Gregor Craigie, interviewed by Josh Labove, 10 January 2017

Gregor Craigie, interviewed by Josh Labove, 10 January 2017

Abstract
Gregor Craigie begins the interview explaining how he became interested in the historical significance of the home he once lived in and how that led to him learning about the internment and dispossession of the Japanese Canadian family who used to live there. He then describes the process he went through to find a member of that Japanese Canadian family, Victor Kuzumoto, and the conversation they had. Gregor reflects on how that conversation changed how he thought about and lived in the house until it was sold. Gregor outlines the extent of his knowledge regarding the internment and dispossession of Japanese Canadians before becoming interested in his home’s history. Near the end of the interview he describes the physical characteristics of the home he used to live in and the unanswered questions he still has about its historical legacy.
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Labove Joshua (LJ)
It is January 10, 2017. I'm Josh Labove in Victoria, B.C., with Gregor Craigie for the Landscapes of Injustice Project, and we're talking a little bit about a house. You were saying you no longer live in that house but a house that you moved into and you discovered some things about its history.
Gregor Craigie (GC)
Yeah, it was in the Fernwood neighbourhood of Victoria so it's quite close to the center and it was an old 1927 house. So it's a story and a half, kind of a nice old heritage house and my wife and I bought it in 2007. We moved from Nelson in the interior and it was a sort of a funky Fernwood fixer-upper as a lot of the houses around there are known. Most cities, Vancouver, Toronto, and so on have a neighbourhood or two like this and a lot of funky old houses that have had a lot of funky old renos. Anyway, we moved in in 2007 and moved in with our young child and over the course of the next year or two, as we got to know the neighbours, we became interested in the neighbourhood's history. I particularly became interested in the history of the house when our next door neighbours, Bill and Joanne who had lived there and are still there for, I don't know, thirty-odd years or so mentioned to me a conversation they had once with someone who used to live in their house. So this is the next door house to the one that I used to live at and she said, you know, they were out gardening at the front, they're avid gardener, and somebody came along the sidewalk and was looking and sort of lingering and they said “Hello” and a conversation followed and she said “Oh, I just grew up in this house. Can I come in and take a look?” “Of course!” So they invited her in and chatted for a long time and at one point she got around to saying “I always wondered what happened to the Japanese family next door. They were sent away during the war and I never knew what became of them.” That was all they knew, Bill and Joanne next door. So that got me interested. It started me on the path to try to figure out who the Japanese family was that once lived in my house.
LJ
Okay, that was no small undertaking. Can you tell me a little bit about how that all unfolded and what happened next?
GC
Yeah, it's funny, it seems like a smaller undertaking now that I've done it but you're right. At the time, it wasn't. I couldn't quite figure out where to go and now, this is about five or six years ago so the exact order escapes me, but it took me to the Victoria City Hall, to the building department, that took me to the city archives, and so on but where I got the first hint of the Japanese connection was actually just by going to Victoria City Hall. Because I was the property owner and I could show that to them they said “Well, we'll just dig out whatever building permits we have and you can look at them.” So I got the original layout and plans and the application for building permit and it was signed T.K. Kuzumoto. So I thought that's probably a pretty good likelihood and as it was 1930-something, '32, '34, the exact year escapes me, not long before the Second World War. I thought that was probably that. So that's what I had to go on, T.K. Kuzumoto, and I started digging around the provincial archives and the City of Victoria archives when they were open, which wasn't very often, but finally through the help of reverse directories and so on I managed to find out that, yes, the Kuzumotos were still there in the late '30s leading up to the '40s. Interestingly, at the beginning, the first few years, they weren't even granted their own names. It just said Orientals in italics. Every other house in the city, pretty much, it would list Greens, Smith, Davidson, whomever, but 1322 Denman Street, Victoria had an owner but their names weren't there. It was just, you know, during the time it just said “oriental” but later on, as I say, the reverse directories leading right up to the war said Kuzumoto. So I found that and then started looking it up online and found ... All I could find for Kuzumoto was a Victoria Judo Club photograph that somebody had put online on some kind of local history page and it showed a bunch of boys with their names on it and the instructor. There was a Victor Kuzumoto. Long story short: lots more document searching. I found a death certificate for a Tom Kuzumoto in Kamloops in the 1970s and I thought that might just be the two of them and then I looked in the current day, this was about 2010, in just the BC phone directory, the Telus phone directory, and found a V. Kuzumoto in Kamloops and I just decided to give him a call. Low and behold this elderly gentleman answered the phone and, yes, it was Victor Kuzumoto. The man who used to live in my house.
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LJ
What was that phone call like?
GC
It was great. It was really, really nice to talk to him because he was very gracious and obliging and polite and formal in a bit of an old fashioned sense. Also he had a great sense of humor. I was quite mindful of the fact that I had taken him aback and I, sort of, tried to gently bring up the subject as to why I was phoning and acknowledged that it was a bit strange. It was great. We chatted for an hour or so and because I'm a journalist and I work for CBC radio and we were also talking about this in the weeks to come, I knew because the emperor was visiting Canada and we were revisiting on our programs some of the lost Japanese history of Victoria. We had hoped to have a few interviews and so I broached the subject of whether he would be willing to do an interview and he said “No, I don't think so. I don't want to do an interview.” But he was happy to talk to me and we had a great conversation. He was, as I say, a very, kind of formal, but very friendly and warm.
LJ
I can't even imagine how awkward or difficult or strange it may have felt to ... How do you begin that conversation. What's the ...
GC
Well, I said “I'm phoning from Victoria and I live in a house on Denman and I apologize if I have the wrong person but I'm wondering if you're the Victor Kuzumoto whose father was Tom and who grew up at 1322 Denman”. He just, very a matter of factly said “Yes, that's me.” In that sense it took a bit of the awkwardness out of it but, actually, I'm usually fairly capable of inserting a bit of awkwardness back into a conversation. So then I started thinking, you know, just immediately questioning myself, “Now, why am I bothering this poor guy and what exactly do I want to say to him or ask him because it's not as if I'm offering him the house back?” There is that sentiment, in a way.
LJ
What did you want to offer him?
GC
Well, A: I was curious. I wanted to find out more about the house. B: I wanted to find out a bit about the story because, I think, a lot of people, even though houses are inanimate objects they are kind of alive in their own way and no matter the history I think a lot of us have lived particularly in older houses and thought “who used to live here and what happened here?” whether it was anything particularly interesting or not. So I wanted to ask him but I also, in some way that I could not articulate and I'm still not sure I can today, I didn't want to apologize but I had a lingering feeling of guilt that was mostly just collective but it became personal because my house was taken from someone and, now, here I was on the internet looking at an online phone directory and able to see someone who I thought used to grow up here. I had two boys at the time and there were two boys in the Kuzumoto family and I just imagined myself and my own kids having the place taken away from us and then somebody moving in and selling it to someone and selling it to someone. So, in a way, I was the legacy of that and I just thought “I'm not going to apologize. I'm not going to offer to give it back but I would just like to talk to him.” As I say, he was very gracious about it. He didn't put that question to me like that. There was no “why are you phoning” or anything but as it went along I did ask him “how do you feel about the fact that your family had everything taken?” It wasn't just this house. It was also the drycleaner. They had a dry-cleaning business and it was called the ... I think it was called 'The Nippon' or 'The Nikkei Drycleaner.' I could look it up but the name escapes me. A few years later it was called 'The ABC Drycleaner' and owned by the Chan family. So it had been sold on as well. I wanted to ask him how he felt about it and he said, you know, it was obviously many difficult years. He was a young man. He'd gone to study in Japan just before the war broke out and so his whole family was interned in the interior and he didn't manage to get back to Canada to see his family until the 1950s. There were clearly a lot of emotions there but he was very, as I say, gracious, formal, and he said “I believe very firmly that the past is the past and I've made a successful and happy life for myself by letting bygones be bygones.”
LJ
Those are big bygones, though.
GC
I know. I know. I agree. It's funny and then as a journalist and also just as someone ... I told him “I feel badly, to tell you the truth.” Again, he said “Let bygones be bygones.” He said, “I bear no personal ill will. I am not upset at you. You didn't take this from us. You bought a house and now you own the house just as I own a house in Kamloops.” He did lighten it as well. He had a sense of humor and he said “Well, you know, that house was not a complete loss for us. It taught me a very valuable lesson about never buying a house on the downhill side of a street that was built over an old stream” which it was. He said “The basement, does the basement still flood?” I had just had a flooded basement that spring. It was, you know, wrapping my brain around how to deal with the basement and put in a sump pump and all the rest of it. I think I dealt with it finally but he had a sense of humor. Yeah.
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LJ
Before you moved into this house, what had you personally known about Japanese Canadian internment and dispossession and the history in BC?
GC
I think I had probably the, well, I was going to say the average Canadian, maybe I would say the average informed Canadian's level of knowledge which is to say that I knew it happened. I knew that because of conditions during the Second World War, because of political decision made, that all of the Japanese and Japanese Canadians on the coast had been forcibly transported to the interior or to the prairies or to Ontario. I knew that for a number of reasons, because I grew up in the '80s and during high school I was, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit, a regular nightly watcher of The National with Knowlton Nash and then Peter Mansbridge on CBC. I'm not saying that because I work for CBC Radio but that's just what I did. At the time there was a long campaign that was going on by the Japanese Canadian Association lobbying the Mulroney government to issue an apology and issue some sort of restitution which, yeah, I won't get into whether or not that actually happened but it was in the news a lot. There was a declaration from the government so I had this vague sense that a wrong had been done, that people had had their properties taken away from them against their will, and that it was seen as an injustice and the federal government had, to some extent, acknowledge that but later I worked and lived in the Kootenays for a few years and Nelson and just through my travels got to see the Nikkei Center in New Denver and that was a very good illustration of the personal, you know, what it was like, these little, tiny little miners' huts in a mountain village. That brought it home to me more but, yeah, but it's something else to live and own a property that's been taken away from somebody else and then something else entirely to talk to Victor.
LJ
Yeah, and, you know, it's the home and of course it's also where the home sits, very much on the BC coast. I'm wondering if Victor talked at all about Victoria. My sense is that, you know, we talk about landscapes of injustice and this is, truthfully, one of those landscapes. Was there any sense of what Victoria meant and the loss of that city as a home to him as well?
GC
A bit, although, that was where ... He veered away from specifics at that point. He talked about having grown up in Victoria. He and his brother, I think they were both born here if memory serves, and they both grew up here and were very much part of the community. He talked about the neighborhood and all of his friends down the block and the Italian family. He talked about kind of a multicultural, as such, community and the little corner store and going to school and being part of the Victoria Judo Club and I think he called it the Japanese church. Yeah, so he talked about a happy childhood in Victoria and being part of the community and never returning. The only real mention he made of it was saying that “None of the Japanese went back to Victoria.” Which I thought was interesting having talked to other Japanese Canadians who came back in some numbers to other cities and towns on the west coast. To hear him say that and, actually, to hear several Japanese Canadians say it, almost none came back to Victoria.
LJ
Why do you think that is?
GC
I don't profess any expertise so, I mean, the sense I got from him was it had been such a long go and they had no legal property anymore, so they had that, and no one else was going back and they were making a life for themselves in the interior, in Kamloops. So they were going to settle on that but mostly, to me, it's sort of a not really answered question in my mind.
LJ
Your house in many ways is not unique, right? I think that's part of the sadness of it is that there's probably many houses like yours out there across the city.
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GC
I agree. I just wonder how many people know it. It's funny, a good friend of mine, I didn't do this and part of me kind of regrets not doing this. I've got three young kids, well, there's two reasons I didn't do this and I haven't even told you what it is yet but a friend of mine who's a local business owner and very interested in history, he's a historical re-enactor which is an interesting group, he's very dedicated to history and he said “you should get a bronze plaque and bolt it to the front of the house and say something simple. ‘This is the house that Victor Kuzumoto built or had built in 1930-whatever it was, and it was taken from him.’ Something like that and the idea appealed and I never got it done. In the end a part of me regrets it. The other reason, just to be frank, and this is part of the legacy I think, is just it really ... might that affect the sale, too? I didn't consciously have a plaque ready to go and decide not to bolt it to the wall. In fact, the very brief encounters that I had with the couple who bought the house, I suspect they probably would have embraced some meaningful gesture like that. To be frank, that was one of the reasons for not wanting to do it as well thinking “Well, we're going to sell this house” because he came up with the idea not long before we sold it and we thought “Maybe we don't want to do something that might make a sale or a transaction of this house any more difficult.” Anyone who has ever sold a house has realized sometimes it's best to simplify and not do things. All that's to say I kind of regret, in a way, not marking that. It is one simple house. As you say, there's so many others but the reason I say it is because a lot of people live in houses or maybe own some small piece of property like that and don't know it's history. I think, you know, not every house or piece of property's history is necessarily relevant or interesting but when it's been taken from someone in an episode like that I think it ought to be known.
LJ
Yeah, it stands to reason that there are many businesses and spots across the city that would be in a similar circumstance. There would be many plaques around Victoria. It would seem.
GC
Yeah, there would be a lot including the dry-cleaning building that he used to own. Although, to be honest, I cannot remember if that's still standing or not but there would be a lot. Of course, I suppose some people would say “Well, where are you going to stop?” I understand that but, you know, truthfully, when I think of that house which we lived in for seven years and which I was very fond of, we mostly moved because we had another child and schools and all the modern considerations you put into where you live, but I was very fond of that house. I felt like that was the history of the house and it should be honored somehow.
LJ
I wonder if living in the house after the phone call to Mr. Kuzumoto changed the way that you lived in the house, changed the way you thought about the house, you looked at the house?
GC
It definitely changed the way I thought about the house. I don't know, practically speaking, if it changed the way I lived in the house. I mean, it still needed a number of improvements. Actually, for the most part it got it. We did renovations to the house insulating it and windows and, you know, putting in a heat pump, all sorts of environmental considerations but it would have and the reason I bring that up is if we had ever considered doing a major renovation I think that actually would have made me reluctant, like, I certainly wouldn't have been, not that I'm the type who can either afford or is inclined to tear houses down anyway, but I certainly never would have felt like that. Yeah, I think it probably made me want to respect the heritage of the house, just the look and the feel of it because, apart from paint and new shingles and I guess new windows, it basically looked like the same old house. So, yeah, it definitely changed the way I felt about it. I felt it was something that should be respected but practically speaking I'm not sure it changed the way I lived in it. I think that was largely the same.
LJ
The dry-cleaning business downtown it's, sort of, hard to say whether or not that's gone the way of much of downtown.
GC
I wish I could remember whether the building is still standing or not. Yeah, that's an interesting one too because so many businesses come and go. I suppose in a way that's another chapter. Yeah, I don't know. That would be interesting to look at. I'd like to find the address of it, again.
LJ
Yeah, I mean I'm just sort of wondering how you felt like your house fits into Victoria's Japanese Canadian history and, potentially, its present but specifically its history.
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GC
Well, I don't know about its present but to me it just felt like, you know what, it felt like another ... It wasn't just a stolen asset it was a, and the word stolen may even, still in some quarters, be contentious. It wasn't a seized asset only. It was their work and their livelihood and their effort. I mean, Mr. Kuzumoto, not Victor but his dad Tom, had emigrated here and worked and worked and worked and they built that house. I mean, he had carpenters doing it and so on but they took out the permits, they had it built, they built a business, they built a life. You know, it was their investment, their financial legacy, residence, and everything in this country and it was taken from them. So I guess I see that house as being, you know, the real physical manifestation of a family, an immigrant family's investment in a country and there it was taken from them. The thing I kind of find interesting about it is with what's happening on the BC coast with real estate now. I mean, my new house just went up forty-five percent in value in its latest assessment. In one year, fort-five percent. I now possess a house, not that house, but I possess a house that is worth more than one million dollars on paper and, believe me, I don't feel like a millionaire. I mean, I ride my bike to work. If I get a coffee once a day I'm just thinking twice about the muffin and all the rest of it which is no complaint. Like a lot of people with kids and a mortgage and so on I'm just careful with money. I feel not hard done by in the slightest but the property values are becoming astronomical and that house that Tom Kuzumoto built is one of the many very hot assets. If they put it on the market today, you know, I'm guessing it would probably fetch $800,000 or so. Yeah, it's, maybe that's too much of a leap but, I don't know, what is the modern day iteration if it? I mean, you have to wonder, for some of these people, I mean people who are still alive and certainly their kids and grandkids, it's not that rare that people in Vancouver and Victoria are inheriting the houses or the worth from the houses that their parents or their grandparents, at a similar age, have had for many years that they just either built or invested relatively little money in it. Even then I can see it as an asset that could still be, in some way shape or form, in the Kuzumoto family.
LJ
Yeah, this is often a house rich, cash poor province, right? And I'm talking to you during the heat of assessment time, right? The BC assessments just went in the mail a couple days ago.
GC
Yeah, it's an annual right of the New Year here in BC.
LJ
Which I think makes our work, this project and our conversation, all the more timely and current because in this province, perhaps more than any other, people are constantly talking about property. So the idea of thinking about affordability and being able to make a life here and finding folks who, maybe, had that taken from them just kind of brings that all right into the present.
GC
It does. It accentuates it because, I mean, if we were in, you know, as other communities around the world around the continent are in, if we had a surplus of housing, if housing wasn't such a valuable commodity there would still be value to it and there would still be injury no doubt in having had it taken from you but I think it's all the more difficult to obtain now than it has been. Yeah, it's unattainable for a huge section of the population, particularly young people now, to get housing at least in Victoria property and the center just like Vancouver. Yeah, I don't know if it's beyond that but I think it certainly puts a finer point on what was taken.
LJ
Yeah, so that's happening in BC and then at the same time we are, what, ten days away from Donald Trump becoming the president of the United States. So some of the questions of immigrant exclusion I think sort of come right back to the surface all over again.
GC
Absolutely. It's true. I mean, it's interesting to me too that these were people who were born in this country and I don't say it to justify excluding people who are not born in the country but especially that really hit home to me, again, because I was relating the Kuzumoto boys who grew up in my house to the boys, to my boys, who had grown up in this house and I was born in Canada but my parents were all immigrants. My wife was born in England so we were not really that far removed in that sense. You know, a generation or two in but back in that day because they were of Japanese ancestry and they were considered Orientals, to use the word as a reverse directory, they were, you know, it was deemed okay to take away their rights as citizens. Yeah, it's ... Pause. I don't know if there are just sort of echoes of it in Trump and the United States. Hopefully that's all it will ever be rather than anything more.
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LJ
I'm wondering when you were going through the process of discovering the history of your house, this was a lot of work, if anyone ever said to you “stop it.” Did your wife and kids think this was a journalist on a strange hunch or was there support from the outset that this was a ...
GC
No, I was really lucky. Everybody supported it. My wife is about as curious as I am so she was quite interested. She's probably more aggrieved by injustice than I am. If I had anything in the back of my mind it was this small nagging suspicion “Surely she won't suggest we give up our only asset. No, she won't do that. She won't do that” but anyway, you know what I mean, there was absolute support. “Yeah, find out who it is. I want to know more.” My kids were too young at the time, I mean, our oldest was about three when I started this but there were nothing but helpful people. Archivists, in my brief experience, and it's been twenty years since I've done an undergrad in history so admittedly it's not up to the experience of proper academics but everybody I found at the RBCM and the City of Victoria archives and various other places I went to, people were very helpful. “Oh, that sounds like an interesting project.” “Oh, here let me show you how to use this or that or have you considered this or that.”
LJ
And then at some point you approached the powers that be to do an audio essay for the CBC on your house. I've been in some pitch rooms before but what was that pitch like and how did that go over?
GC
It was a bit unusual in that by and large because I host a current affairs radio program I usually interview people. That's what I do rather than write essays and I may write various other things in other walks of my life but my job on the radio program is to ask questions rather than to share a firsthand experience. I brought it up and, originally, I was hoping to interview, as I've said, Victor Kuzumoto but I think I just decided, well, I'm going to suggest this as an idea and if my colleagues, there's a managing producer and an executive producer of the program and other colleagues, if they think it's a terrible idea, well, I guess that's just what it is. I suggested, well, either we could just have nothing on this because Mr. Kuzumoto won't do it but he said he was happy to talk to me. I also asked him specifically “would you mind if I relayed, because I am a journalist, would you mind if I relayed what you said?” “No, that would be fine.” He was very clear. So I said, “How about I just do an essay?” then I tied it in with a couple of other interviews I did with the Nikkei Cultural Group. It was fine, actually. Very supportive, there was no ... I think people are intrigued by this injustice particularly in a country that, you know, where we so often pat ourselves on the back for our wonderful human rights standards and seemingly flawless record and so on. I think a lot of us are either a little bit embarrassed or intrigued or what have you when it comes time to look at episodes in the past where it's been anything but. So, I had no problem from anyone, really, in any of this.
LJ
Yeah, I'm just wondering, I mean, you're a journalist, you're also a Victoria journalist. That's sort of how I think of you these days especially. I'm wondering if you thought that there was a real, sort of, civic responsibility to tell Victoria's story?
GC
Yes, definitely. Definitely because I think ... Pick your cliché of history being important because we need to learn from the past so as not to repeat it but we also need to know what led to what we have now. Again, back to these insanely expensive homes, even just to know that even if it's just a few hundred of those, a lot of those belonged to Canadian families who bought them or built them or both, lawfully, and then had them taken away and, arguably, did not receive either any compensation or proper, well, let's say proper compensation anyway. Not that it's up to me to determine that but, you know. Yeah, so I think there is a responsibility for this community and I think any other community that has gone through it. Actually, I'd be interested to know, because we broadcast to all of Vancouver Island, I'd be interested to know and have not done any work on it but I'd be interested to know whether there are similar efforts in Tofino or Cumberland or what have you.
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LJ
I've been out to some of those communities. I don't know if there are folks who are as curious as you who have done the work to find out where their homes come from but such homes do exist. Certainly in Tofino, Ucluelet, Salt Spring Island, all throughout the BC coast broadly but I think, often times, the story is very much centered in Hastings Park and Powell Street. It can be, Victoria can be a little bit of a bubble and it can be easy to imagine that Victoria was not part of that but in many ways Victoria was quite central to that.
GC
Yeah.
LJ
Before I go, I realize I didn't actually, I didn't ask you much about the physicality of the physical structure of the home. It sounds like it was a bit of a fixer-upper but, yeah, maybe you can tell me just a little bit more about what the home looked like as you took it over.
GC
The home as they classified it on our property assessments, which come to the mail, are fairly broad but somewhat specifically as a one and a half story home. So it was built in 1927 and it's for people who like craft homes. I think it's a really nice era. It's after the turn of the twentieth century homes just before the postwar, postmodern homes. There was still plaster walls and, kind of, coved doorways and so on. It had the picture rails up at the top of the eight and a half foot ceilings. Although, like a lot of homes in Victoria and Vancouver it had been the recipient of a number of unsympathetic DIY jobs. So in the living room they had unfortunately put a 1970s DIY stucco job on one of the walls but you could still see the character in most of it and the nice old windows but it had a kind of an attic, a skinny little kitchen, and then this steep, dangerous set of stairs going thirteen steps straight up to the half story. They called it the upstairs that had two bedrooms in it and then a couple of little small eight by ten, eight by eleven bedrooms on the main floor and a single bathroom and then a basement that leaked. The previous owner, there's a few previous owners from us, I found out a bit more of the history as it went along that they had raised it which was what a lot of people would do because like a lot of homes around here it had about a six foot high basement. So they raised it and they had partially finished it but what they hadn't done in the '80s or '90s was solve the flooding problem. So, because as they say a creek went right under it. One other thing, and not to sidetrack the conversation, but it just occurred to me that one thing I wanted to do, even though it's not my house I still might do it as some point if I have time, is the other family that fascinated me the most is the family that came in right after the Kuzumotos. Who got that? I found out that, for reasons I cannot remember, it was not that easy to find out. I think it was because they had a fairly common generic Anglo-English name. If it wasn't Smith it was ... I've got it written down but I can't remember off the top of my head but the Chan family who got the dry-cleaning business and turned it into ABC Drycleaner interested me but particularly the family that moved in with their kids and took this house, they paid for it but probably not very much at all, and I really would still, someday, like to find out about them.
LJ
And you were able to track down their name?
GC
Yes, it's in the reverse directory in the city. The records and so on.
LJ
But no sense of what they would have paid for the house or ...
GC
No, that's a good question. No, and I would love to find out. I know the records are available, though, I don't know if you'd have to go to federal documents associated with the internment files. Frankly, I don't know. So that would be a whole other thing. I would like to pursue it both ways: to find out documentation of how much they paid and also just anecdotally who they were and, in fact, maybe who they are because it's quite possible that the kids had moved in after the fact. I only have this as kind of hearsay but, “whatever happened to them I don't know, but the next thing we knew the Japanese family was gone,” said the original woman to the neighbor, “and there was another family in there.” So I would love to find out more about that family.
LJ
And what did that family, if anything, know about where that house had come from?
GC
Yeah, and I mean if I'm feeling bits of guilt and curiosity and what have you, what would they have been feeling at the time? Maybe they wouldn't have felt anything given the different political landscape and so on or maybe, I don't know. I would love to find out and maybe one day I'll do that.
LJ
By the time that you would have moved in, certainly, nothing would have been left behind but you can possibly imagine that the Kuzumoto family may have left possessions.
GC
Oh, at the time? Absolutely, because they had so little time to leave and I didn't get into great detail about that with him but he said, you know, “We just, we had to leave very quickly. We couldn't take everything.”
LJ
So there's a family that's coming into this house that, potentially, has couches and furniture and what have you.
GC
Absolutely, and that I would love to ask them, anyone associated with them, what was that like? Even if it was completely empty, if they had somehow managed to take everything or if it had all been taken, what was it like moving into a house if you knew, did you know, and then if you did what was it like moving into a house that had been taken from someone and they had been sent away? I mean, I don't know. I don't pretend to have firsthand knowledge of what it was like to live in this country in 1941, '42, particularly when it was at war and when people were being sent off to sea, but still, you have to wonder.
LJ
Yeah, and as far as the business goes you were able to track down that it went to the Chan family. Are they still in Victoria?
GC
Don't know. One of the frustrations about my job here is the constant daily cycle of things. So, you know, once the emperor had come and gone from Canada, and we had done a number of interviews, and I had done my audio essay there was the immediate need taken away to, kind of, find out more. Even though most of it I did in my free time. I never really got beyond that. One of these days I like to think I will. Although, you know, given how many years it's been I should probably hop to it because the likelihood of there being any firsthand survivors is probably fairly low already and it's not going to get any better with time.
LJ
No.
GC
Yeah.
LJ
Well, this is great. I'm wondering if there's anything that I've missed that I've not asked or if there's anything else about the house or your own, sort of, genesis to learning more about it that we haven't discussed or ...
GC
I don't think so. Other than, you know, just the value of oral history because, I know this is your focus, I wouldn't have found out about, well, I don't think, I certainly have not seen anything about this by internet searches. No one has taken the time to write me. I have not seen a report on this. This was an over the fence conversation which led me to find out about this. It was a chat and a several degree removed kind of an oral history. I wonder what happened to that Japanese family.
LJ
And a curious journalist with ...
GC
Yeah, that's true. Curiosity, definitely. But, yeah, it did. It just started with a conversation over the fence.
LJ
Well, great, thank you so much.
GC
My pleasure, Josh.
00:38:45.000

Metadata

Title

Gregor Craigie, interviewed by Josh Labove, 10 January 2017

Abstract

Gregor Craigie begins the interview explaining how he became interested in the historical significance of the home he once lived in and how that led to him learning about the internment and dispossession of the Japanese Canadian family who used to live there. He then describes the process he went through to find a member of that Japanese Canadian family, Victor Kuzumoto, and the conversation they had. Gregor reflects on how that conversation changed how he thought about and lived in the house until it was sold. Gregor outlines the extent of his knowledge regarding the internment and dispossession of Japanese Canadians before becoming interested in his home’s history. Near the end of the interview he describes the physical characteristics of the home he used to live in and the unanswered questions he still has about its historical legacy.

Credits

Interviewer: Josh Labove
Interviewee: Gregor Craigie
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Victoria, BC
Keywords: Fernwood; Nelson ; Victoria ; Denman Street; Victor Kuzumoto ; Kamloops ; Victoria City Hall; Archives; Reverse Directory; Dry-cleaning Business; CBC Radio; The National; Japanese Canadian Association; Redress ; Restitution; Kootenay ; Nikkei Center; New Denver ; Victoria Judo Club; Housing; Affordability; Asset.; 1920s – 2000s

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.