Leslie Barnwell, interviewed by Kaitlin Findlay , 28 February 2019

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Leslie Barnwell, interviewed by Kaitlin Findlay , 28 February 2019

Abstract
Leslie Barnwell discusses Frank Shears , her grandfather, and his role in the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property. She weaves family stories with letters to and from her grandfather by Japanese Canadians, members of the Baptist Churches of Canada, and bureaucrats, as well as her interpretation of these events. She did not learn of his involvement with Japanese Canadian internment until she was fourteen, but the emphasis on silence within her family kept most information from her until she was an adult. Many members of her family are still torn on how to view this history. Leslie believes that at first her grandfather viewed his position as a short-term job and wanted to do his role well, but as time progressed, it became impossible not to see him as implicated in his actions. She emphasizes the contrast between his generational upbringing and behaviours and how we view his actions now. She does not believe she will ever be able to reconcile the many versions of her grandfather that exist: her own recollections, her mother’s devotion, her extended family members’ views, government records, and his own personal letters.
Note: None.
00:00:00.000
Kaitlin Findlay (KF)
So that's all set. I'll cut this—we can edit it afterwards.
Leslie Barnwell (LB)
Yep. No problem.
KF
Ready to start?
LB
Sure.
KF
Okay. Laughs. So I'm Kaitlin Findlay. I'm sitting with Leslie Barnwell at the Best Western in Terrace. It's Thursday, February 28 and we're doing an interview for the Landscapes of Injuistice project. So thank you so much. I'm looking forward to our conversation. So would you like to introduce yourself?
LB
I am Leslie Barnwell and I live in the Kispiox Valley not very far from Hazelton, BC. And I also am looking forward to this. It's an honour, privilege.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
Thank you.
KF
Thank you. And so the next question I have is—I know that your grandfather at one point lived in Winnipeg. And so I thought I would ask how your family came from Winnipeg and you've ended up in Hazelton?
LB
My grandfather came from England. He was born in London in 1885 I think. And he came to Canada in around 1906 or 7 to a farm near Lloydminster. And they, he and his brother—his parents may have already been here. I get mixed up on some of the history. But let's see. Yeah he left his girlfriend back in England and two years after that he brought her to Canada. He had left her with this ring which says—
KF
Oh wow.
LB
—Mizpah— which is Hebrew for, well it's a place name.
KF
Yeah.
LB
And the line that goes with it is “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from another.” Maybe you've heard of it before. So she had that and wore that as her keepsake ring while she was in London and he was in Canada. And then she came out and they were married, married on the farm. They had one more year there but everything went awry on that farm. Everything fell apart. I think my grand-uncle Wal might have stayed there a little bit longer but Granddad left, and he went to Winnipeg at that time. He got a job as—first an accountant. I wonder whether, ah it doesn’t matter. It's in my mom's stuff. Shuffling of paper. Reads from mother's notes. “The second year, when the crops were as high as the horses’ shoulders and they expected a wonderful harvest, a hailstorm battered them to the ground. And the next year there was a drought. Nothing matured. Dad started to look for other employment and saw an advertisement in a Manitoba paper seeking a manager for a fish company. Dad knew nothing about fish, but he was a highly qualified accountant and he applied for and got the job.” Speaks normally. So they moved to Winnipegosis, actually. That's a little village forty miles north of Dauphin, and north of Winnipeg. They were in Winnipegosis for about twelve, thirteen, fourteen years? And my aunt, my mother, and my uncle were all born there. Mom was ten when they moved to Winnipeg, and Pauses. I don't remember exactly the chronology, but somewhere around 1940, Granddad was asked to come to the coast. Well it was a mix. He partly came because my grandma was not well, and there was better weather there and better doctor care. But he did come to the job for the government and shortly after that time he was involved with the Vancouver Custodian’s Office. Oh yeah, going on to how I got here. Laughs. Yeah, so my mom and dad got married; she had a varied life in all sorts of different places. My dad was a Baptist minister, and so they were brought to Victoria at one point or they took a job there, and that's where I was born. Then we moved to West Vancouver. Then we moved to Edmonton. Then we moved to Cranbrook. From Cranbrook I went to university. My parents moved to Brandon. I ended up marrying Joe Barnwell and we moved to Kispiox after I had studied for teaching—well I actually studied biology first and then took a teaching position in Kispiox Village where we lived and we just stayed there. Laughs. That's how I ended up there.
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KF
And we were just speaking over lunch about what you're doing these days, but could you tell me about that?
LB
I'm retired now from all sorts of things. I'd like to say I'm focusing on my artwork, but I can't really say that it's full time by any means. I have had a long career with my art as well as other jobs that I've done. Right now, I'm working on some photography projects. One of them is called — what's it called? I can't remember the name that I gave myself for this. “Tree Revision.” So I'm taking photos of trees and various forms, and I'm working with photoshop to really push the limits of how we look at them, how we meet the image on the page, how we meet the real image, to force ourselves to look again at what we normally see and take for granted. So that's one direction that I'm going at the moment with that part of my life. Laughs.
KF
That's wonderful. Yeah, yeah. And so could you tell me the story of how you learned about Landscapes of Injustice, and how we ultimately came into contact?
LB
I've been interested in knowing more about my granddad's position for ages. Perhaps I'll tell you more about that at some point, too. But my cousin, her daughter decided later in life to get a teaching degree. She ended up having contact with Eiko Eby, who was a friend and also a teacher of hers at the time, at the university in Nanaimo. And Eiko is involved with the Landscapes of Injustice. My cousin's daughter ultimately became overwhelmed with the entire situation with the Japanese people, and just kind of let that go. But somehow mentioned that I had been kind of exploring what was involved in my granddad's work for a long time, and mentioned it to Eiko. We ended up getting in touch, wrote for a little while, and then she shunted me on to Kaitlin laughs. Jordan. I don't mean that in a negative way at all. She was directing me to new people. And he suggested that Alex, I don't know how to say Alex's last name—Pekic? — or something like that. We wrote for a little while, too. And during that conversation, I discovered that the tons of information that Granddad had stored for years had been digitized by LoI. And that was really important to me because it was a difficult thing for me when I learned that all of those documents had been taken away from the family and put in a library thousands of miles away. I really am thankful that they're there because I think that's an important place for them to be, and I want them to be public. However, as a family member, I wanted to have some say in that and to be able to see them myself. So, Alex actually told me that, told me that they were digitized and you were the person who would be in charge of all of that information. So I approached you Kaitlin laughs. and you very kindly sent it to me. So I've been reading through since then.
00:10:16.000
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KF
Laughs. Many pages.
LB
Many, many pages and I've barely begun.
KF
Yeah, yeah. I wanted to ask you what it's like to read through those records?
LB
Takes a deep breath. I started out reading my granddad's testimony in the Bird Commission. And. . . Pauses. it. . . Pauses. it's kind of surreal because there are all my grandfather's words from many years ago, and Pauses. I'm torn between the connection that I have with my grandfather and seeing his words in print, the memories that come because of that and the discomfort with the topic. I mean discomfort's not really an adequate word. And to know that, in this context, Granddad was putting all his energy into doing a good job of being a witness and a good job of stating the intentions and activities of the office—the whole name of the thing, what is it? The Vancouver Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property — wanting to defend the actions that were taken. It's a. . . Pauses. Yeah it's a very intense and difficult experience. And as you know I've been writing in between. I write and I ask myself questions, I ask my granddad questions, I interrupt my journaling of this process with pauses of memory and history as much as I can. So it's disquieting. I see positive and negative aspects of Granddad. I see his strengths, his intelligence, his meticulous nature. I see his—this is probably a strength and a weakness, it's probably part of the reason why he was in the job, why he did it—is that doing a job well was important to him. So he followed the directions that were given to him. Yeah.
KF
Mhmm, mhmm. Thank you for sharing those notes. I feel it's quite fortunate to have a fellow traveler, in a way, of moving through that material and asking those difficult questions. And we had a bit of an exchange over how do you judge people in those positions and if it's possible. Pauses. I wanted to ask you too, what your memories of Frank Shears as your grandfather is, and then maybe as a follow-up, how you reconcile those two? But first tell me about your memories of your grandfather.
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LB
I knew my grandfather for the first fourteen or fifteen years of my life, I can't quite remember how old I was when he died, but in that neighbourhood. When we were in West Vancouver, he lived in Vancouver. He and my aunt and uncle. There were two separate properties at Roberts Creek, and we would spend summers there. So I had a lot of time with him in the summer. Takes a deep breath. We have to remember he was born in 1885. He lived a completely different generation from me, and he had different expectations of behaviour. He could be fairly stern and strict about those. And also his children were brought up with that sense of deference to authority and age. I remember once I was talking to my aunt and saying something like, “You know, well, Mom and Dad aren't perfect.” And she just kind of breathed in and Laughs. basically told me that I wasn't supposed to think like that. That my parents should be perfect. And they thought of their father in that sense to a large degree. So Granddad did not like ketchup, he would not tolerate peanut butter. He was from England and corn was not acceptable food for people. So we couldn't have those things on the table. And my aunt and uncle and, you know, my parents, they would honour and respect that that was what he wanted. They deferred to him in every case. When we were down on the beach having hotdog roast, he had steak. Both laugh. Special treatment for Granddad. But I also knew that Granddad loved me, and he did love children. And he used to—nowadays we'd be kind of aghast, but back then it wasn't usually meant as a come-on to harm anybody—he always kept chocolates in his pockets to give to children. And they were kind of a special treat that the parents didn't necessarily approve of, but you got to have those when you were around Granddad. He gave me special things sometimes. Once he gave me a little pagoda that was made out of wood, like a puzzle that you put together. And when I was really little, he always did calligraphy in my books. Put his fine and very well executed and special, you know, you had your name all written in fancy lettering. And he gave me a little, what are those? 78 records of the, what was it? Teddy Bears Picnic. Go down in the woods today. Both laugh.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
And I loved it, you know. Those were special things. And then another time at Roberts Creek—he was a big man, he was six something, and he wasn't overweight, he was fit, but he was large. He had that kind of presence, and that was sometimes what could be a bit awesome. I know my sister felt that way about him, a little bit intimidated. But he used that strength. And one time I remember him taking his tool belt and all his special tools and his saw and carrying lumber on his shoulder. And then at Roberts Creek there was a whole bunch of wooded area. There still is. So we'd walk through this bit of a trail and through a swamp and we found a spot, and he built us a tree fort. So, taking care of his kids. His grandchildren. Uhm yeah. I can leave that at that at the moment.
KF
Yeah, yeah. Could you tell— In your notes, I was struck by how you characterized, how your mother—it sounded like she adored him, or had a positive relationship with him?
00:19:48.000
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LB
Yes, Mom did. Pauses. There were three children, as I think I mentioned. Mom was the middle one. I think, and I confirmed this with my cousin Viv just a little while ago, I think Mom was the favourite Both laugh. of Granddad. I'm sure — I know — he loved all his children. But let's see. Shuffles pages. Here's one little excerpt. This here is a book that I helped my mom put together of her life.
KF
Okay.
LB
So there are a few things that I am reading from that.
KF
Lovely. Yeah, yeah.
LB
That's what this is right now. Reads from mother's voice. She says, “When I was in grade four I entered a public speaking contest. I was probably urged on by my dad who was an elocutionist and an actor, with all sorts of other talents as well. He wrote the most beautiful prose. His deacons reports were masterpieces of literary art. He produced works of art in calligraphy. I thought he could set his hand to almost anything.” Finishes from mother's voice. And then there is another spot. This is a little story that she tells of what it was like in Winnipegosis when they were small. Reads from mother's voice. “I have many lovely memories of the evenings of my Winnipegosis days. There were often people over at our house for games or singing. Dad was a bass-baritone, Mum an alto, and another couple provided the tenor and soprano voices. We loved to hear them singing around the piano. We would get our comforters and lie down on the floor at the stove pipe hole. In winter this was where the pipes went upstairs and into the chimney while the pot bellied stove was stoked with coal providing heat for the upstairs rooms. But in the spring, Dad removed the pipes and placed registers over the holes. Many times Dad came and looked up to us to say, ‘Now you children, off to bed with you — it's late enough.’ And then we'd head back to bed and hear the music still faintly until we fell asleep.” Finishes from mother's voice. There was another part that I wanted to read but I don't know where I put it. Shuffling of pages.
KF
Sounds like it was a household of—artistic household.
LB
Yes. It was.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
Where is that? This is the stuff that we'll just cut out afterwards.
KF
No worries, I'll peek at this. Both laugh.
LB
Well I may have to just let it go. Pauses. Oh here it is at the very end. Reads from mother's voice. “I just thought the world of my dad from the time I was a teenager. I used to jump on the side of his chair and put my arms around his neck and call him Daddy Boy because he meant so much to me.” Finishes from mother's voice. Yeah, she loved him very much.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
She thought he was wonderful. She couldn't find any fault in him, even though, of course, there were faults.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
Yeah.
KF
And did he ever talk about the work he had done for the Office of the Custodian?
LB
I was born in '49. I was pretty young when he was doing all of that. And he never, ever talked to me about that. But I will tell you—maybe now is a good spot. Why did I ever get interested in this at all? It's because of this book. I think I might have told you already on previous conversations. When Granddad died, everybody knew that I was interested in plants and animals and things like that. So I was given this book, Wildflowers in the Rockies. And I opened it up to this page and here it says, “To the skipper of the good ship Vancouver Custodian, Frank G. Shears, from some of her crew being paid off on completion of their task.” And a lot of names are in here.
KF
Wow.
00:24:55.000
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LB
This one struck me. Ian Macpherson. I don't know if he's related to Glenn or not. But anyway, that's an aside.
KF
Mhmm, mhmm.
LB
So I knew Granddad had worked with the fish companies, basically managed and owned them. But I didn't know he had ever been a skipper of a ship. So I went to my mom, 14 years old or so, and said “I didn't know Granddad was a skipper of a ship” and, you know, that could have been a name of a ship, Vancouver Custodian. And she said it wasn't, it was just a term being used as kind of a simile for the work that he did with a group of people and that they were involved in taking care of the homes and properties and goods of all the people, the Japanese people, in the war. She really didn't go into much more detail than that. But I always wanted to know more. And every now and then I would press her a little bit to ask her about what he was actually doing. That was probably the first time I knew. I don't think she even told me about the internment; I don't think I knew that Japanese people had been moved from the coast. So she had to gradually let me know about those things, but she never did so willingly. She always did so defensively. And the line, there's one line that she would say to me probably every time that she spoke about this. And it's embedded in my mind, so I don't have any doubts as to whether it's a memory, you know, it's there. She would say, “If a bad job had to be done, better that a good man do it.” So. Pauses. She didn't want to talk about it. I really rarely got any, I never got more than those brief little amounts of knowledge from her, and I had to push myself to find out more. And of course, what I found out wasn't something that I felt proud of, as, you know, something in my family history. Pauses.
KF
So that was—you were a teenager when you started.
LB
When I first found out, yeah.
KF
Okay. Did other relatives, who—What path did your research take? Did you speak to other relatives, or?
LB
I didn't speak to other relatives for a long time. Not until well into, you know. . . Gee, when did I first talk to anybody about it in my family? Probably talked to my sisters, but still we were, you know, very mature; our kids were grown and all that kind of stuff. And my cousins even later than that. My cousin Viv, whose daughter was taking that course, I talked with her before that. I think a lot of it came up when my other cousin sent all the boxes back east. Yeah, that's when it came up, and we began to say to each other, mostly the girls cousins, pretty much entirely the girl cousins, Both laugh. that maybe we weren't so happy that he had done that without family consultation. And then we began to talk a little bit about what some of it was about. And my understanding from talking to everyone is that basically they really didn't know very much. And just a few days ago, last week maybe, I called my cousin Viv and asked her if we could talk about it. And she was more than willing. So I had some, I have some notes from her, too.
KF
Hmm, hmm.
LB
That's not the ones. Shuffles papers. I did ask her—Yeah this is kind of, I don't know quite where to begin with Viv's stuff.
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KF
So is this notes from a phone conversation that you've had?
LB
Yeah, they're a little bit garbled. Well, with all that I have said about how much my mother loved her dad and how the children as a whole revered him, and that I loved him, my sister as I've said, my older sister, felt a little intimidated by him. And I can't say that I didn't to some degree, too, because he had a presence, you know. But anyway Viv said,“I will probably be the only cousin who was fearful of him.” Which I don't—as she spoke on I think that perhaps she even knows that that's not true. Her other brothers and sister. She said, “But he was a large man to me, and he had a very deep voice. I sometimes wonder if this fear came from my dad hitting us. Whether my father's voice was close to that of Granddad, and I made the association, I'm not sure. But I didn't like to be around Granddad, I was afraid of him.” She also said later that when the family, when the kids were under Granddad's care, that he sometimes disciplined them by hitting, too. When they were disobedient according to his standards. So there was that aspect of Granddad that I didn't encounter personally, but they did. And my mom didn't. But I believe that my uncle did. Pauses. So there was one time when my brother Rob lived in Nelson, Vivian lived fairly close by, and Mom and Dad came to visit. And Vivian said, “I told your mom that I had been afraid of her dad, and she really reacted strongly.” And my mother was a very loving person. She didn't rile very easily, but this made her very upset. And she said, “How could you be afraid of him? All the children everywhere loved him.” You know. And she said, “Did he give them candy?” And she said, “Yes, always chocolate bars.” Pauses, shuffles papers. I asked Vivian what she knew about Granddad's job, and this was just last week. She said, “What I know about Granddad's job was he kept absolutely perfect records of what had been taken away from the Japanese when the items came before them. He wanted to give everything back that had come before him. Then the government told him he could not do that, and he quit his position.” And we talked for, you know, quite a while after that. I didn't want to interrupt her. But at the end I said to her, “Vivian, you should know that Granddad did not quit his job.” Yeah. So Vivian believed that she'd heard this from my mother, but she's not quite sure about that. She could have heard it from my Aunt Olive as well, anybody. I'm getting the impression, or I've had for a long time the impression, that this was not family conversation. Vivian also said—I asked her when she knew about what Granddad was doing—and she said, “I didn't know anything about Granddad's work with the Japanese until I was in my late 20s. I overheard my dad and Aunt Fran,” which, my mom, “talking about it, and then much later when I saw them, your mom, in Nelson,” back to that time then she had learned a little bit more, “but it didn't really influence me until Michelle started to do her work on the internment.”
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LB
And then I asked her of the attitude of the adults in the family that she knew about and she said, “No one talked about it. Whenever Granddad was spoken of, he was discussed in terms of his church involvement and how revered he was in the church.” Which is true. “On the rare occasions when I brought it up I had the sense that it was not to be discussed. It was not important, not relevant, ‘certainly not to you’.” I asked Viv whether she felt there was any shame in that attitude, and she said no. But then she compared it to this experience she had. She said, “I was looking at a photo with my mother a few years ago of a bunch of kids, Gerald’s and Joyce's children.” Gerald and Joyce are other cousins on the other side of the family. “I was trying to place them all — so this is Dave, this is Stephen, this is Kathy. I went through all the people that I could and then I came to the end of the row. There was a young man I didn't recognize. ‘Who is this?’ I asked. The answer was, ‘A friend of the family.’ It turned out to be Simeon, Gerald's son from his affair. And yet he was only noted by Mom as a friend of the family. Later I asked her if she knew who it was and she said, ‘Yes.’ It was in this manner that it was not to be discussed, the same way Granddad's work was not to be discussed. It just didn't fit the family narrative.” And I'm not sure, I personally think that is an expression of shame. That if you're not able to talk about these things and that you want to hide them in one way or another that somehow you're not comfortable with them. You're not happy with it. So that is her experience. Pauses. Can I backtrack for just a second?
KF
For sure.
LB
Laughs. Because there was something else in here that Vivian told me which was kind of interesting, and it goes back to when I was telling you way at the beginning about how Granddad was deferred to, and all the things that he didn't like were kept away from him and that was okay. When Viv was married she says, “When I was married, at my wedding, my mom served creamed corn as one of the dishes. As the dish passed by him Granddad said, ‘That's for the pigs!’ I went afterwards and said to Mom, ‘If you knew Granddad doesn't like corn, why did you serve it then?’ And she said, ‘I'm not going to be dictated by what he likes in my own house.’ Laughs. So, maybe I'll let you ask another question and see whether I can go somewhere with that.
KF
Well, just to follow up on the most recent thing you said. Is it as simple as being old fashioned? Is that—Or how would you describe that part of his personality, I guess?
LB
You mean the family deferring to him—
KF
And, and—
LB
—and him having these particular. . . I don't know whether it's just old fashioned. I think the generation tended to respect their parents maybe a little bit more than the generation does now, or respect in a different way. You can respect somebody and still not give credence to every single little detail that matters to them. But it was more acceptable. But they did respect him and they did want to bow to, you know, his wishes, to make him comfortable and make him enjoy his experience in their lives, most of them did, yeah.
KF
Mhmm, mhmm. Why do you think he kept the records?
LB
He was a keeper. Laughs.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
I have asked myself that question, and it partly probably is because he is a meticulous man, or was a meticulous man, and felt that this was information that was worth preserving. I think he may have felt that, sometime down the road, there was a use for it. I don't think he wanted it thrown away. I mean he kept stuff, as you know, that perhaps he shouldn't have, that might have otherwise been taken from him and given to the government. And I'm actually really thankful that—you know, that is one good thing that he did, he kept that and it's now in public hands and it's not hidden or kept away. You know anything that's in the government's hands right now could be very difficult to get a hold of. He has one whole section that is intercepted phone calls that were secret, you know. That probably he's not supposed to have had.
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KF
I think that's—I haven't read that file but in another case, on that’s, a file that's particularly damning, he kept. And isn't in the governments collection. So it makes you wonder what the story there is.
LB
Which one was that?
KF
The chattels and vandalism. It’s—
LB
Oh, right.
KF
—titled for the head of the department, so Green. Mr. Green. But it has the reports of the vandalism and theft that took place.
LB
Yep.
KF
Yeah. Did you—In the conversations with your family, which you've done just this amazing job bringing this all together—did anyone speculate on how he felt about the position?
LB
In my conversations with my family, even among my peers, there are Pauses. different levels of acceptance of what Granddad did. So I would say that there are only a few people, my two sisters and my cousin Viv, that I feel at ease, relatively at ease, talking with about this. The others, including my brothers and most of my other cousins, I think would want to still be quite defensive of Granddad. And I think some of my family still really don't know anything, very little if anything, of what was involved. So I don't think anybody has given me anything to answer that question. I think that's part of the reason why I'm researching it myself and why I've been so grateful for what you've sent me, because I'm gathering hints of that, you know. Vivian said, “I can see the Japanese people respecting him because he respected them.” Previous to this Viv had mentioned that all the Japanese who had dealings with Granddad felt that they were treated well by him. I'm not sure where she had that information, and I expect that it may be true in some cases, but I know that it's not in all cases.
KF
Mhmm, mhmm.
LB
This morning, this was what I was planning on doing yesterday but it got derailed, I did go to some of those intercepted calls, and here are three voices, people who were not at all happy with what was happening in the Custodian’s Office, and of course most people weren’t, if—maybe nobody was. I don't know how many people directed it individually to Granddad, but they weren't happy with what was going on at all. And one person says: “As it was said, that a stove and carpenter’s tool box was left in the Custodian’s care. I went to the committee to request them to have those things sent to me but they would not hear of it. They said that if the things were for sale they would have them sold in Vancouver. They wanted to know whether I would work. They put nothing but difficulties in our way. As I am old it is very hard. Whether the box will come I do not know.”
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LB
Second voice: “Without saying a word they have sold everything we left in Steveston and though I have written several times to the custodians I have not had any replies. I think this is all very undeserving.” And a third one: “And I got the letter from Vancouver saying that they sold our land. I guess you got it too—” This is from one brother to another. “—but let me tell you this. DO NOT RECEIVE ANY MONEY of the land they sold. My opinion about this land is, even if they sold the land for $5000 I wouldn't receive that money from them. We know what the hell to do after the war you see. They sold it for $1648, and they sold it a year ago, letting us know now. We will fix them guys after the war. But for god sakes, don't get that money for our property. Talk it over with our parents please.” And there were others which were even more vocal in how disgusted, and rightfully so, they were of what had happened to them. But then there is this other, this is fairly lengthy, is that okay?
KF
Sure.
LB
Would you rather not?
KF
No go ahead, go ahead.
LB
This is the one from T. B. Suzuki. And he wrote: “Dear Mr. Shears: On receipt of your letter dated June 8, 1944, I learned of the sale of my property at Sunbury, B.C. The price of $1963.00 is to my belief far less than what would be considered as fair sale.” And then follows all sorts of reasons for his complaint regarding the sale price. “Mr. Shears, I know that your office was given the authority to dispose of Japanese property. I also know that your office agreed to obtain a fair price for them. . . I also pleaded with the Japanese people to trust in your office because you could do your best for them. . . But I cannot accept the sale of my property as being fair nor can I say that the price of some of the others who had come to discuss the sale of their land by your office as being fair sales. . . Mr. Shears, I am not blaming you personally but I wish to go on record as being very dissatisfied with the sale price of my property as negotiated by your office. I would be very grateful for either a personal or official letter from you. Continuing my trust, I am Sincerely yours, Tatsuro Suzuki.” And this is Granddad's response to him: “I am in receipt of your letter of the 3rd instant and have carefully read your comments in connection with the sale of your property. The frank and courteous manner in which you present your complaint does not pass unnoticed and I assure you that it has been the desire of this office to fulfill its obligations in as just and fair a manner as possible. The policy of liquidation was, as you are aware, decided upon by the Government authorities at Ottawa and in the case of all properties, outside of the group of farms sold to the Director, the Veterans’ Land Act, for use of return soldiers, we have endeavoured to treat every sale on its individual merits.” And further conversation continues regarding policy and what choice is made, regarding Mr. Suzuki's land and personal property. And then at the end he says: “The consideration to any definite claim is a matter beyond our control at the present time and we are unable to advise what the situation in this regard may be at the close of hostilities. Your letter, however, will remain on our file as an indication of your opinion in regard to this sale and in the event of the matter being re-opened at a later date, and claims are being considered, our records will be available. I trust, in the meantime, your confidence in the desire of this office to administer and carry out government policy in the best interests of those concerned may be maintained. ” So that was a cordial set of letters.
KF
What is the date on those? Do you have that down?
LB
1944. June. So it was partway through.
KF
Why did you choose these ones?
LB
Partly because I didn't have time to look for a lot more. Partly because I wanted to show two different sides to the approach to the office. There are other letters, one that I wouldn't have minded printing out but I couldn't find it at the time. Granddad is not—He's always cordial in his response, but he is also sometimes, most of the time, highly bureaucratic. So that the compassion that he might have been able to introduce into his responses I have found missing. I felt there was a little bit of compassion there. I think Granddad was a complex person. Pauses. Yeah, there's a whole other set of other things I forgot. I haven't—Maybe you should ask me a question because I do want to read these to you later on.
00:50:47.000
00:50:47.000
KF
This might seem out of left field, but I was wondering if you could tell me—So you grew up in your youngest years in Vancouver. Until when were you in Vancouver, or in British Columbia?
LB
I moved from West Vancouver when I was eleven.
KF
And at that time were you ever aware of this history?
LB
Nope, not at all. I didn't know about it until he died. We had moved to Edmonton and Granddad used to come and visit us. My grandma died when I was seven so he had seven years on his own. He'd come and see us. He was lonely, I think. So we had time with him then but it wasn't until after he died that I knew anything at all.
KF
Mhmm, mhmm.
LB
And I have, you know, I've taken an interest in this partly because of certain friends I have, partly just because it has come up in the world and my mind is tuned to the Japanese issue and I, you know, I've read books like Joy Kogawa’s books and other books that I can't remember, I can't remember the author’s name, the more recent one? Forgiveness that was on Canada Reads. I found that a really interesting perspective, or set of perspectives. So yeah. But I didn't know anything when I was little.
KF
Yeah, yeah. Pauses. And do you remember when you first heard Japanese Canadians telling this story?
LB
That's an interesting question because I certainly don't remember the date, I'm not very good with dates. But I do know that some of my friends, who are Japanese, didn't talk about it. Once, let’s see, it must have been at least fifteen, no more than that because I've been with Rusty now for seventeen-eighteen years. Seventeen years. Must have been around 25 years ago when one of my friends—it was a time when I was particularly concerned about things, maybe I'd just read Joy's book, I don't remember—and I brought it up with him. And I was feeling a huge dismay about this, personally, because I —. It's not an easy thing knowing that your grandfather was involved in something that was so terrible, absolutely terrible. And I knew David had been interned in—where did he go? First in farther Slocan City, maybe? And then he came out to another spot. But anyway, he didn't talk about it much. But I was saying to him I just felt really sad, how can I—I can't apologize for my grandfather, but I wanted to. To be able. And he said, “It wasn't you. You weren't there. You know you don't have to take, carry that burden.” But he still didn't really talk about it. I know a little bit about his story and the impact it had on him, partly because he's written about it a little bit. And it’s set his life for the duration, even though he was quite young. And I know that some of the kids in the internment camps, they had fun and they grew up and they have happy memories of the places that they were, and I think that's partly due to, I think, a pretty strong positive Japanese spirit for most people.
00:55:16.000
00:55:16.000
LB
But it still impacted him. His father was away doing work on the railroad and then they got shoved over to Toronto when they couldn't go back home. And he could sense his father's bitterness and the pain. The losses, that he didn't maybe experience firsthand, still moved through his being, and he was aware of racism as he grew up. You know, this is part of who he is. And it would have been so different if they hadn't been forced to move and if their things hadn't been taken away. The whole business of moving people but again, here's Granddad in a position in directing the Office of Enemy Property. What a crazy title! For people who are not your enemies. It's one thing if they are. But these were just people, Canadian citizens who were loyal to this country, and many fought in the war, and you know, it's horrific. And then to turn around and without their permission, without adequate care—although I think Granddad wanted to care in terms of doing the job he was set—but still, if somebody came to my place and went through all my stuff and sold it all, I don't think I'd ever recover from that.
KF
Hmm, hmm.
LB
So yeah.
KF
You had—That reminds me of an interesting reflection you had describing the photograph of him doing that work.
LB
Oh yeah. I don't know where that photograph is and I. . . I don't have a really clear picture of it. I know that there were several people there. But I don't, that was from my—I didn't even bring that along and that was my. . . My cousin Frank who had all these boxes, his wife Anita came over one time to our table. This is getting kind of ridiculously confusing. My cousin Frank had his 80th birthday. They were showing a slideshow and there was a picture of Churchill and a couple of other people. And when Anita came to our table, I asked her about that picture. I didn't know whether Granddad was in it, I thought “Well that would have been interesting.” But he wasn't. But then she told us that there was another picture, so I don't think, I don't know—I have a picture of seeing it, but she described it and said there's a picture of him, and he was going through all the items in this house and he was making absolutely sure that everything was itemized and taken care of and, you know, he did such an amazing job in this position. That was her take on that. And that was just a year and a half ago. I know, and you know, and Granddad knew, that they didn't take absolutely meticulous care to itemize everything. They couldn't. There was thievery and all kinds of—there was corruption within the ranks. People were selling things and keeping the money and not sending receipts in. Yeah I read a few things about that. Yeah my family doesn't have a very clear picture of what was going on. Laughs.
KF
Yeah.
LB
At least some of the family. But I don't know where that picture is and if I ever come across it I'll send it to you.
KF
Yeah, yeah. It's—Why do you think they took that picture?
LB
That may have been, like I think that was taken by the Custodian's Office. I think they must have taken it as a record to indicate that they were doing what they were supposed to be doing.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
That would be my assumption.
01:00:08.000
01:00:08.000
KF
Yeah, yeah. Tell me what you have over here?
LB
This here?
KF
Yeah.
LB
Okay. We're jumping around so much it's not going to be very cohesive. This is a whole set of things that. . . Shuffles papers. They're quite—oh well, whatever. These ones here are very personal and they're personal to me. And Pauses. they're meaningful. But they're telling as well. This is the very beginning of Granddad's work, and he's writing to my mom. And I—These letters make me feel that at least at the beginning, Granddad believed that he was going to be caring for the goods and properties of the Japanese. I think he really believed that. This first part is mostly about just the pauses the general situation. So it's just a historic piece of—a picture perhaps. “I'm writing this from a place called Cumberland, which is about 70 miles north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. I have dropped a line to Norman—” that's her younger brother “—and am sending you this while I am waiting for a man I have to see. We certainly miss you Fran dear, even though we did not see much of you in Winnipeg!!! I think that you know I got some kind of temporary job.” So he thought it was temporary at this point. “This is the second trip I have been on and I will be here for three or four days. I have not enjoyed the time I have actually been in the office. I don't know what I have to do and nobody else seems to have much of an idea either. There are quite a number of girls working in one room or another. The Custodians department occupies the whole of the 5th floor of the Royal Bank Building. The office has only recently been set up and I suppose they're are trying to get a system to cope with what they have to do. There are quite a few ‘Heads’ and some of them seem to be going around in circles and passing things on to one another. However I don't know much about it myself. Having no very definite work to do and no actual desk space, I have been doing more or less odd jobs and waiting for any specific instructions to be given me. In the main it has just been these two trips that I have had to make in connection with arranging for the taking over into safe custody of any personal property that may be left behind by the Japanese that are being evacuated from the Island. About 600 more are to go in a day or so and I will be here until they have gone.” This was in April, 1942. And then in this letter—My mom was staying with somebody, a family named the Gowans and they had heard about what Granddad was doing and it sounds like they were dismayed by it and mentioned this to mom. And so she said something to him and his response is: “I wonder if Frances Gowans’ relatives have discovered that I am not the party they think I am. The one they have in mind is a Mr. Shirras who works with the B.C. Security Commission. That is the outfit that has to do with the movement of the Japs. We don't think much of them!!! Both laugh.
KF
This is him writing to her? Oh.
LB
Yeah.
KF
Huh.
01:04:07.000
01:04:07.000
LB
Then there is all this stuff. It's just a—You see I've come with so much scattered information and scattered feelings. I don't think I have—I may never have some kind of resolution about all this. But this is an interesting little piece. This is a letter from somebody named Donald J. McIntosh. And he wrote this to the Board of Deacons of West Point Grey Baptist Church. And it says: “Dear sirs, A major scandal is being—” this is May, 1947 “—is being uncovered in Ottawa, with regard to the sale of BC property belonging to the persons forcibly evacuated from this coastal area during 1942. The daily newspapers quote the total losses incurred due to these sales as being approximately $5,000,000. To the shame of our Baptist denomination, the Custodian (official responsible for these sales) is a prominent member of the First Baptist Church here in Vancouver. This man, in the course of his week-day work, during the war years, has caused great financial hardship to a minority racial group in Canada, and is surely so far from observing our master's new commandment, Love one another, that he should not be elected to positions of church leadership. It would appear that we as Baptists must be very careful indeed to avoid any modern ‘Pharisees’ holding responsible positions in our churches! A recent radio commentator has expressed it this way: ‘Let us be Christian in all our activities, or stop pretending.’ In particular, I am asking that each of our delegates to the forthcoming convention be instructed to express active opposition against further nominations or appointments being conferred upon Mr. Frank G. Shears of First Baptist Church.” He sent this letter to all kinds of churches and, as a result, Granddad was asked to come and speak and answer questions. So they did that. This is again, from Donald McIntosh, and this time to Granddad and says: “Dear Mr. Shears, I enclose a copy of a letter sent to certain Baptist churches which, I trust, is self-explanatory and justifies your position. I deeply regret I misjudged you in the earlier letter. May I say again I appreciate the frank, impersonal stand which you took at last night's meeting? Later in the meeting I had an unexpected conversation with Mr. J. A. MacLennan and, as a result of these two factors, I have come to view your position in an altogether different light. I trust I may count on your co-operation on a friendly basis in the future. With kindliest Christian greetings, I am cordially yours.” So somehow Kaitlin laughs. something that was said in that meeting changed this guy’s view entirely. And so that he wrote another letter to all those dang churches taking back what he said, and saying that the Custodian's Director was, how did he say it, “assured us that in all his dealings with the Japanese Canadians he has been motivated by the highest Christian principles, and he is not responsible for any of the admitted hardships and losses which have been endured by these evacuees, being impelled himself by an impersonal governmental policy.” Anyway, I'll leave these for the moment but I wish I had the meeting’s minutes for that meeting.
KF
Mhmm.
LB
I'd like to know what he said and how it was able to Pauses. dispel the opinions of this man and probably the others in the room. Granddad had a great presence. He was an orator. Pauses. You know, I'm trying to think. I think he must have believed that he was doing his best under the circumstances. Pauses. I'm not so sure I do.
KF
That's—yeah. Could you tell me about—this is a frank question, but racism in your family?
LB
Right.
KF
Because reading through and with the reading you've done, you're now someone who knows the most about the internal workings of the Office of the Custodian. Just—especially this bureaucratic side. But when I do my research and I read through, there's some people that say explicitly horrendous, racist things.
LB
Mhmm.
KF
And they say—it's very clear that they believe that British Columbia is meant for white people. That this is part of that project. But that's not something that I've come across in your granddad's records, and as you've said, not that he's perfect by any means. So I kind of give you that as a question.
01:09:59.000
01:09:59.000
LB
Yeah, that's interesting. Eiko asked me that and I never got a chance to answer it either to her. And I've thought about it a lot. Racism is Pauses. it's a lot more complex than we think it is. I doubt if any of us are completely free of it. As I was reading through the Bird Commission, there was one time he used the term Jap and he used it again in that letter. He hadn't used it before and I checked to see, you know how words change, and sometimes they mean something at one time and another time they've become pejorative. And it was at that time considered a pejorative term. So, he must have known that. I don't think it was the norm for him. Sighs. I remember another story in my family which my cousin Gordie told me one time, how when he was a little kid, he was talking about a boy that lived nearby. And he went to his mom and said, “Well there's that chinky chinky Chinaman” you know. And her immediate response was, “He is a Chinese person,” you know, to invoke that kind of respect. Another story from my cousin Frank—who had the boxes—he lived with Granddad for a while, and one time he was saying something, I don't know that it was anything to do with race, but he was saying something unkind about one of his fellow students at university, and Granddad stood up—they were having dinner—and he stood up at the end of the table and looked over at Frank and said, “We do not say unkind things about people in this house.” My mother, my aunt, my uncle—loving, kind people and very open. My own family, my sister's married to a guy from Trinidad and Tobago; her daughter has married a Japanese person from Japan; my daughter married a guy from India; and there are vast, various groups of, you know, we have Dutch people in our family and there's some Jewish history. So somehow or another there was an environment that allowed the extended family to be open and loving to people of other races. I think some of that must have come from Granddad. So I don't think he was racist in the way that you were speaking of, in that Pauses. in that way. Nevertheless, he carried on with his work.
KF
Yeah, and you've made, I know—I think you've come back to that a couple of times in the notes that you shared with me.
LB
Yeah.
KF
What do you think about that?
LB
I have so much more reading to do.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
And I don't think, as I say, that I'll come to a full resolution because I won't be able to talk to Granddad.
KF
Mhmm, mhmm.
LB
And I won't be able to watch how he interacted with people on an individual level, or read fully inside his mind and be able to determine what his motivations were. He stated them as being for the people. So, I think that he originally, as I say, began with that intention, that he would be able to work on behalf of the Japanese people and preserve their lands and their goods for them, but it didn't take very long for the directives to come down to alter that position. Pauses.
01:14:59.000
01:14:59.000
LB
I wonder whether he felt that somehow or another that the best he could do was to stay in that position and to try and work for the Japanese within the system? I don't see that he was very well able to accomplish that because it does seem fairly clear that even some of his admissions, particularly the veterans’ land sales, he knew that there were three sets of appraisals: there was that done by realtors; there was that done by the third party committee; and then there was that done by the Veterans’ Lands Act themselves. And then the Veterans’ Lands Acts underbid themselves and they went for what they asked for. Which was, I can't remember but was it half or something? It was really ridiculous. So he knew. Sighs and pauses. I don't know whether or not if somebody else had been doing the job it would have been worse. You know, is it true what my mom said,“if a bad job had to be done, better that a good man do it”? I don't know. Sometimes I think, “Okay Granddad, you did your bureaucratic job as well as you knew how. And I think that somehow you got caught up in it, to some degree.” Because following protocol was so important to him. And then he developed relationships with some of the people that were above him, and so then that changes your perspective, you know. But I think, “Okay Granddad, what if you had said no? What if you had said, ‘I'm not going to do this! Instead, I'm going to stand outside and I'm going to speak up.’ Then I wouldn't have conflicted feelings.
KF
Mhmm. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's funny how much we have in writing but within all the bureaucratic propriety and sometimes it's hard to know Pauses. the challenges that like he would have been facing as an administrator. And I know in the Bird Commission, they say it was an impossible task.
LB
Mhmm.
KF
So if we were teleported back in time would be it be impossible for—or what would we do? But then there's the other times, like there's letters that you read where it's quite clear what's going on.
LB
Mhmm.
KF
That Japanese Canadians are suffering as a result—
LB
Yeah.
KF
—of these things. You might have said this or answered it already, but what do you think the job meant to him? If you can answer that.
LB
When Granddad came to Vancouver, moving Grandma and taking, you know, whatever position, they were not doing very well financially. I believe he, it was—he had lost his job. It was just after the, you know, dirty thirties, so I'm sure at first it was at least something to do with managing and maintaining his household, taking care of his wife who wasn't well. Pauses. As it went on, I think it would—I don't know that I have enough knowledge yet to be able to speculate fairly on what his job meant to him. I simply know that he did it and he continued to do it and that he wrote countless bureaucratic letters to tell them that “sorry, that's just the way it is.” Mind you, here is this kind of thing. Papers shuffling. And this may be the kind of thing that he was mentioning in that meeting.
01:20:19.000
01:20:19.000
LB
This was written in 1946. And the next one that I have here was written in 1949. This is to Granddad. From K. W. Wright, the counsel to the Custodian. “RE: Komura Brothers Ltd. We have for acknowledgment your letter of March 4th. It would be advisable to indicate that you have no authority to furnish all details of connection with this matter at the moment for the reason that the disposition of proceeds of funds belonging to belligerent enemies will be determined by the Treaty of Peace by which hostilities will be legally terminated.” So I mean he was told, “this is what you have to say.” And he was told again in 1949, “the wording which Mr. Wright suggests as an appropriate reply when requested to release enemy assets is ‘that assets which formerly belonged to residents of belligerent enemies or areas are being held by the Custodian and that disposition will depend on the terms of the treaty of peace’.” So there's sighs there's a silencing mechanism in the whole process right from the start. And it silenced him. And I don't know. The thing is that my family, as I say, they didn't talk about it. Lots of people in my generation didn't know about it, and probably wouldn't have if the odd question hadn't been asked. So they can't have been fully comfortable with it, and maybe Granddad wasn't either.
KF
Yeah.
LB
Yeah.
KF
Yeah. Pauses. This—I guess I'm sitting here and listening and one reason I'm so thankful that you agreed to do this interview is these silences in families. And I think silence and shame do go together.
LB
They do.
KF
And your—but then to step back and understand the family around those, you can learn something by knowing the family and knowing what their values are and what shame might look like for that family, too.
LB
Mhmm.
KF
So thank you. Laughs.
LB
You're welcome.
KF
You know you're saying you don’t know and you might never have a resolution, but to bring this today, I guess I was wondering why you agreed to do this interview? Or why you wanted to speak about it?
LB
Because I'm not happy with the silence, for one thing. Pauses. As I say, I couldn't—when my friend David spoke to me—said that I don't carry the blame and the shame of it, that's true. But what can I do? Maybe I can at least Pauses. acknowledge that wrong was done, that ordinary people were part of that. Pauses. Sighs, takes a shaky breath. That families can move and change and become people who do respect those who are different, even coming from a family where such a silence was held. Pauses. I guess it's. . . my way of saying to the Japanese. . . Voice becomes emotional. that I am so deeply sorry that you had to go through this. And it was wrong. Long pause.
01:25:07.000
01:25:07.000
KF
It's not an easy history to live with.
LB
Yeah.
KF
And to confront. And I think to—it would be much easier to love your granddad. And to see him play a role in this awful chapter of Canadian history and try to grapple with that—it brings up questions that I don't think have easy answers.
LB
Mhmm.
KF
And I think to talk about it takes courage. I think, you know, in my own family we have silences too. And so I recognize a lot of what you're saying in these silences and I personally am trying to figure out how shame can be turned into something that's helpful.
LB
Mhmm.
KF
Because I think shame is a form of caring.
LB
Hmm.
KF
A discomfort with some action that was taken or a wish that another action had been taken.
LB
Right.
KF
So I guess one of my very personal questions Laughs. that I bring is how, what can we do with that going forward? And what, how can—for those of us who. . . Pauses. Yeah, are descendants of these positions, how can we help from the other side.
LB
Yeah. Pauses. How can we help?
KF
That was a very—that was a rhetorical question. Laughs.
LB
Yeah, you're not asking, yeah. Kaitlin laughs. Oh good.
KF
Yeah. Both laugh.
LB
Very briefly I just wanted to mention my one sister, Sylvia. I have not had a chance to talk to her about the fact that I have this material because there's been a lot going on in our family for a while. But she is a person who is concerned. And so I just wanted her name on record as somebody who cares about this, too.
KF
Mmm, mhmm, mhmm.
LB
Yeah. Well thank you, I'm. . . I'm very honoured. Not so sure that I—oh I don't know. I guess it’s just there's still so many questions and I've thrown out Pauses. things that are conflicting and I'm not quite, I don't know how people will receive that? I have no idea.
KF
Thank you so much and thank you for bringing so much and for sharing. Can I ask you, where did these letters come from?
LB
My mom died a little over a year ago and they were from her files. She was almost 102.
KF
Oh wow, wow.
LB
And I don't know, they're very few and very small but if any of them are of value to LoI I can fax them to you or take photos.
KF
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's very generous. Yeah. And—so she kept those just within her records?
LB
Yeah.
KF
Yeah.
LB
Yeah. I wish that there were more letters to—I think they must be somewhere or else maybe she threw them away. But that might have been more revealing if I had a whole series of letters from her to Granddad over the period of time.
KF
Yeah, yeah. That covers my questions. We have in the interviews, our interviewers always ask the question—the kind of wrap up question. Laughs. So I'll throw that out there now. And its—if you could say something to future Canadians, what would you say?
01:30:30.000
01:30:30.000
LB
Hmm. You know there's a portion of this letter that I'm going to read. And I'll say something of my own, too, but. . . Pauses. That man, Donald McIntosh, when he wrote again to all the churches withdrawing what he said about Granddad, he also said this. He certainly didn't change his opinion about what had happened to the Japanese and he was pauses quite condemning of that. “The Social Service Committee Report at our Convention on May 31, 1945, speaking of the rights of minority racial groups, stated that ‘. . .this is one of the most serious problems confronting our country. We feel that our churches are being tried for their lives on this issue. If we dare to speak boldly, though we suffer great persecution, we will justify our right to live and call ourselves Christian.’ Will we, as a body of Christian people, let our Canada do things that will bring her into everlasting disrespect; will we let our Canada be the thorn in the flesh acting as the primary cause of future wars?” Pauses. Our Canada did do things that brought us as a country into disrespect. And so I would say to future Canadians Pauses. we must never do that again. All people in this country, whether First Nation or immigrant, no matter how many generations they have been here or whether they just arrived yesterday, they deserve our respect and our care and our protection. And I encourage all of us to work towards that end.
KF
Thank you.
LB
Thank you.
KF
Yeah. Pauses. Those are powerful words.
LB
Thanks.
KF
Yeah. Do you want to—is there anything else you'd like to share?
LB
I think I've probably Both laugh. messed around with most of my favourites even if I left some of those out. And I'll go home and think of things I wish I'd said.
KF
I know. Both laugh. Yeah, it always works like that.
LB
Yeah. There is—I sent you a few pictures. Shuffles pages. That is their house in Winnipegosis.
KF
Okay. It's nice. Yeah, yeah.
LB
There's when they first came over. That's their parents.
KF
Oh wow.
LB
My great-uncle and my granddad just outside of Lloydminster. That's nothing, that's a wrong page. More shuffling. I sent you that one I think.
KF
You did, yeah. Was he a theatre aficionado through his whole life?
LB
At some level. I don't think he—you know probably up until his 40s or 50s. I don't know how much acting he did, but aside or after all that, he also did orations. Some are even recorded. And he was a public speaker. He was often asked to give sermons and stuff in his church, which were very moving and meaningful. There he is as a young man. That's their house in Winnipeg before and now, and it's still there.
KF
Oh yeah, yeah.
LB
All upgraded. There's my grandma and my mom.
KF
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
LB
And my dad.
KF
Laughs. Pretty great photos. This is a beautiful book.
LB
It is a nice book. Unfortunately it's starting to do that but I'm really thankful we got it done. That's him in the leader years. Yeah mom got this finished when she was 99. Laughs.
KF
Wow. Both laugh.
LB
It just barely made it in time.
KF
Yeah, yeah. Yeah that's a feat. But it's such a—yeah. Treasure to have for the rest of the family.
LB
Yeah. So.
KF
Alright.
LB
Alright.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
LB
Good.
KF
I know, it's the same for me that as soon as we turn this off I'll think of Laughs. think of other questions. But thank you so much. It's really a pleasure and I know it's not easy. I wish I had answers to some of the questions you asked, but I don't. Laughs.
LB
Well I guess that's life, isn't it. I mean, there are always questions that we can't fully answer. Yeah. But I—as I say, I am thankful that this was brought to my attention and that you asked me to participate.
KF
Mhmm. Mhmm. Alright, let’s—
01:36:43.000

Metadata

Title

Leslie Barnwell, interviewed by Kaitlin Findlay , 28 February 2019

Abstract

1885, 1906, 1940s-50s, present
Leslie Barnwell discusses Frank Shears , her grandfather, and his role in the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property. She weaves family stories with letters to and from her grandfather by Japanese Canadians, members of the Baptist Churches of Canada, and bureaucrats, as well as her interpretation of these events. She did not learn of his involvement with Japanese Canadian internment until she was fourteen, but the emphasis on silence within her family kept most information from her until she was an adult. Many members of her family are still torn on how to view this history. Leslie believes that at first her grandfather viewed his position as a short-term job and wanted to do his role well, but as time progressed, it became impossible not to see him as implicated in his actions. She emphasizes the contrast between his generational upbringing and behaviours and how we view his actions now. She does not believe she will ever be able to reconcile the many versions of her grandfather that exist: her own recollections, her mother’s devotion, her extended family members’ views, government records, and his own personal letters.
Note: None.

Credits

Interviewee: Leslie Barnwell
Interviewer: Kaitlin Findlay
Transcriber: Jennifer Landrey
Audio Checker: Jennifer Landrey
Final Checker: Jennifer Landrey
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Terrace, British Columbia
Keywords: London; Winnipegosis ; Baptist Minister; Wildflowers in the Rockies; Eiko Eby ; Veterans Land Act; Racism

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.