it because they could do it, they came from Wakayama where they had that background, but also, they were prevented from participating in other occupations. So this was something that they could participate in, so that's, you know. One of the motivations for that, there were, you know, push and pull factors, right? So, um. I think...you know, it strikes me that in fact...we have to see the Japanese community itself as having different classes and some of them looked down on others, that there was a very hierarchal, class-based society amongst the Japanese themselves. And also...you know I've been, talking to other, Chinese Canadians who say that, you know, there was a hierarchy of racism in BC, you know, the white people at the top, and, the Japanese were the second. And then below them were the Chinese, and then the First Nations were at the bottom. And that, we have to - and then within Japanese society there were also these, classes, I mean this was, it's not like, all white people were the same, well not all Japanese people were the same either! Right, and they didn't all have the same views. And I even heard, you know, that even amongst the few Japanese families that came back to Nanaimo, those that were fishing...didn't really hang out much with those who were running the restaurant, because running a restaurant, and a very snazzy restaurant at that, was kind of a higher class kind of thing, whereas the fishermen were still living on Stewart Avenue in little houses and going out fishing, and that was a kind of a...and they had small boats, they didn't have big boats, so they were kind of, you know, small-scale fishermen...that was not, you know that was, seen as lower-class. You know, compared to...others who had done better in business and things. So I think there's a few things coming out, that I think are valuable, for thinking about the larger...situation that we need to, have more kind of nuanced views of all, we need to be more nuanced about our understandings of white people. About...classes of Japanese themselves? And within, different individuals, Japanese, they had different experiences and some of them, you know were treated better than others. You know, and, geography mattered, where you lived and what your occupation was mattered? And that that may have affected things, and then we need to also think about...you know...the different hierarchies in society that existed between...you know, Chinese and Japanese, and First Nations and, what were the relationships.
01:03:55.000
01:03:55.000
IB
I will tell you though, one interesting story from before the war, which I want to investigate more, so. The mother, the Uyeyama mother. Kashi Uyeyama's mother. She came from Japan. And she became a midwife in Nanaimo. And apparently she was a very successful midwife, very popular midwife...not only was she helping to give birth to the Japanese babies in Nanaimo, but also the Chinese babies, and also the First Nations babies. So, apparently, you know, it was quite common in their little house to have, like, lawn in front there would be like, First Nations like camped out on the lawns in front of their house all the time. And according to George Uyeyama they had like, you know...loads and loads of those Cowichan sweaters and stuff, you know like...like they had like more than they could use of those things in their house because they were being gifted those, as sort of payment, for helping to deliver the babies. You know, even, so. I think...there are some important things that need to be thought about, in terms of the relationship to the Japanese Canadians, in that case, it looks like, you know, all those people that looked, different than white people were kind of...getting together...and this may have had to do with restrictions, to using the hospitals? You know. But, I understand that that varied from place to place, that in some cases...one could use hospitals, and some cases, they couldn't? And so I’m not sure exactly what the situation in Nanaimo was. I know there were some white doctors who did treat the Japanese community as well there. And, it looked like the midwives may have in some cases been working with the white doctors, so they were like, kind of in consult in some way. But, you know, they were doing the midwife work and the doctors were doing other things, but maybe they weren't delivering the babies in the hospital, they were delivering them at home...you know with the midwives, but maybe with some supervision, there's one account of a white doctor going down in Nanaimo to help a woman who had a baby that was not being born easily. Was twisted in the wrong way or something like that. And so he went down there and helped this woman...so in a kind of, in a situation where there were complications, he did come down. To help that woman, give birth. And then after that apparently all these Japanese, in that, became his patients. Okay, so. But there was also a midwife. So, the midwife would deal I guess with the regular births. So I think that, that there was some complicated relationships between white people and Japanese and, you know Chinese and, you know, like...in the case of, the ones who went to Brechin School...there was only white people, and Japanese people at the school. There were no Chinese. And no Chinese lived in that area. For Mary Shikatani, she lived downtown, there were no other Japanese families. The school that she went to...which was Middleboard...didn't have, she was like the only Japanese family, person in her class. So...she said that, and there WERE Chinese kids, in her school. Because the Chinatown was nearer to that downtown, and she did gravitate towards being more friendly to some of the Chinese kids even though...that was a time when there was a lot of tension between Chinese and Japanese because, Japan had...invaded China, you know in the early 1930s right, and so there was like a...if you look at the history, the Chinese community here in Canada had been arguing against the Japanese here in Canada, and there were some visible tensions here, related to what was happening back there. But, from the perspective of a student, who didn't know much about politics in those days, you know those Chinese kids in school were...maybe more familiar looking, and therefore they became, her friends? And you know that...more so than others, not that she also had white friends, some of whom...were the ones who got laugh me in touch with her, even many years later, so, she had some white friends. But also had some Chinese friends and she admitted that she felt a little closer to some of the Chinese kids there, maybe because of a similar, position? So I think there are some complicated things going on. And I think that...you know, I think it makes total sense that the first step...was to...you know study, the internment process, get as many oral histories as possible, to you know, make Canadians aware of what happened and the injustice of it, you know, because Redress happened, but not necessarily everyone understands that.
01:08:40.000
01:08:40.000
IB
There's one other little story I'd like to tell you, that one of my informants told me. That is about after the war, it's about the 1970s. So one of the daughters, or the daughter of Noboru Uyeyama, who, her name is Midori, who lives in Vancouver now. And she lives in, Burnaby maybe. Her mother...lives, next door
referring to Nikkei Home, next door to where the interview is taking place
. She, she told me that when she was going to Nanaimo, in high school, so her family went back, and so she was going, was brought up there. You know, she's born I think in the early sixties. Right, so she was in grade twelve, so I guess it would have been...you know the, late seventies, early eighties, she was a good student. She apparently was an A student in history? And, she decided that she wanted to do her final history project on Japanese internment. So she asked to do that as her history project. And her teacher said no, that's not history. That's not BC history. That was the response that she received from this teacher. And she went and talked to the counsellor about it? And then the counsellor, you know went back and talked to the teacher and convinced the teacher to allow her to do this project. Now it may well have been that the teacher didn't know anything about it. Because there was a kind of erasing of that, especially you know at that time, the books that came out in the late '70s had not come out yet, or maybe they'd just come out and they hadn't made it to Nanaimo yet, people didn't know about them. And maybe a lot of people, and if you look at the history books of Nanaimo, that were written, I looked at three books, one, Patricia Johnson was the, kind of the main historian of Nanaimo. A white woman, and she wrote a book in '58 and another in '66 and one in '73. I've looked at all of them. Not any mention of the Japanese at all. So the Japanese were virtually erased from Nanaimo's history. And so...it might have been that the teacher just, didn't know. But in any case, you know his response wasn't that appropriate, and obviously, Midori wasn't happy, but then...she was allowed to do the project. So she did it. But...she got a C on the project. Even though all her grades, every semester prior to that had been As. So when she did this project...she got a C. By somebody who didn't...and so one can assume that, this teacher went along with it, but was not necessarily, fully on board. Maybe was pressured by the counsellor to allow, her to do that project, so...I think that that's a kind of important story, in my view? Because it kind of indicates...that a lot of the understanding of the Japanese community was generational. So when you meet the people who are ninety, between eighty and ninety years old and had personal contact with those Japanese...like my cousin Mary or, you know, my cousin Gord, I mean, they can all eat with chopsticks and they all, you know...have very fond memories of the Japanese and thought they were very proper people and very honorable, and you know they were, had nothing but good things to say about them, even though they all say more negative things about First Nations sometimes. You know, in the same conversation. So, but they always will put Japanese at the highest level of foreigners. The ones, my relatives who I've talked to who are, you know pretty frank with me because they've known me since I was a kid, you know, so I don't think they're holding back what they actually think. You know? They've said some things like, one of my cousins was, saying how wonderful the Japanese, and then the next thing he's saying he's disagreeing with calling Haida - he thinks it should be Queen Charlotte Islands, it shouldn't be Haida Gwaii.
01:12:28.000
01:12:28.000
IB
You know he'll make that comment, right. This is my view is that, Haida Gwaii, it should be Queen Charlottes, this is a mistake to change it, you know, and. I don't agree with my cousin, in that regard. But he'll also say, you know, how wonderful the Japanese were, and everything like this, you know, so. So I think, you know. There's, it's a complicated...it's a complicated situation. And you know, I think there's more that we need to, I think we need to understand those relationships more, to really make sense of - so we know that white people did that injustice to Japanese Canadians. That, we can be sure of. But...I think we need to be more specific about who those white people were. And what their motives actually were. And why did other white people maybe...I think the, people on the ground who had no involvement in the government, those voices have not been heard at all. Even less so than the Japanese Canadians themselves. And even...you know...if you look at Kashi Uyeyama, his interview in 1990, so...it's interesting, because Kirsten McAllister's interviewing him in English, and, Marge is there, she also still lives here, next door
Nikkei Home
, she's...although, she had Alzheimer's apparently, but...he's, you know and so the questions and answer all relate to kind of Japanese stuff. So in that whole, hour and a half interview, he mentions having some friends, in Nanaimo, but, he never mentions who their names because nobody ever asks him who their names were! And he doesn't, never mentions how close they were, he never mentions...you know, um...apparently the story was, is that when they were taking Kashi Uyeyama to internment...he was in Ed Baird, my cousin's house, who was one of his best friends, and he was down on the ground and he was grabbing Ed Baird's pants, saying please don't let them take me. Please don't let them take me, you know he was so...upset, you know at what was happening. But the point was is that...when that interview was done, nobody asked him about that. And he never mentioned any of his real relation-he never mentioned fishing with white people, he never mentioned rafting up, he, when he used to go...with my cousin Gord, Gord remembers, when they would go to like Ucluelet sometime, they'd go fishing, they would bring their boats over there and then they would dock up together. And sometimes there'd be other Japanese fishermen and then they would be there? And Kashi would be out there and then they'd start speaking Japanese to Kashi. And Kashi, according to Gord, would often say to them, oh, you know, don't speak in Japanese because...there's other people here, who don't speak Japanese, we don't want them to think we're...telling secrets about them. Now...I'm not saying that they shouldn't have spoken in Japanese, I think it's quite fine for, I speak with my wife all the time in Lao, and...and sometimes my mother doesn't like it, I...so what? You know I mean, we speak a different language, I don't think that's a problem? But, the point was is that Kashi was very interested in making sure that the white people he worked with felt, that they belonged. He didn't want them to get the impression that, you know, it was a very, it's kind of a kind gesture, you know, to, to, well not want somebody to feel excluded. Right? And so, that says something about his character and it says something about his relationship with white people there. Right? And the fact that he went to, he was the first Japanese student to go to school there. So...I think that, maybe it's the way the questions have been asked, that nobody asks questions about their relationship with white people but, when you start asking...there's lots of stories out there. And I think these stories haven't even been recorded in most of the interviews, because I don't think interviewers are asking these questions. But when I ask about it, I'm hearing lots of interesting stuff. I mean, even people that have stayed in touch for seventy-five years. Even though one lives in New York City and the other lives in Nanaimo. I mean, who goes through Chatelaine magazine to find...one's old friend. I mean, that's - you know, so I think that there's...I think that maybe, that's the next stage unfortunately my fear is that by the time...we've really looked into this, the people that have those direct experiences and stories, that they're going to be all dead, and it's not going to be recorded. And so I think that's kind of...I guess that's where I see my role in terms of this...project is, maybe focussing on an under-researched community which is Nanaimo, because, and having a kind of anti-Asian, anti-racism kind of methodology, one that is based on looking at one's own family, and, acknowledging the nasty things that happened but also celebrating the positive things that happened. I mean, Ed Baird, you know, was as close to, as Nanaimo had for being a kind of, you know, pro-Japanese, advocate. You know because his close friend was Kashi who they'd gone to school together. And that...you know there wasn't, they didn't have activists in Nanaimo in those days like they have nowadays in other parts of BC, but...you know, that was kind of the closest that existed in those days, and so...I think we need to tell those stories as well. You know, because it's also important...for thinking about...I think that message is actually very important, for the present, because, the reality is is that all the people that are here now...that, ancestors of those Japanese are all like interacting with white people...and it needs to be thought of as a normal thing even back then, they were friends too, right, and then there's no reason why they can't be friends now, it's not like this is something...they were friends back then too, and I think this is something that...maybe is useful for creating a more positive future. You know, in terms of - but you know. But it does seem to me that...this can only really happen if one also acknowledges the negative things. Or the negative aspects that occurred, right. To just - if one was just to celebrate the positive things and ignore the negative things, I think that would be a real problem. You know, and I’m not advocating that at all.
01:19:02.000
01:19:02.000
IB
But you know, I think we need to understand that - you know, and I think part of my feeling about this is because of my own observations of the Lao community, in Surrey, and I know a lot of Lao people in Surrey very well and, also in Madison Wisconsin and I see the way their families are, like, I see the way the interaction happens, like, so when I go to stay with my friends in Surrey, I'm kind of friendly with the parents, who, I've never spoken a word of English to them, they only speak in Lao. I only speak to them in Lao. But their daughter speaks a little bit of Lao, but her English, she speaks more English, and there are times when I’ve been talking to her, and then, you know after we've been talking about what she's doing and how her life is, you know and around the house, and then next thing I'm in the other room and then her parents are asking me, what's going on with our daughter? And there's a communication problem. There's a difficulty and, they can have a certain simple level of communication. But they can't have a deep level. And similarly, you know, many of the, some of the Japanese older people here, their kids have a hard time communicating with them even here in the Nikkei Place because they don't speak English that well and their kids don't speak enough Japanese to be able to communicate properly with them. So...you know, this kind of second generation is a very complex moment, where you're torn between two places. I mean, Kashi Uyeyama...if you think about his life, I mean, brought up in Nanaimo, you know had all these friends, was feeling very, Canadian, was a Canadian citizen, next thing you know he's interned...next thing you know he's back in Japan. Unaccepted in Japan, so he's...faced with racism here, then he's faced with racism there. And then, the word that his brother used was, Kashi wanted to come back to his homeland. That was the word he used. Homeland, meaning, Canada. And so, he came back. You know and so, you know, that's a very complex situation where you’re in that, I can imagine how complex that would have been for somebody, to negotiate those two worlds. And in many ways it's the same worlds that my sons are negotiating now, you know...my wife is a very traditional Lao person who think in a very Asian way...and you know, doesn't always understand, she doesn't understand English perfectly and she can't....so she sees things that my kids are going through in this society that is sometimes hard for her to accept. So I kind of see that in my own, groups with other Asian, Canadians and Americans. And maybe that gives me some insights into, what it must have been like, for those Japanese at that time. But I think that kind of complex relationship...you know. Because apparently Kashi Uyeyama's father was a Japanese nationalist. Probably had some sympathies to the Japanese...you know, but the kids didn't, right, the kids all wanted to come back to Canada, right? So you know, you've got...it's possible to have a father who's a Japanese nationalist and kids who feel much more loyal to Canada and want to come back to Canada, I mean this...these are the complex times that they lived in. And I think...it needs to be seen in that way. But they were also trying to find their identities within Canada as much as they were...you know...there were probably moments where they were proud to be Japanese, and there were probably moments where they...were proud to be Canadian and there was probably stuff, in which they were confused in between, I mean there's stuff, I just think that you can't have not...that must have been the case, right? But...I think there's a lot of value in trying to understand those moments a bit better because, some of the contradictions that occurred I think, are representative of those kind of complex situations, complex identities that people have, multiple identities. You know where they were - you know like, Kashi Uyeyama on the one hand, you know wanting to come back and taking Canada as a homeland, but I heard another story where somebody asked him one time, if there was a war, what side would you...would you be on the Canadian side or would you be on the Japanese side? And he, as the oldest child of the, son of a Japanese nationalist said, well I'm Japanese. I'd have to be on the Japanese side. At the same time there's, all these other things I told you which very much suggest that he was...very much about assimilating in some ways as well. And his wife, Marge, was born in Ocean Side and was, you know, English speaker, they spoke English at home... you know, they didn't speak Japanese for the most part. Um...unlike his brother. His brother had a wife from Japan, who, mainly spoke Japanese, and they spoke Japanese at home, so. There's some real complex stuff going on there, and whether he was just saying that, you know off the cuff...you know, did he really, mean that or not, or was he just, you know, maybe there was, you know he probably, had, if his father was a strong nationalist, he...and he was the oldest son, there had to be something going on there, right? But at the same time he was being brought up in Canada, so. You know i think these are...it's these slippages and these moments...that don't seem to fit with what we might expect, you know, or...statements that don't seem to fit together, contradictory things, that we need to look more closely at.
01:24:59.000
01:24:59.000
IB
Because I think that it's actually kind of a normal thing for people that are going through this process. I mean I work a lot with Hmong people now and Lao people, they didn't come to Canada, or the US and Canada, until...after 1975. Most of them in the 1980s, and some in the 90s. So they're, you know, many first generation are still alive and even, you know, that...so I kind of see that early, what's going on in the early period of arrival, right. Where, as we look at the Japanese, it's like kind of, almost a...it's what happened sixty, seventy years earlier, right, so there's a few more generations, right, so, it's interesting for me because...this is what, the Hmong and the Lao community may look like...they'll have different histories, they have a different narrative, they came as political refugees, they didn't come as, you know to look for better opportunities like the Japanese did, but- so it's a very different kind of history. You know, I'm not trying to say it's the same, but...there are some similarities. And I can see them. And I think, so it gives me some insights, to look at, what happened, in the case of Japanese Canadians and yeah, so that's part of the reason why I'm interested in this. Now I don't think this is going to become my, major field of interest, I've got a lot invested in Southeast Asia. I was over there the whole of last year on sabbatical doing research in Thailand, I've got projects over there, I spend all my summers there, ever since I moved to Wisconsin I've spent a July or August, or June, in Wisconsin, as soon as summer comes I'm, in Asia. So, you know but I think there is some relevant things for thinking about Wisconsin, there's relevant things for thinking about Asia, there's relevant things for my own family. And the things that my kids are going - my kids...my son. Looks a bit like you, actually. He says his problem is that unless they see, some of his friends, unless his friends see his mother, sometimes they don't think he's Asian. They don't, I mean you can kind of see it - you look a little bit more Asian than he does, but. He looks a little Asian, but not that much? And, even though his mother's fairly dark-skinned, actually? I guess it's just the luck of the draw, right, you know, whatever happens, and so. He's been faced with trying to convince his friends that he's a legitimate...he's legitimate, as a minority. Right. That's another challenge that people face, and you may...face that yourself sometimes, I don't know, you know, but. You know there's some, there are lots of different...he's got friends who are Mexican and African American friends who said, you know they're more visible minorities than him, he looks more like a white guy, how can he claim he's a minority, thing kind of thing, right? But the point is that there's also complex relations amongst different minority groups themselves, right? And you know, some people feel that, even though the Japanese were, at the end of the Second World War were treated, you know, in some ways worse than all the other groups, combined, but prior to that, they had a somewhat more privileged situation in the sense that there was no head tax on Japanese compared to Chinese, they could bring wives over, they could develop families more easily, they, they could own property, they could do a lot of things here. Which, you know, in other cases, is not possible. Right, the Chinese could not do that, right. And so - and yet in the end, they were...they were subjected to much more harsh conditions than, you know the Chinese were, and, you know, were the Chinese thinking of them as, these richer Asians that were treated...in a more privileged situation...did they see them as higher-class people that were...had their legs cut out from under them, even though they had been dominating them, previously. You see, I think there's some complex relationships. I don't have all the answers, I don't have half the answers, but, I do think that interrogating these, interracial and intercultural interactions is really important, for understanding. And also to, think about potential future...in the United States, we have the issue of the so-called dreamers, the DACA, that could be sent back to Japan - I mean back to, Mexico or, you know, wherever, Latin America mainly. Well, you know that could be equated in some ways with, you know, the 4000, you know Japanese Canadians that were sent back to Japan in 1946, I mean, if we don't learn from these situations and the terrible time that they had when they went back and how they desired to come back to Canada and how they felt that Canada was their country. I mean these are, you know even though their father was a Japanese nationalist, there's a whole bunch of contradictions here, but it makes for some interesting, thought-provoking ideas, so. I don't know if you have - I'm sorry, you haven't asked me many questions I've just been going on.
CN
Yeah, well I like to start by just letting, people share what they want to IAN laughs so thank you, that was great, so many stories.
IB
overlapping, laughing I basically most of my stories, or. Okay, but
CN
Yeah. Um, I do have some questions but -
IB
overlapping Sure, yeah, please.
CN
We haven't - do you want to take a quick break before we go over that?
IB
No, I think we can just go on.
CN
Alright. Okay. So, yeah, thank you, for sharing all of that, it was wonderful. Um, I wanted to circle back, way back to the beginning,
IB
Okay.
CN
-because I've been kind of taking notes, I don't want to interrupt. But um...to you and your choice to sort of explore this aspect of your family history, and you said it started with looking into members of your mother's family who were,
IB
No no, it's my father's, my grandmother on my father's side.
CN
Right, your grandmother.
IB
My paternal grandmother.
CN
Right. So, and their membership and participation in, racist societies, in BC.
IB
Well, in organizations that were, I don't think they were set up as racist organizations but they became, advocates for, racist policies? Against Asians in particular?
CN
Yeah. So, I'm wondering what...like when did you become aware of this, and when did you decide that you were going to actively research and learn about it?
IB
Well, I remembered when my, when I was a kid I remember that my grandmother was a member of this group, but I didn't think of it at that time. You know, and it was, many years later, when I started to get interested in racism and, in you know Asian American stuff...I'm also affiliated with the Asian American studies program in University of Wisconsin-Madison so I started to hear about this stuff, and I started to think, oh you know, gee I remember my grandmother was a member of that group, now what does that MEAN, you know? And so, that's kind of...how it started was just a childhood memory that, prompted me to...go to the archives and say what do you have about the Native Daughters of BC, and I didn't know if they were going to have anything or, what the group was or what they actually did, and I also interviewed a great-aunt of mine who's eighty-eight years old who was also a member. She said it was just a...women got together, just had tea and cookies and stuff. And that's probably mainly what the Native Daughters were doing. They weren't, she didn't think it was a political organization at ALL, it wasn't active in any, she didn't think it was an anti-ANYbody, she said it was a social club. But...you know, I did find some records to suggest that when they made this pamphlet that was particularly targeting the Japanese, that there had been an effort by the Native Daughters to raise a little bit of money so they could make extra copies to distribute these. So clearly they were - it may not have been their main role, but, they were, you know, supportive of that. And to be a member you had to have been born in BC. And, and they had a rule that Asians could not be members. So, when they set up that was not their rule. The rules came in the '20s. The organization evolved, and these racist policies seemed to come in later, in the organization's existence. So yeah that was...that was really the starting point, was just trying to follow up on some things that I...just a few little things that I had remembered and I had wanted - and I knew the story since I was a kid about my dad not...being willing to eat food if he saw that the cook was Chinese, I wanted to understand that. Because obviously that's something that one gets from, either one's parents or one's friends, in school, I mean this is...coming from somewhere. You know, it's not something that one just comes up with on their own? You know. My grandmother claimed that they did not teach him that. But I don't know...but, he somehow got that idea, and kids don't get that from...they get it from somewhere. Maybe it was from other kids at school. I don't know. We don't really know. I don't understand it, you know, um.
01:33:48.000
01:33:48.000
IB
But, I mean I remember when I was a kid...my grandmother...used to play solitaire. And she used to always call it Beat the Chink. And, we used to always tell my grandmother - Grandma, you CAN'T...call it that! It's not, politically correct, I mean even as kids, we used to say that to her, and my grandma would say, oh I know, but you know that's what we always used to call it when I was a kid, I don't know what else to call it! You know, I don't know what other word should I use? You know, so. She didn't like, wasn't angry or didn't resist it, but she, you know. There was a transition that was going on at that time, already. A you know, and then later on my father becoming, his two big business partners being Chinese Canadians, one of whom had a wife who couldn't speak English very well. And that was fine, my dad was, great partners, I remember as a kid my dad, never made a racist slur against his business partners, never had a negative thing to say, had a great deal of respect for them, as business people, and partners, and he could trust them. And they could trust him. There was a great deal of trust, between them, and I thought, you know how does that happen, how does one go from, not wanting to eat the food...to having this great deal of trust and respect for people, how does that happen. Right, so that was kind of, where I started. I wasn't really focussing on Japanese initially. It was more Asians generally, and maybe even more on Chinese, because that's kind of what I expected to find? It was only later when I met this branch of my family that were fishermen...and their great connection with the Japanese that I realized that really in that neighbourhood it was really the Japanese that were key. That the Chinese were NOT as important. But, I know that from the research I did that - see all my relatives were miners, initially when they came to Canada, they came as, lower-class miners. That they...you know. There had been a lot of efforts to keep Chinese from being able to mine underground. And they blamed them for mine accidents, and things like, said they couldn't...read the signs, or didn't know English enough or something, but, a lot of that was thought to just be excuses to get them out because they were competing, and they were - and it was, in some ways the big companies, were supportive of those Chinese miners, they were wanting to play them off against the white miners, to create dissent between them, that that keeps them from focussing on the mine owner as the problem, this is the classical, you know labour divide and conquer kind of strategy. Right, so, that was certainly happening in Nanaimo, you know, but...because the Japanese weren't, in the mines, they were fishing for something that...other people weren't fishing for...you know, there was less...um, less issues. So yeah, that's. Okay. That's,
CN
Yeah. Yeah. Um...did you ever, figure out, even for yourself, a working theory or an answer to your question about your father and how he, made that change?
IB
Well, my father's still alive now and, you know he...I mean, partially maybe it was, my mother thinks - my mother and my father have been divorced since I was about five years old, but...my mother thinks that she had a role in that change. She used to tell my father...not to use racial slurs around the kids and things like that, so she thinks that she had a role in that, transformation. Um...you know my dad made a few trips to Asia, later. That might have, done something to it. The Chinese Canadians he met were very nice people, you know, and they were successful businessmen. So that maybe had something to do with it, the type of Chinese people that he met, and started to work with. They were second or third generation themselves. So they, you know, they would have been around - or at least one of them was. The other one maybe, maybe less - maybe not as long. But anyway, the point is that uh...probably there's a whole bunch of factors. You know, general, societal changes, but, you know nowadays my dad has nothing...to say, I mean I've never heard him say anything. You know and I've never - or IMPLY anything, for that matter. And he doesn't say anything about - I mean, some of my other cousins, they still say stuff, about First Nations. You know my dad doesn't say that. But, some of my relatives in Nanaimo still do, and I've heard them just recently, make a few comments...you know, that - you know, a little bit offensive, actually. But, I - you know, that's kind of, you know, they're very working-class people. I think...I think it's also important to understand the working-class people's relationship with race and occupational things because those are the same type of people that voted for, I mean, they're people who would normally vote NDP, right, they're labour union people. They're working people, right, they're loggers and, you know, things like that. But...I could see them if they were in the US voting for Donald Trump. You know, because, that's the type of people that have voted for Donald Trump is these sort of - you know these...working-class, what were working-class Democrats who have now, who don't feel that the Democratic party represents them, well, and they...saw Trump as some...you know defending some of their values or whatever, but I mean, I think that's a similar situation, we just don't have the equivalent to Donald Trump in Canada, thank goodness. I mean, well we do maybe, maybe just not as popular. Or he's not able to rise up in such a way. You know, but certainly there had been politicians in the past in Canada that very much used racial divisions to promote themselves and get elected. There was a Conservative Member of Parliament from Nanaimo, in 19- who was elected in I think 1917? Had a LOT of nasty things to say about Japanese Canadians in fishing around Nanaimo. So one of the archivists in Nanaimo pointed me out to his inaugural speech. Which I now have downloaded off of the parliamentarian's website, from Government of Canada. Which does say some shocking things, about Japanese Canadians, very racially oriented kind of, ideas. So, clearly there were some people up in Nanaimo who were, you know. Very politically - you know, he was also from the Conservative Party. Um, yeah, but, you know that, uh...yeah. That's kind of, you know I think there's, a lot of things happening.
01:40:14.000
01:40:14.000
CN
Mhm, mhm. I'm curious also, you know this sort of anti-racist project that you're describing with your research, is that something that you discuss with members of your family, including your father and your cousins -
IB
So,
CN
-are you able to be open with family?
IB
overlapping so, just, some of my members of my family, yeah, my father, I've talked with him about it, I talk to my mother about it, and I talk to some of my other family members about it. Um, and you know. The way I try to negotiate that is, um...you know I was very close to my grandmother. And, you know, she was born in a very different era and I don't want to judge her based on today's standards. In fact it was an older woman who was about ninety years old in Nanaimo who was a little bit agitated, because she said oh, when I was a kid I had all these, uh...you know close friends who were...Indians But she says now when she calls them Indians, people, say that she's racist or she's not, expected, she's supposed to call them First Nations, and she says well, when I was a kid we only knew the word Indian, we didn't know any other words, and we didn't mean it in a negative sense, that was the only term that we knew...and so, you know when people complain to me and tell me that I’m somehow racist because I mean, with Indians, they don't understand that I didn't care about colour when I was a kid, that these were all my friends, we used to go fishing...go swimming together and all this stuff, and this was not, like the farthest thing from my mind as a small child, right, and, um. You know, so. But...yeah. So I don't want to judge too much but, you know, at the same time, so, the way I try to deal with this is to say...you know, that I don't agree with some of the things that they did, you know, I obviously don't agree with some of those policies, and I'm not proud of my grandmother's involvement but, I still love my grandma, I still think my grandma was a good person. I think she was you know, not a very educated person, she was, you know very friendly to all of us, and helped us when she was relatively poor. She was brought up in a certain era and her parents, her father died as a miner when she was two years old, and, you know so she was brought up in a very poor family and...you know, I don't want to blame her for...those things, so I think there's a way...like if the only way that we can acknowledge the negative things that our families were involved in, if the only way to do that - is to throw our relatives under the bus...I think that's a problem, it's going to keep people from acknowledging their family's roles in negative things. But...what I'm trying to say is, we can acknowledge that, and we can also say that we loved our grandmothers and that they had good characteristics as well. And so that's...kind of how I'm negotiating that. And I've discussed that a little bit in the article, that I wrote. Because I do feel that...that is part of the methodology. If we really want to draw white people into...really investigating their own roles, of their families in...injust acts, we need to...make them feel less defensive about it. And, I think, partially, they need to be able to...you know we need to realize that their families probably weren't all doing negative stuff, that there were some...to some degree they were part of a societal problem. You know...whether they were more of the solution or more of the problem, probably varied from family to family. Right, but there was certainly variation back then just like there's variation now. So, you know, I don't think my grandmother were the most, rabid racists of the bunch - I know she wasn't. She never resisted when we kind of pushed back as a kid. As kids, you know, she wasn't, she didn't have an ideological...desire...to do that, but, you know sometimes she used words that...would be considered, you know, offensive nowadays. But probably were not so offensive, back then. You know I see the same in Southeast Asia where...there's a word for Chinese, in Thai. Which is - or Thai and Lao. It's “jek”. And “jek” is, considered a kind of a pejorative...you know it's like “Jap” or something like that, right, or “chink” or something, it's not a positive word to use, in Lao. But then, I went to some minority Chinese areas in Lao-speaking areas where they haven't really been exposed, they're in another country, they're in Cambodia actually, so they haven't exposed to the politics of that term? And you go to see Chinese communities and they're talking in Lao and the just identify as jek themselves. And I was like, oh geez, I would never call a Chinese person that, when I'm talking in Lao because I don't think it's polite. But they themselves are identifying that way. So the point is that... you know, there can be complex ways in which people identify themselves, some people can adopt...pejorative terms as very positive for themselves, like incorporate those, and make them into something that they think is positive, even though those terms were not created as positive terms initially? I just...yeah. So that's kind of how I’ve dealt with that issue.
01:45:56.000
01:45:56.000
CN
Mhm.
IB
But I do talk to some of my family, but not...hundred percent. Not all of them.
CN
Right. I guess what I'm interested in is, if that's your methodology is, acknowledging it without, with like I said acknowledging also...your love for your family members,
IB
Yeah, well that's, that's what it is.
CN
And how does that, how does that operate in terms of your interaction with your living family members?
IB
Well I mean it does...I think, though, that one has to...assess, so. It's one thing for me to...so one thing I do is I want to reflect the comments that people have given me from my family in accurate ways. So I want to reflect the sense that they have, I don't want to misrepresent what they said to me, so I'm using some of their quotes and things and I try to reflect that in an honest way. Um...you know I...but you know there are some of my relatives, you know, like, one of my great-aunts who's like eighty-eight years old, and I don't know if it's helpful...there are some people, you know who...they were brought up in a different time and they see things in a different way. She, I know that my aunt doesn't think of herself at all as a racist. You know she, might be a bit confused by some of this, and I don't know if it's necessary, someone at the age of eighty-eight, to challenge her...you know. Some of my other relatives, I might feel more comfortable to challenge, so I look at, you know you have to look at the individuals involved, right, I mean, sometimes it can be more helpful, sometimes it can be...counterproductive. Right, I mean I think this is part of the thing that's created the Trump voter, right, is that some people, have reacted to well-meaning and appropriate assertions for racial justice...and have felt very defensive about that, and have therefore reacted...in a negative way and have supported somebody who's...supported a lot of negative stuff. And, you know maybe that wasn't the right way to approach them. That maybe we need to think of other ways of approaching these people that might actually be more positive, in terms of changing their viewpoints. And so, that doesn't necessarily mean getting into their faces. But also means looking at who they are and like... you know, my great aunt, she can't drive anymore, she just stays in her house, and you know, I mean...she was very close with my grandmother, I don't want to...say something that's going to upset her. It doesn't seem necessary, it doesn't seem appropriate. You know, other people? But I DO hope that my work can be read by other people, and especially those who have - you know, in this day and age, who have this day and age's understanding of things? Will more be able to relate I think to what I’m writing. Because I'm writing it from today's perspective even though I'm writing about the past. So it should be easier for people, who are thinking about these issues nowadays to understand that. But I think, for other people who don't have the background, and don't have the sort of theoretical, especially if I'm writing for academic articles? Where I’m dealing with some theoretical concepts that are just...you know, I mean, part of it is that a lot of my family, I mean I'm, on my dad's side...you know, I'm the first person to go to university, right, even now, all my cousins and other people, I mean nobody's got, I'm the only one that's ever gone to, even though I've - even undergrad. Right, they don't do that. They don't, so. They just don't have that...background? And so you know, you can... you know, sometimes it's not helpful to kind of throw that stuff in their faces. Right, I mean it doesn't necessarily, help. It doesn't make them more sensitive. It actually makes them more defensive. And it actually results in not acknowledging things that happened. And my goal is that we should be acknowledging them. And that's a more productive way ahead. But you have to get people into that headset, where they feel comfortable. They feel confident in themselves. And if they feel confident in themselves they're more likely to...acknowledge, maybe some things that happened in the past, and that could lead to a better, more open...societal situation. Right, where people are thinking about these issues, in more thoughtful ways.
01:50:17.000
01:50:17.000
CN
Mhm. Okay. Um, I wanted to also, go back to your discovery, initially, of the Japanese Canadian connections in your family.
IB
Mhm?
CN
Um, because I think you said you were visiting your cousin,
IB
Well it's my, yeah, it's actually my dad's second cousin.
CN
Right. Um...so, were going there with the intention of talking to her about your research? Or...
IB
Well, yeah, I was, I mean partially I wanted to reconnect with her. Her name is Mary, we call her Little Mary, because we had another great-aunt before, who, we called her Big Mary? Because one is actually larger size than the other. Just, that was the way they did things in those days. So I wanted to kind of connect, I wanted to...you know just...meet her, I'm just in the mode of meeting relatives, to some degree, but I also want to meet older people, and kind of ask them what things were like way back when? So, and by the time I had seen her I had already written my first article, so I'd already gone through that manifesto of the Native Sons against Japanese Canadians? And so...I was interested in getting her understanding, I didn't really think it would go the way, I'd expected to hear...more, NEGATIVE comments. That's what I expected to hear? And then it was the opposite. It was TOTALLY opposite. It was, TOTALLY unexpected for me. Because these are very...working-class people, who...you would think. You know, typically they're not, they're very provincial. You know, they don't get out much, and they don't have much sympathy, you know...like for example, they wouldn't have much sympathy against French speakers in Eastern Canada, or they wouldn't be, you know they're very localized kind of people who've lived in Nanaimo all their life and they don't go very far and, you know they don't know... you know that, so I just, yeah that was kind of...what I expected to hear. Then when I, hearing this other side, I was a bit surprised. And what was really surprising was just her...because she has Alzheimer's she kept REPEATING it. Which that, what that told me is that...and then later I found the photograph of her with those two Japanese girls. Who ended up actually...I heard later that they went to Japan. Also, in 1946. Then they somehow got connected to some of the bases there? And they married American soldiers. Or at least one of them married an American soldier. Maybe a white soldier. And then came back and was living in California later, and came to visit Mary, as an adult, in the 1970s sometime, although she doesn't know how to contact her now but. So anyway, these are just some stories that I was like, a bit surprised at and then it really, I wasn't planning to write a second article on this topic, I kind of thought I'd done my methodology and, after this happened, I started to realize that I'd missed this...aspect. That we, that there were some different, points of view on this and that, those voices have not been told.
CN
Mhm.
IB
You know. I mean in fact...I, reading through some of the books, people say even the NDP who had been relatively pro-Japanese prior to the war, when it came to the internment period, were more or less silent. Even the political groups that had been seen as allies of the Japanese were more or less silent, during the internment process? So one gets the impression that virtually everyone, turned against the Japanese in 1940...'41, '42. Have you ever read any stories of...people sending Japanese off and everybody in tears crying?
CN
pause I don't think I have, no.
IB
Apparently that's what happened. In Nanaimo, at least.
CN
In Nanaimo.
IB
Whether that happened in other places or not...my impression is is that it might have happened other places as well, that not all communities...there were differences and, I heard some stories about Cumberland too, that suggested that there were some close relationships there as well.
CN
I know that DIDN'T happen in Salt Spring.
IB
Well, maybe it didn't. So,
CN
Yeah, so, that's the only story I've heard specifically about being sent off by,
IB
So I'll tell you something about Salt Spring. There's also a family connection to Salt Spring. So, my dad, before he married my mother, in the 1950s. One of his first positions in the Bank of Montreal was working for the Bank of Montreal on Salt Spring Island. And he was going out with...one of the Mouat daughters. They were the ones who established a Salt Spring Island real estate company. And my dad doesn't remember any of this. I mean, he remembers the woman, but he doesn't know the whole story of it. But my mother, even though it was after her time that she met my father, but my mother's a schoolteacher, on my mother's side they're much more educated, my father's side they're all working class. My mother's side they're from back East and they're more educated. Um, my mother was a schoolteacher. And she...told me, she said, oh you know they...that family, that woman that your father had been going out with...you know her family was totally enriched. By the selling of properties on Salt Spring Island. Um, and...you know. That was how they got their economic...you know and, as a result...you know. They gained a lot, and they probably didn't want the Japanese to come back, and you know, because they were probably worried about losing...you know what they had gained from that. There's one other childhood memory I had, the first time I became aware that there had been Japanese Canadians on the coast - well, two was, one was the Japanese garden in Victoria, which I used to go to as a kid sometimes, which I vaguely knew had been created by Japanese, earlier. But i didn't really know the story of it. But where I really noticed it was, we had a property on Galiano Island and right at the northern end of Galiano Island, Poirier Pass, there's, there was a property that a friend of mine was renting at that time. Was right on the water. And there were all these Japanese, plum trees. And we used to go in the summertime and eat loads and loads of Japanese plums. And I always wondered you know like, why are these Japanese plums here, you know, and then...somebody told me I remember at that time, oh, that's, the Japanese used to live here, this was one of their properties. And it's like a beautiful waterfront property, you know right at Poirier Pass. And that was a Japanese family that lived here and they planted these plum trees. And that's why there's Japanese plums here. And then even, you know even to a few years ago we were still eating those Japanese plums. So, you know. The little bits and pieces, you know, that kind of, as a child, but I didn't know much as a child. My mother, though, told me that when she used to teach grade five, in the 1970s and '80s...well I guess it was the '80s. Would have been the '80s...no, actually '70s. She was teaching about Japanese stuff then. Uh, she was doing some teaching...well maybe it was the '80s, maybe it was after those books came out, it must have been afterwards, that she was reading...some books to her kids about, there had been some education that she had provided. Probably not...what we would think is the best nowadays, but it was the beginning era of that. So. You know, there was some...awareness that existed, in some part of my head about that. But I didn't really know the details.
01:57:36.000
01:57:36.000
CN
So you don't remember actually talking to your mother about this, or her teaching you about what happened, as a kid.
IB
No, no. I don't. I'm, and I don't think she did, actually. I don't think there was much said, I mean, not that I was...I don't - yeah, I just, she just told me a few days ago, recently, that she used to teach this. I didn't know that she had been teaching it. I mean just, part of her, the regular curriculum. Or maybe at some point it was introduced or it was...there was, at some point when she was a teacher...she hasn't been teaching for a long time now but...some point when she was a teacher, she...I should get more details about that but, she was reading some...she bought a storybook. Uh, gave it to my son, about this topic. Which is a very accessible little book. And she sent it to us over Christmas and then my wife was reading it, my wife really liked it. She said it was, even, my wife doesn't speak English that well but she could...she liked it because it was very accessible. I forget the name of it. It's kind of a picture book and it's about the internment story, but it's in a very accessible kind of, language for kids. And she said that, that book, she used to use it, as a...used to read it to her class. When she was a teacher, that's how I heard this. Because it was the same book that she gave us for Christmas, this Christmas. Because she knew I was... But you know, part of the reason I did this project as well is my parents are getting older and I...you know I phone them more often, they want me to phone them more often. It gives me something to talk to them about. As well. So I talk to them about this stuff and we, my mum, my mum's a kind of historian herself, so. This also creates some possibilities for connections. Where, they've never been able to connect with my research in Southeast Asia, because they know nothing about there. And so, we can never really discuss my research in Asia. Because it's too...too different for them. But, for stuff that happened in Canada, they can relate to it more. So that's also part of my motivation.
CN
Yeah. And, how does knowing this aspect of your family's history, or their connections, how does it change the way that you think about your family?
IB
Well I don't think it changes much about - well, I don't think it changes that much about the way I think about my family. I mean I think what I, most recently from what I've learnt about my other cousins that were fishermen, it makes me realize that my family were not all racists, I thought they were? But they weren't, actually. And they were more diverse than I understood and it's come to make me realize that a lot of people were, even in a place like Nanaimo, there were people that were very pro-Japanese, and so it's changed my view of society, it maybe makes me look at it a little bit, more nuanced. But remember, I'd been thinking about these issues for a long time already...you know, through my own family, I mean I've been married to a Thai woman for twenty-eight years now. You know, I got married at the age of twenty-three, I'm fifty-one now. So, you know, I've spent a lot of years thinking about these issues. So it's not like, this was something new for me? You know I’m affiliated with the Asian American studies, I do Hmong studies, I work a lot with Lao people, I’ve been working with Lao people, you know since the early 2000s in Surrey, I have good friends in Surrey, I was part of that. I'm a Buddhist, I'm a Theravada Buddhist, I'm involved in the Buddhist temples and things, and I know all the, you know, the rituals and things related to that, so. So, you know these are...some ways maybe didn't affect me as much, but I've done this work with an activist understanding that I do want that to affect other people. I'm writing this largely for white people...to say hey, you know in this day and age, when someone like Donald Trump can become president of the United States, and we see in other parts of the world...you know um, similar types of characters, you know, rising up, maybe not as much but, to some degree? That, you know, we need to...we need to have a way to...push back against this. So, what is it that white people can do to push back? Because...you know and maybe one of the things that we can do is to...examine our own histories and be reflexive about that and be, open about that and maybe that's one way that we can contribute to...so that people who are on the other side, people that are, Asian, people who have been affected by this, either, themselves or their parents or grandparents, whatever, they can be...they don't have to fight. It's not so much resistance, you know, in society, right, that there are, you know when they talk about this stuff that people will get it. Quicker. That there won't have to be these awkward discussions, before somebody finally realizes what's going on. So, if I can make that a little easier for people? And for people, to feel more comfortable, in talking about these issues, and not feel that somebody might...you know, not like that, or somebody might not want that to be talked about, you know, like make it, a kind of thing that we can all talk about, and then in some ways, maybe that's something that, you know, like, I don't want to appropriate other people's stories so, I do believe that...and this also has a lot to do with my work in Southeast Asia, I do believe that the bulk of this work needs to be done by Asian Canadians themselves, or by Japanese Canadians themselves? They need to tell their OWN stories? I mean I think that's, you know, like, that's like at the heart of any good methodology is for people to tell their OWN stories so I'm not - I don't want to replace that. You know, but I do think that maybe I can supplement it. In another way, from a somewhat different perspective. In a way that can be supportive, and maybe, and if it's only...you know Japanese Canadians who are talking about this and it's not white Canadians as well, I think that's a problem. Right, I mean, we need to have everyone talking about it. Because, and I mean, not to say that, you know, I mean obviously the Japanese Canadians were the ones who bore the brunt of the trauma that occurred, and the injustices that occurred, but...there were, you know, maybe lower levels of trauma, and uncomfortableness and things that happened for white communities that were also taken away from their friends and didn't understand, I mean, Mary Shikatani left, didn't have a chance to tell her best friend that she was going? Her best friend, you know Catherine Russell said that her, Catherine Russell's MOTHER was crying. Because she knew this girl so well and then all of a sudden she was gone and they didn't even say goodbye. And it was, you know, shocking. You know, for some of these. I mean, when I interview these older people, they use the word trauma. And I don't want to - I don't want to say it's at the same level as the trauma that occurred, because it wasn't, I'm sure it wasn't, but, you know, but it was at a certain level, and I think that's a trauma that nobody's acknowledged. That existed, right. I mean, one older woman said to me, it's terrible what war does. To people. What it did to us, what it did to our society, how did it make us...that fear, allowed us to do, what we did to the Japanese Canadians, right. I mean that...you know. She was blaming it on WAR. As, and war, you know, war does that. It DOES cause people to, look at, you know 9/11, and the reaction to Muslims, look at, you know, throughout history, right, wars have created all kinds of, you know people have turned against people based on fear and, a complication of fear and hate and, you know all kinds of stuff that comes together, so. I think that you know, this is one way. And the other thing that, about my article I think, that um, the first one that I did, is I don't think I would have dared to have published it, if it hadn't been for the support, or, the very positive response I received from Audrey Kobayashi. So Audrey is somebody that I met, previously, she came to Madison some years ago as a guest speaker and I was part of a dinner so I had talked with her a bit. And we connected a little bit but I hadn't much contact but when I decided to do this, I didn't know many Japanese Canadians, so I didn't know who she was and I know what, she, she's a geographer like I am, and so I...and I'm also somebody who's interested in feminist methodologies, qualitative methods, I teach qualitative methods, I teach ethnography. And she's done a lot of writing on those issues as well, so I...sent my paper to her...you know, did I get the balance right, is this going to offend somebody, is this going to look like some white guy writing some stuff that, you know, is...you know, misrepresenting...you know like how would Japanese Canadians view what I'm writing? So I wanted her perspective on that as somebody who's been involved in...this issue for a very long time. And you know she liked the balance that I...you know the balance of being reflexive but not...just being about me? Trying to - and also I was happy with...and later on when it was published I was happy with the archivist, in Nanaimo who said, I've never read something that is both personal and also, dealing with a broader issue. That's, the idea is to use genealogy and history, of my family, to make it a personal connection which then can speak to a broader issue that's a - because nobody really wants to hear about my family but, if I can use that to create...a broader message that, can go to a broader audience, right, that's where there's value, right. Yeah.
02:07:18.000
02:07:18.000
CN
Yeah. Um, you're touching on...something that comes up a lot in the context of Landscapes of Injustice, which is this idea that it's a Canadian story, that it has effects not just on Japanese Canadians, but all Canadians. And that's something actually that comes up a lot in interviews with Japanese Canadians is that they say, Japanese Canadian history is Canadian history.
IB
Absolutely.
CN
So I was wondering if you could comment on that. A question that we like to ask during our interviews is, what should Canadians take away from learning this history, which is something that you're definitely approaching from an academic perspective. But even if it's -
IB
Well not only, not only academic, I don't...I mean some of what I'm writing is theoretical and academic but...I don't write it in language that is so dense that it is not accessible. And I don't expect that it will only be...I mean I send my article to Japanese Canadians all the time, I send it to white Canadians, you know I send it to a lot of people to look at and so I don't expect that it's only going to be academics that read it. I do think that in Nanaimo I'm amazed that you had such a big Japanese community there, and now there's nothing there. There's no...there's a little teeny thing in the museum, there's very little at the archives, there's no, you know...plaque or, memorial or anything, I mean, my wife and I were walking down Stewart Avenue and my wife said hey look at that plant - my wife likes plants. She said, that's Japanese hawthorn.
CN
Hm.
IB
That, you know maybe that's a legacy that's like a released plant that came into that area because of Japanese community that was there. But there's NOTHING to suggest, it's totally erased from the history of Nanaimo. It seems to me...and I posted this...there's a Facebook page called, “You know you're from Nanaimo when...” and, I posted the 1934 class photo. From Brechin school. Which, shows forty percent Japanese in the class picture. I was amazed by the comments of all these Facebook people who are collected to that page, but. Uh, people that I don't know, who were commenting, saying, oh. Nanaimo was more diverse back then than it is now, or, like they were. I didn't make any comment about the diversity, but THEY were all making a comment about how diverse...it looked and there was a bunch of comments back and forth, so I thought, okay. You know? Um...it's important for Nanaimo people nowadays to know that their history was not always just white people. I mean that's actually a very valuable thing, right. You know, that's going to make them more open to racial diversity now. Right? Like this can have a positive - so it's not just about history, it's, I do feel that as a white person maybe my job is to, sensitize white people a bit more to some of these issues. You know. In a certain way. But also to help...I mean I wish there was a Japanese Canadian who was doing the history of Japanese Canadians in Nanaimo. But since nobody's doing it, and the only people that know about it are between eighty and ninety, if I don't do it now it's going to be gone entirely. And nobody else seems to be in the wings waiting to do it. So, at least I haven't met anyone, maybe there is somebody.
CN
I think Mas Fukawa's doing some of that research.
IB
I've talked to her about it, she's definitely interested in relations, she said that to me from the very beginning, she was one of the very first people who...but you know, and she said to me, at the very beginning, she said, “Oh finally I have a friend, before I thought I was the only one who cared about Nanaimo, now I know there's somebody else who cares”, so she also encouraged me a lot, from the very beginning. And, you know, I'm going to go see her tomorrow at her house because, you know -
CN
Great, tell her I say hi.
IB
Yeah, yeah. But, so, but she told me that she'd been looking for stories about...white connections to Japanese Canadians, that she wanted to do that, and that was something that she thought was important to document, so she has a sense that, you know, she lived in Nanaimo herself for many years. I think she has a sense that that's important? And she sort of said to me, she said um...you know. Some people are looking for the more negative stuff, she said you know, I'm looking for some of the positive stuff, she actually said to me. That's the way she put it. But she said she had not been able to find much! She had been unsuccessful in finding many stories. And now, with...you know now, due to family health issues, she's not able to get out as much to do this work right now. So, she's not really able to pursue it so, she has had an interest in this, you're right. And she has an interest in Nanaimo but, she actually hasn't, according to her, and maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised when I go there that there's more to it than meets the eye but, in my telephone and email communications with her, over the last number of months, it seems that...she has not...been able to put together this history, herself. She went, she told me initially that she went to Nanaimo Archives and they told her that they didn't have anything there that was valuable. So I thought that was the case. You know, then I found all this stuff...from the Native Sons and Daughters and I sent it to her, she was amazed, she didn't think any of it existed in Nanaimo Archives, she'd been living in Nanaimo for years, she'd gone to the archives, she had - because it wasn't in a Japanese file, it was in the Native Sons and Daughters file, so she'd never, you know, I came across it by accident. She, you know, she hadn't asked the right question or, hadn't been given the right answer. So she didn't know that. Then when I went, and then, in this last year, in 2016...the archivist got a little bit more interested because John Price and his people, had asked her to do a little, report of what the archives in Nanaimo had because, they considered Nanaimo to be, a less-studied area that people knew less about.
CN
This is for the, Asian Canadians in Vancouver Island project?
IB
Absolutely. Yeah. And, so...that had, made the archivist more aware of the situation, and she - when I went to the archives, I know her, and she gave me that report right away.
CN
Hmm.
IB
So that I could see what she compiled, she complied some stuff for them? To kind of show what they had, but there wasn't much. And she'd done no interviews, and what you could see from that little report was, that there's not much note. And, and so, you know that kind of um...so yeah. So I think, yeah. Masako is very interested, obviously. But...I don't think she was able to get what she wanted to get. My, having said that...you know, her books...to me, are... you know, the best, in terms of really documenting...that history, it's, you know the fishing history...her books are wonderful. You know, really important resources. So I'm really glad to have those. And I've definitely made good use of them, and I consider her work to be, you know the best, for this issue. From what I've seen.
02:14:30.000
02:14:30.000
CN
Mhm. Um...I realized there was another thing I wanted to talk to you about from, or ask you about that you mentioned WAY back was, your family members that learned how to use chopsticks.
IB
Mm.
CN
And I'm really interested in that idea of, cultural teachings, because actually, I feel like...when you do hear about white people interacting with Japanese Canadians at that time period, it's often...we taught them English. You know, so, about them teaching them about the sort of dominant white settler culture at the time -
IB
Yeah, I haven't heard much about that.
CN
Interesting.
IB
No. mumble But I -
CN
So it wasn't,
IB
-I mainly heard about white people learning from Japanese.
CN
And that's not a story that I've heard before of, people learning about Japanese culture so much.
IB
Yeah, yeah, it seems that food was an important part...because apparently when they went out often, for whatever reason, like they were out, five or six boats or whatever, one of the Japanese would stop fishing first and would often make the food, so it seems the Japanese were doing more the cooking, than the white guys. Maybe they were better cooks.
CN
laughs
IB
You know or they, or they took that food preparation more seriously. Right, so...they would, one of the guys would stop, and then by the time they all came in from fishing, the food would be done. The food would be ready, and then they would raft up together, and everyone would come on, and they'd all sit down on the boat and they'd eat together. And sit around in a circle and everyone would eat and it would be Japanese food.
CN
Right.
IB
So, you know, uh...I was amazed at that that, was happening, and you know, they weren't complaining about eating Japanese food, they thought it was good! You know? I mean...personally. You know...I'm so used to eating Southeast Asian food like Lao and Thai food, and they, cook their rice in a certain way and they make their food in a certain way and they use a lot of spices? When I have Japanese food...even though I love, I could eat rice every day, and when I lived in Asia, every meal I ate rice, but...I don't like Japanese food as much as I like Thai and Lao food because that's not what I'm used to, but for, for - THEY really love Japanese food. You know, I mean I'm not against Japanese food I just haven't had it as much, myself, eating other types of Asian food. You know, and I’m used to spicy food, and when I'm used to spicy food, and when I eat Japanese food, it doesn't taste spicy enough for me. I'm used to spicy...Asian food. From Southeast Asia. So...you know, that's, but for them, it probably, fit perfectly with their palate because they weren't used to spicy food to begin with. Because they were eating very bland, you know...Irish Scottish...they were Scots. They were Scottish, and they were eating you know, like, really bland...really terrible food, was their traditional food was laugh, was very spiceless and so I guess, it fit quite well with Japanese food, they didn't have a lot of spice in Japanese food either. And so it was, you know, easy for them to, adapt to it, and they seemed to...they had that, I'd never heard them say any negative comments about Japanese food. They seem to really like it. You know. Mind you, you know, there was a tofu shop apparently, the Hamanishi family was making tofu in Nanaimo. And I did ask my cousin about...tofu. And, he didn't know what tofu was, even now. I said well, he said, what's tofu? And I said well it's, you know, made of soybeans, it's this white stuff and they put it into like...even after explaining it to him he could not...that's, THAT's, that's the type of people - so that's how culturally isolated some of my relatives are. That they don't even know what tofu is in this day and age. And yet -
CN
But two generations ago, they did.
IB
Well, he would, no he HIMSELF was eating a lot of Japanese food! He had probably been eating tofu, he didn't even know it! He'd be,
CN
Okay.
IB
-you see, he just doesn't - the point is that, these were not people that were exposed to other cultures' foods. But for some reason...you know they were brought up with these Japanese kids, you know...and the other, I think the other really important thing that I think deserves more attention. And I think I touched on this a little bit already, but...what I’m really focussing on, it's partially because, you know the people that I’m able to talk to now are...you know, they weren't adults back then, they were only children back then. Because the adults are all gone now, pretty well, the ones who were adults at internment are not alive now. The only, children, people fourteen fifteen, they can still, they're ninety years old now. Um, you know, um...is that, it's...the relationships at schools were important. So the parents...they couldn't speak as much English. You know, there was also prejudices on the white side I’m sure, so it was hard for them to connect. Even like my wife now. All my wife's friends are Lao speakers. She can speak some English, but, and it's not like she's has, she never has problems with white people but...it's hard for her to communicate at a full level? And, also there's the cultural differences are a little bit, so like there's...it's not like it's negative or anything but, she just like...everything's familiar for her, with Lao speakers, so those are all her friends! Right, so, it would have been like that for any first generations, Japanese first generations as well, I don't think they interacted much, but it was the children, right. Because once they started to have wives and they started to have kids and then, initially they were sending their kids back to Japan and then at a certain point, they made a decision that they were going to start sending their kids to school here. At first they probably thought they'd be heading back to Japan and then later they thought, well maybe we'll stay and, that's where they started to send their kids to start, strategic calculation, that we'll send their kids to school in Canada, and, you know...those relationships, that developed were amongst the kids at school. And when kids are at school, there maybe is less...baggage? You know, and maybe it's easier to kind of...you know, it appears that they weren't cliquing out at the school, that they weren't like the Japanese were playing here and the white kids were playing there. It seemed that they were interacting, a lot, you know that's what I’ve heard from all the stories that I've heard from and, everyone claims that it was FINE, that there were no tensions at all...you know, but, there...there probably were SOME, a little bit here and there, I imagine, but, they didn't, it was - you know. They didn't think much of it at least. You know, and they thought things were okay. I mean, kids can be cruel in some ways too, you know they adopt what they get from their parents, they can say cruel things, I know when I was a kid people said cruel, other kids said cruel things to me and I said cruel things to other kids, I mean that's, kids can be like that, but at the other time, kids can also...get past some of those barriers that maybe existed amongst their parents so, like if you go to school with some kid for like, five or six or seven years, and you're in a small class, and you're sitting next to each other for years, and then you're like walking home, you know and you're living in the same area with them...I mean I think...we have to think about the relationships more about the schools as being the place...where that happened, and it was the second generation, right. The first generation I think...like even now, my Lao friends who came here after '75...you've been here like over forty years now. Their friends are all Lao, they don't have white friends, at all! They don't have any! And they only talk in Lao, they...be the Lao people and you know, I'm the only white friend they have, because I speak Lao. You know and I can hang out with them, and I can do stuff with them, but, for those people , they will ‘til the day they die, will be speaking Lao and they will never stop. And that's the history of the Germans and the Italians and every group of people that have come - is the first generation, that they will always...you know, especially those who come as political refugees. Their heads were always, you know, back in Laos, even if their bodies are here. But, for their kids, it's totally different. Totally different. So I think that that's where, people like Kashi Uyeyama, and Noboru Uyeyama, you know those were that second generation, right. And they were the ones who created those relationships and had great friends. That wasn't the way things were for their parents. Maybe...in places like Steveston and Vancouver, where I've talked to some older people, like Mits Sakai who said well you know. If you were in Steveston, you wanted a taxi, you could get a Japanese taxi, you wanted to go to any shop, you have Japanese - you didn't need to speak English. You could do everything in society in Steveston, without having to speak English. Now that wasn't the case in Nanaimo. So...I think there's also differences, based on...geography, size of the community. Where they were located. What their occupation was. There's a whole slew of factors. I can't say which one is, always the most important, I don't think - but, but, it's a complex, situation.
02:23:07.000
02:23:07.000
CN
Yeah.
IB
Yeah.
CN
Um...do you remember, I don't t know where you, or maybe you were in Asia at the time, in the 1980s during Redress?
IB
I was in Asia.
CN
Okay. So, I don't know if you have any memories of,
IB
I have no memories at all, because I was gone.
CN
Right.
IB
I left here in 1986. laugh And I was gone, I was gone when Redress happened and I didn't hear about it, until recently. both laugh I didn't spend a winter in North America for twenty-five years.
CN
Right.
IB
So I just didn't know.
CN
Okay. Kay.
IB
laughs
CN
Wanted to check on that but, okay.
IB
laughs
CN
Um...yeah I'm just looking over my other, questions now. pause Were you able to find out, you said you were looking for if Japanese Canadians owned their homes in Nanaimo.
IB
So that's still something that I need to figure out because I was told that, they did own some property? The problem is that where they lived in Brechin, on Stewart Avenue was officially outside of Nanaimo, now it's part of Nanaimo, but before it was, its own town, Brechin? So all those records, from there are not in the Nanaimo Archives. They're with the provincial government. And I haven't gotten to looking for those, so...at first I thought they owned them, but then the archivist said she could find no records of them owning property. Now I'm beginning to wonder if they owned property. The reason is, they certainly owned boats. But they were relatively poor, there was very few cars, amongst that community. They were mainly fishers and they didn't have cars, they stayed in their little area, because they were on the boats and then they were, wherever they could walk. And...it's, you know, it may...maybe because, now I'm realizing from a few different reports that they were living on, mainly on shacks...in the tidal zone. So, on pilings. So, they were, that land, you cannot own. You're not allowed to own that land, it's not on the mainland. It's not on the LAND, it's on, where the tide comes up. That's, federally, you're not allowed to buy and sell that land, that's federally owned land, that the federal government is responsible, that's the way that Canadian law works. So...either they...so they couldn't have owned that. So they must not have owned that land. Whether they had other land, you know where they did their garden or something like that, there might have been on the mainland, that was actual land that they owned, that could have been the case, but, at least their main house, mainly were right on the docks. That were...you know, and then...so either they were paying nothing, or maybe they were paying some tax to the federal government? It might have been a strategy to actually avoid paying rent or tax to anyone? That's, somebody suggested that to me, that there were some cases around here, where that has happened in the past. So I don't, I'm still in the process of trying to figure that out. That's probably going to be something that comes after the article about anti-racism, that seems to be a more deeper question that has to do with the Nanaimo community, the Japanese community in Nanaimo more generally. But it is something that I would like to figure out. Because it seems important. But so far I've not been able to really, come to conclude. But I'm leaning more towards, I was initially leaning towards thinking that they all owned their property, because some people told me they did. Some Japanese Canadians who, children of those Uyeyamas they, so I thought they had owned their property. But now I'm less sure about that. I'm less sure. And this was partly - Mary Shikatani saying to me, those Japanese fishermen on Stewart Avenue, they were really poor and like, living in desperate conditions, I...that's not something a white person told me. I did not hear that from ANY of the white people. The white people did not - the one, the person that looked down on them, as lower-class was the Japanese woman. She's the one that said that to me, not - all the other white people, not ANY of them have ever suggested that. Which is an interesting in itself. She had a different view of that, like, we were different, we were better off than them. And she said even her father didn't have enough money to buy a property. I said well did your father own property, and said no. He wasn't rich enough. So if HE didn't own it...maybe those others didn't, as well. But, maybe they did! I don't know, I...there was a Japanese school there. So somebody owned that. Right? Um, and I’ve just ordered today the, the photograph of the Nanaimo Japanese School, is in the Vancouver Public Library. So I just ordered a copy of that today.
CN
Um, I'm interested in sort of the tradition of fishing, both in like you said the Uyeyama family, but also in your own family and how that continuity...continued after the war for both families.
IB
Mhm, yeah.
CN
Does your family still, are they still involved in the fishing industry?
IB
No.
CN
No? It's, it's kind of stayed with the older generation?
IB
Gord, who's now eighty-one, he...was a fisherman for twenty-seven years. And then became a bus driver.
CN
Hmm. Hmm.
IB
And that's what, he finished his career as a bus driver in Nanaimo. So...it seemed that the fishing went down over time, the people didn't see a future in it. So but the one difference I'll say is this. The Japanese Canadians...seemed to work hard to get their kids educated and get them out...in, you know...like they were more, upwardly mobile. My relatives mainly weren't. They're still sitting in Nanaimo...working as loggers and, not going to university and they're, you know. The Japanese Canadians...and also, remember. Japanese Canadians that lived there...they immigrated to Canada before my relatives did.
CN
Right.
IB
They're more recent immigrants. Relatively around the same time, but a little bit earlier, probably. At least, we know the Uyeyama...the father was apparently one of the, was the first to marry in the Anglican Church, in Victoria. It was the first Japanese marriage in the Anglican Church, I've been told, by his grandson. I haven't been able to find a record of that. But, I've been told that that was what happened. That's what he understands. So...in a way...my family has been less upwardly mobile than the Japanese were. My family was, like, Gord's son is a logger and...you know. His sons are...just doing manual labour around Nanaimo I mean...they haven't...you know the Japanese Canadians, have been much more upwardly mobile. The ones that they fished together. pause But not the parents, they wanted to go back to fish. The Uyeyama, Kashi and Jimmy and them, they fished until they couldn't fish anymore, for them that was their life, they were familiar with it, they wanted to become fishermen again, they came back with a desire to do that, and that was their goal, to be commercial fishermen in Nanaimo, and so I don't, I think that's what they wanted but it's not what...if you look around BC generally, how many Japanese Canadians, the children of Japanese fishermen are still fishing? Very very few. There's more children of white fishermen that are still fishing than Japanese, right? But maybe that was also because...you know Japanese Canadians were restricted from some occupations. And that forced them, to some degree into fishing.
CN
Hmm.
IB
You know, many of the children of fishermen I see are school teachers. Are now retired schoolteachers...you know who...but that was an occupation that was disallowed to them, earlier. And so, maybe when that opened up and it became possible to send your kid to school and to get them education, and to move into better jobs and they didn't see the future for fishing, you know also because the stock was maybe going down and, the fishers realized that the best days of fishing were over, you know that's also probably part of the...understanding that existed is that they just didn't see a future in it. For them. You know...yeah. So it's...that's interesting, I think oh you know, there's no Japanese left in Nanaimo, but my relatives are still there laugh doing to the same old thing. You know, in a way...yeah, that's. For me it was an interesting observation. That they...the chronic, you know, working-class mentality seems to be more embedded in my family. Than it was in the Japanese... Canadians who were there in Nanaimo, and came back. pause To some degree, although I heard that the fishermen, they didn't, they weren't, some of them - it depended also on who they were. Like...Noboru's wife, he was educated from Japan and, she apparently valued education a lot more, she was from an educated family herself, so she put a lot of value in getting her kids to go to school, whereas some other families that didn't have that background, maybe were less. So it was variation as well, even amongst the Japanese. But, you know, I don't want to make the, you know, it's all the same, but - it wasn't, but...it is a bit ironic that...you know...most of the Japanese were moved away and, you know those guys that were working with them, they're still there, you know, working in working-class jobs. Without any aspirations for getting an education or anything. Much. Basically I became educated largely because of my mother's side. That's the only reason why, you know otherwise...because none of my other relatives, none of them have gone to university. My mother's side is much more educated. Yeah.
02:33:11.000
02:33:11.000
CN
Um...I think you know that Landscapes of Injustice has two sections, the research, phase and the knowledge mobilization phase?
IB
Mhm?
CN
So we're just about to switch into knowledge mobilization.
IB
Right.
CN
And then...the focus is not going to be, on gathering information as much as, making it available to the public.
IB
Right.
CN
Um, so...you know, always looking at that. As our sort of, not END goal but like our, next...phase of activity but also especially now because we're in the last year of our research...
IB
I think, some of the things I have already said in this interview...might be very valuable to think about, this next phase.
CN
Yes.
IB
Because...if the goal is to change views of white people. Which I would say is probably more - I mean it's partially to maintain memory within Japanese Canadians so they know their own histories, I mean I'm sure that's a big part of the goal, but I'm sure another part of it is to sensitize white people to what happened and to acknowledge what happened. And to understand all that, you know, that that's also another - important part of the goal? Right? And I think...if somebody, if some white person who, maybe from a working-class family who may not have much contact nowadays with Asians hears that...were to know that their grandfather was a great friend of a Japanese fisherman. That is going to connect them personally, in a way, that might make them much more receptive to the type of messages that I think you would like them to hear. If they...you don't, I mean I think, there's ways that, they could be more connected. Otherwise it's not THEIR history, it's somebody else's history. Therefore it's not as interesting to them.
CN
Right. RIght.
IB
But, but it shouldn't be thought of that. It should be everyone's history, right.
CN
Right.
IB
Yeah, and that, which is some of the things Japanese have said to you in your interviews, right, is that, they, you know, this is Canadian history, it's not just Japanese history.
CN
Right, so...I agree with you and I was wondering - I wanted to give you the chance also, you know...you've definitely set out your methodology and your framework and, a way for us to think about as scholars. Um, but if you can talk to...people who are members of the public listening to this interview directly or, engaging with the project, directly, and speak to them directly. Is there something that you would say to them, specifically.
IB
Well I would, just say look for the unexpected, that there was a lot of things going on that don't, maybe, you know...I think this is a common thing. When histories are first told...I mean it was a political project, right, at the time when the histories were first told. Because, there was a desire to gain recognition you know, there was the political project of Redress. When you're in that stage of that, you - there may not be a need to nuance the story. You're trying to make a political point, you know for the purposes of achieving something, right. So that makes total sense, in terms of the way things were done at that time. But now we're in a different phase, or a different era where it's no longer, a matter of, activism on the part of the Japanese Canadian community to get some kind of public apology from the government. You know. It's probably more of a goal now to have it recognized as a meaningful part of Canadian history. Not to have happened what happened to...Midori when she tried to do her grade twelve history project, and her teacher told her this is not legitimate Canadian history. Right? Or, this is not BC history, right? That is the type of thing that I'm sure people want...you know people to be receptive, that this is a legitimate part of BC or Canadian history, and this needs to be...if you know, if students want to write about this, if they want to do projects on this, that this should be something that everyone's encouraging. And open to, right? I mean this is...you know. So. So I would say that we need to look for...the unusual connections, which might...cause some people in the province to become more connected. Feel that they're more part of this history, that THEY were affected by what happened as well. So these older ninety-year-old women who said that their lives were changed by this! Like...they're going to be gone soon too. And their children and grandchildren need to KNOW that - because they often don't KNOW that their grand...you know they don't know the story either, right? They don't understand it either, right, so. So, once those people are gone, and if this is not documented...then those people that are their...the later generations, they're going to just feel like this is not our history, this is somebody else's history, right, this is them, this is not us. And, that's a shame. If that happens, right, and I think it inevitably probably already is happening, to some degree. And, it's not that...we can connect with everyone out there, because some people are just not connected. You know, they never were. Right. But, if we CAN connect to them, and we can show...that this type of behaviour, against Japanese Canadians...is something that affected everyone. Negatively. And that it's something, that was a tragedy...especially for Japanese Canadians, but also for society more generally. This diversity that existed in 1930s...became less diverse. You know, that, the things we're trying to achieve now, actually existed back then already! To some degree. And so we need to, you know, celebrate that. And try to bring that back a bit. So I think that there is, uh, you know some valuable, outreach that needs to be done. And, finding ways - you know. Older people that can speak to this...even white people that can talk to, interview white people, not ME. Because I don't really have, like, personal experiences, I’m just connecting some of my relatives but, those actual people who have those stories, that I’m getting their interviews from...THOSE stories should be out there to show the white community that there were these people that were traumatized by this as well in the white community so that they feel like wow, you know, this is...this is a terrible thing we should never do this to another people again, because it not only affected them, it also affected us. And it made our, society...less strong.
02:39:40.000
02:39:40.000
IB
I think the other thing that is important, on the more...cutting edge is that, Canadians have a sense that we're nicer people than Americans, that we're, you know we're more just, that we're, you know somehow...less racist and things like that? You know if you look at the history of internment, right, I mean, Canada was worse than the States, right, they sold that stuff, they were...you know, they were nastier. Right? They were nastier than, and we need to face up to that as Canadians more generally, right. That our own image of ourselves does not always fit...you know. And these are things that Canadian's don't, that's a more uncomfortable thing that some people don't want to...hear, you know? Or even, I know a First Nations guy who's a Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick who lives in the United States now. He's lived many years in the US and he, you know a Mi’kmaq member of the band in New Brunswick. I asked him, I said well, you've spent part of your life in both places, a considerable part, you know what do you think, the history and everything...he thinks that the Canadians were worse to the Native people than Americans were. Maybe...obviously there's lots of things that happened in different parts of the US in different periods of time so we can't generalize so easily, but the point is that I think Canadians need to be a little bit more critical, self-critical, and, always looking at America and thinking that Canada's better, I think that creates a barrier for understanding some of the, Canadians' own view of themselves? Because a lot of the racism is “nice” racism? You know, nice Canadian racism, right? Where you're, where you're racist but you don't necessarily yell in somebody's face? Right, but it's just there...internally. That's...that's a bit more difficult to convey that, to people. People have to be at a certain level of understanding before you begin to talk about that. I think the first stage is to connect them to, their place or their people in a way, that they can see that they were a part of this history, or their ancestors were a part of this history. That's probably, lower-lying fruit for, making successes with connecting people. But, what I've certainly found in my own research, when it comes to white people...it's much much easier, and no resistance at all, when I talk to really old people. The ones between eighty and ninety who had contact with Japanese, real easy. It's a real easy conversation. When I talk to younger people? Who didn't, even a few years younger? But who didn't know any Japanese? The discussion is much more difficult.
CN
The discussion of what specifically?
IB
The discussion about what happened!
CN
About the internment.
IB
And the internment, and the injustice that occurred, right? Because...they don't...that's somebody else's issue, that's not them. They have no connection. They don't see the injustices, they don't have a strong opinion about it.
CN
They don't want to recognize it, or...
IB
I don't know, I wouldn't say they're in denial, they just don't KNOW anything about it. You know, they don't know enough, they don't see it's related to them, and they, so it doesn't grab them.
CN
So the difference -
IB
And I don't feel like they're very emotional about it. And you know, it's just like, you're hearing about what's happening in Sudan or something. I mean, you might be interested, but you're not connected to Sudan, so. You can listen to it on the news, or you can listen to somebody talking about it. You might be mildly interested, but it doesn't have a huge emotional effect on you. You know, whereas when I talk to older people that really affect, you know, were there...I'm amazed at how emotional they are. At how...vocal they are. At how...you know, speaking as if, you know ninety-year-old people who, I'm sure have never been involved in any kind of advocacy or they haven't been protesting in their lives ever, but yet, they SOUND like they're...like they're talking about INJUSTICE and maybe that's their main point in their lives where they really saw injustice and recognize it as such. I think that's something that people don't realize, that there are people out there that feel that way. I'm not saying it's everyone. And it's complicated, you know, as I've mentioned already. But, it's something that is important, that people need to realize. And I think THAT'S the message. That is the least understood, and is the message that needs to get out to the public. That I think, is going to resolve in the type of positive...societal changes that I think the Landscapes of Injustice project is trying to promote. I think that that is...the connection. That can actually...have the biggest impact. If it can be made. Right?
CN
Mhm.
02:44:37.000
02:44:37.000
IB
You know, maybe that means people who have had, who are like...either those old people come out to an event, now and then, or they're recorded now and then, or you know there's some interviews, in some video, of some ninety-year-old people talking about how their best friend was taken away from them when this happened... you know, how terrible it was, you know, this sort of thing. You know, like, that needs to be part of this, in my view. Because that is what is going to...so I come from a, non-government organization, an NGO background, a civil society background. I worked for civil society organizations, for, you know, twenty some-odd years in Southeast Asia so I think about advocacy, a lot. In my work, I do environmental...types of advocacy. Sometimes. In Southeast Asia, mainly. So. I think about how messages...you know...who's receptive to a message, and how do we get that message, how do we bring on societal change. Right, through...messaging. And what sort of messages work, and what sort of messages don't work. And my feeling is...even though I'm probably guilty of this myself...but in many cases on my, you know I'm one of those people that's very very negative about people like Donald Trump. But there's a side of me, I met a guy who's a Puerto Rican guy, who said to me that...he's actually a professor in the English department of the University of Chicago Illinois, but, he studies rhetoric from both...you know, far right and left-leaning groups. You know, he wants to hear all the rhetoric. You know, and actually, he's thought a lot about you know how do you make, like, maybe there's a lot of people who have become more racist, because of our anti-racism. Because of the way we make them feel so defensive that they crawl into their shell and then they got a bigger beef than then ever had before. And you hear this kind of, if you watch Fox News or, which I don't watch normally, but, occasionally put on just to see what they're saying. You know, you get this kind of narrative, right, coming out, right, this kind of narrative where, we're the victims. Everyone's blaming us, right. We're the victims here, you know that is not...going to lead, to the type of positive results, it needs to be presented to people in a way that, um...and it's not easy to do it because how do you, you know, present such a huge travesty, a huge injustice in a way that is not going to alienate people. And I think it's not too bad in this issue because I think that most Canadians feel like, you know this is a long time ago, and you know, it's not like, they don't feel maybe personally threatened by it as much as if it was happening nowadays? They can say well that's something that happened a few generations ago. But, you know. I'm more worried that they're just going to be indifferent.
CN
Right.
02:47:56.000
02:47:56.000
IB
You know and, to become emotionally attached to that. I think, having some kind of family...connection? So that's certainly what's gotten ME...connected to this is my family's relationship, right? And as much as I was, you know...initially I was looking for the type of racism that I expected to find based on my own understanding of the society in Nanaimo and, my own experiences as a kid, and I found what I was looking for, because I knew it was there, you know, but what really surprised me was I found the other side of it. Which also is, I'm very happy about that, because now there's something for me to be proud about. Right, there's something to celebrate. And I can talk to my relatives, who I might not have a connection with, and I can say hey this is a great thing, this is something we should be celebrating as a family. Right? This is something that was a terrible thing that happened, and we had a positive, your family had a positive role in...making it easier for these people to come back and then made them feel comfortable when they returned, and, you know, it was in their own way, I mean these were not people that were trained or highly educated or, you know, it was in the context of that day and age, right. I mean there were no you know, civil society organizations in Nanaimo in those days advocating for minorities I mean that just, you know like, it just didn't exist. So that, you know, that was, they'd never heard of that stuff before. So, that's, you know, kind of a pioneer, in kind of a way, right, but it came about in a different context than what we'd see today, right, the type of activism existed, but we need to recognize it as such. That's something that white people can be proud of. Right, as much as we should also be ashamed of those who didn't speak out. Or even those who...I mean I don't know, could people have said more at the time, would it have made a difference, what was their understanding of that time, why were people like my cousins who...eventually helped these people up and get them back into fishing, you know, why, when Kashi was pulling on his leg, did he feel he could - or did he think I'm just another working-class bloke who, the navy's sitting around with guns with bayonets, they had guns with bayonets? When they showed up? Or they were just fearful as everyone else? You know, these are the navy with guns with bayonets, coming to our houses, I mean I'm as scared as...you know you are, and so I'm just going to shut up here because I don't feel powerful. You know, or was their understanding different, or, was there more, you know. What did they yell out, did they say things? Did they say this is wrong, maybe they said it. I don't really know, unfortunately most of those people are dead now, we'll never know! We'll never know, it's a real shame, I bet you that some of them did. I'm sure they did. But I don't really have enough evidence to support that. I know though that Kashi was, you know. ASKING them for help. You know? And, you know, these people felt, you know. Uh, I don't know what they felt, you know? Did they feel that they did enough? Maybe that's why they helped them out when they came back, maybe they felt that they, should have done more but it kind of caught them off guard and, they didn't maybe do enough, maybe they didn't realize what was happening. Maybe they thought they wouldn't - and I think, another thing that seems to have happened was, in Nanaimo at least, some of the families there seem to have left earlier. Between, after December '41 and before, official internment. They went to Vancouver thinking that they could somehow, in Steveston, that they could blend in and escape internment. That internment wasn't going to happen throughout the province, it was going to happen in Nanaimo but they could somehow, if they went to the mainland they could, somehow, blend in with a bigger population and somehow, not have to move? Which obviously didn't work out, for them at all. That was not what happened. But there seemed to be a belief, by some. That they could somehow avoid it. Which is, you know. I think that's a different experience than you hear from people in Vancouver or Steveston. So I think there's a lot of experiences that we still need to understand more about.
CN
Yeah.
IB
Yeah.
CN
Yeah. pause That's all my questions actually, so um, is there anything else that you, think you'd like to add to this interview?
IB
Well, not really, I mean I think that...thank you for the opportunity for me to make a few points here or there, I don't know...maybe my view will change over time, but, you know for now that's what I'm thinking. And...I think that's the contribution I can give. And I think that...I have a little bit of legitimacy because it's some of my own family? So that, makes me feel, like okay. There's a role for me here. You know? But...I think there's lots of different roles. I think we're all playing different roles. And I don't think one role is more important than another, so I don't think my role is any more - I mean really the most important roles are the Japanese Canadians who are working on this, in my view. You know, that's the front lines of it all, right, because. But...others can play a supporting role. Through these type of initiatives and I hope more people do that. And see that as...and as you said you know, a lot of Japanese Canadians may see this as Canadian history. I think a lot of white Canadians also need to see it as Canadian history, and I don't think they see it necessarily as such. You know, indicated from that history project that I mentioned to you from that school. So, you know we need to work for people to see it as, because, you know, to see it more as a Canadian history. pause So that's it.
CN
Great. Thank you so much.
IB
Okay. No problem.
02:53:41.000

Metadata

Title

Ian Baird, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 17 January 2018

Abstract

Ian talks about his experience researching his family’s relationship with Asian Canadians and anti-Asian racism, which started with his investigation of the organization Native Daughters of BC of which his grandmother was a member. However, he later discovered another branch of his family which had close relationships with Japanese Canadian fishermen, and led him to meet a number of Japanese Canadians and non-Japanese Canadians from Vancouver Island with fond memories of friendships among the different groups. He makes comparisons between the immigrant experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Southeast Asian communities he interacts with in his primary research, and also emphasizes the affection and lack of anti-Asian racism among white people who grew up with Japanese Canadians, compared to those even a few years younger. He shares many stories from different interviews with Japanese and non-Japanese Canadians of the connections between the groups, and life in Nanaimo and the fishing industry.

Credits

Interviewer: Carolyn Nakagawa
Interviewee: Ian Baird
Transcriber: Carolyn Nakagawa
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Burnaby, BC
Keywords: Fishing; Nanaimo ; Vancouver Island ; ystanders; Native Daughters of BC; Racism; 1930s-present

Terminology

Readers of these historical materials will encounter derogatory references to Japanese Canadians and euphemisms used to obscure the intent and impacts of the internment and dispossession. While these are important realities of the history, the Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective urges users to carefully consider their own terminological choices in writing and speaking about this topic today as we confront past injustice. See our statement on terminology, and related sources here.