Art and Keiko Miki, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 09 August 2016

Art and Keiko Miki, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 09 August 2016

Abstract
Keiko and Art begin the interview describing their earliest childhood memories. Both interviewees provide a brief history of how their families found themselves in Canada and what work they did to make a living. Art describes his family's experience of being forcibly removed from British Columbia during the war and having to relocate to Manitoba where they worked on sugar beet farms. He explains what motivated him to stay in Manitoba and pursue further education. Keiko then reflects on her parents' decision to move back to British Columbia and why they made this choice. Both Art and Keiko recall the various forms of property that their families lost during the war and also attempt to illustrate the emotions that were felt during and after that time. Near the end of the interview they comment on the Redress movement, their involvement in that event, and what they felt as it was taking place.
00:00:00.000
Erin Yaremko (EY)
Today is August 9th, 2016 and I am here with Keiko and Art Miki. We are in Winnipeg, Manitoba and we are recording for Landscapes of Injustice. Would you like to start by telling us anything you maybe remember from your childhood?
Hisako Miki (HM)
Well do you want me to introduce myself first?
EY
Oh, you can!
HM
Okay yeah. I'm Keiko Miki, I was born in Steveston, British Columbia, March first 1942 and it was at the fisherman's benevolent hospital there and I guess I was one of the last people who was born there because forty two it, did it close I don't know whether it closed or whether the Japanese people were moved out of the area so. Anyway, my parents, okay my parents were my father was from Mio, Wakayama, he came with his father and older two brothers were in Canada and he came when he was about 19 in 1921. So he was here early on and then I guess he stayed and he worked at the as a on the train like as a red cap and he worked you know just I think he wanted to stay here so once the, his family, the rest of them went back and then my mother was also from Wakayama. And he went back at some point because they arranged marriages at that time so, so she her name was Sawaye (?) Yamamoto and. Well my father's name was Tubaysoyo (?) , was Nishikana (?) but it was originally Takagushi because he and the second brother, the oldest brother I guess they always kinda kept the land. So he and his older brother who's the middle brother they were adopted into two Nishikana families to carry on the name. So that's why our name was Nishikana. And let's see. What else can I tell you about, well we moved from we moved from British Columbia and I was forty days old when my sister says we were on a like you know my mother had a there was four other well mind you there was only three other children because my older sister... Kikuko (?) she had gone with relatives to Japan, so around when she was around 11 or so and so she was on Japan at the time when the 1942. So my two brothers and my sister Grace, my older sister they all came we all went on the train, or no I guess it was the back of a truck and went to the interior of British Columbia to Minto mines. And it was a self, supposedly self-supporting situation so they I guess they decided I guess the relatives were also going so they decided to go, and they actually it was an abandoned mine town so. There was only about 300 people there, but they said that they got one of the houses that was abandoned so they got a larger home that they had to fix up and everything so I was a baby then. And then from there we moved to... Manitoba I guess hey? Yeah, so after we were told to go is it 100 miles East. We came to Manitoba and I don't recall any of those parts but we did go to a farm that was owned by, forgot what his first name is, I think she kind of carried me when she was working and then the other three kids were at home, running around I guess.
00:05:07.000
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HM
But uh, and then from there I think originally they were in a barn when they first came and then they found a small house for them I think on the property and then once they were able to move... went to Whitemouth. And we were in the back of a garage there and I kinda start remembering things there. I remember White mouth, we had a huge room in the back of a garage and you know everybody's bed was lined up and we had a great big Ping-Pong table. So was quite a, and there were some people that we knew down the road, so they used to come visit. And so I think we had one of those pumps, so we had water in the house. And wooden stove, to uh I guess in the main area had a like a wood stove like this but also a cooking stove so that was all good. And then from there we moved into Winnipeg in 1950 ish. And went into one of these great big house on Isabell Street, 287 Isabell and there I remember going to I think I was going into grade one, so I was ab out seven at Dufferin School. And was the type of house I think we were the, the owner must have had us being the landlords because I always remember they had rooms to let in the window and it was a big house so it had a great big porch and there was an upstairs that had rooms and a couple of them were rented and there was also my two brothers had a room and my sister once she came the two of them had. And then I slept downstairs it had a back stairway as well because it went down to the kitchen area, I guess they had servants or something in the old days. And my mom and dad had one of those davenports that opened up in the kitchen area and then there was a little small room that was like a living room. And I had a couch that folded out as well, so that's where I stayed. So I can remember that. Then along the side there used to be a you guess they must have had horses or something in the old days because it was a great big barn in the back and a driveway in. And on that street it was pretty nice because there were people who were immigrants and you know so I knew a number of young people that I, Paulette Watchniak they owned that family had that Watchniak auction I guess, Auctioneers. And they had a nice house so I always went to visit, I guess they had sort of an ordinary kind of home and family and you know was kinda nice. So from there we moved into, oh yeah so that was on Isabel and then we went to Beverley, 640 Beverley and so I went to school at Wellington School, or no sorry I was at Dufferin and then in grade six I went into Wellington school. And I've found that when I was at Dufferin I don't remember really studying or doing much work at school but once I went into Wellington I think the area being different they had work books and everything, had to kind of work a bit. Which I wasn't used to you know, so then and then so I got to know kids there and went to Daniel Mac for high school and... And then from there went to Misacordia for nursing and I stayed there for three years it was a residence there and so I took my nursing there and then worked there after. So I guess that's sort of my childhood. That's all I can remember.
00:10:38.000
00:10:38.000
EY
You had mentioned, neighbors you remembered, that was in Whitemouth?
HM
Ah huh.
EY
And what else do you remember of the family that owned the home, the home that you were staying in?
HM
In Whitemouth? I don't remember anything about that one, it was just we I think the main highway went down there like the old where you went to the beach and things?
EY
44?
HM
Was it 44? It was the one before they did the main highway you know. And So there was a lot of traffic right in front, I think the as I recall the garage that we were in the back of was a pump kind of garage and right across the street there was also one that repaired cars and things cause there was always a bunch of cars and things parked there. So it was more like a repair shop garage type of place. And down the... not a lane exactly, was Oyes which you know they lived in Winnipeg as well, now even and Suhkais and I don't remember but my sister said Hayakawas were also in that area. And let's see I didn't go to school because I was still young and there's no kindergarten or anything and right adjacent to our place in the back there was on the main street there was a family and I don't recall their last name but her name was cookie and I used to go and play at their place. But that's all I remember about friends you know, yeah.
EY
So I think now we're going to move to Art's childhood and then I am going to go back to talking to both of you about a few questions instead of just repeating. So did you want to begin by telling me about your family's history and your childhood?
Art Miki (AM)
Sure. Mhmm. Well first of all I'll just go back to my grandparents because they're the ones who came to Canada from Japan. In fact on my father's side, his parents came in 1892 and interesting story because in his particular case his father and mother were living in Canada at that time and she apparently got ill and so they went back to Japan where she passed away. And so at that time my father's name was let's see, Shimo, no not Shimotakahara. Ooh anyways it'll come to me after, but anyways he went back to Japan and there he eventually married my grandmother which is Kio Miki. And what he did is he kept her name so that's how we got the surname Miki although it was my grandmother name because again same thing as Keiko's family. When they didn't have a male heir to carry on the family name they would adopt someone and so my grandfather then became a Miki that way. They went to form there they went to Hawaii because he wanted to come back to Canada so his wife went to Hawaii, they were there for a year and then eventually they got back to Canada so that was likely around 1902 or so, it was around that tie frame. My other grandparents came in 1903, from and they both came from Fukuoka (?) Japan in a similar area. And they came in 1903, again he and his wife both came which is unusual at the time because it was mostly single males that would come, but in both cases their wives also came. And he became a broker for employment, finding people that would become fisherman like recruiting fishing people as well as cannery.
00:14:55.000
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AM
The women, most of the women worked in canneries, and it's associated with every fishing port would be a cannery. So that's how both people in the family would be able to work and so he went up to Prince Rupert and that's where they were there until 1917 when he eventually moved into Fraser Valley and bought a berry farm, or he actually built a berry farm. They bought property, they built their own farm. And part of reason for that was that the kids were getting older and he wanted them to have better education and so felt that living down South in British Columbia would afford them or at least allow the kids to have like more education. So I was born in Vancouver well I should just mention my parents were married in 1935 in Vancouver, my father was born in Tainad, BC which is near Surrey because his father was working at a limber camp at the time. And my mother was born in Port Osington which is near Prince Rupert. Island where they had canneries so, and that's where they lived so. I'm not too sure how they met but they were married in '35 and I was born in '36. And when I was first born we lived in Vancouver because most Japanese did live in Vancouver at the time, so we lived on Alexander Street in the Powell Street area. I think it was 621 Alexander, seems to me that's the address. But just prior to the war my parents because by that time there were other kids, decided to live in Haney, BC because my grandfather had a berry farm. And it was quite a large farm and so they built a house, actually was a building that they converted into a house and so that's where we lived just prior to the war. Prior to that we did live in a lumber camp because my father was driving truck in Mission, BC and as a result we lived in a lumber camp just for a few years, maybe only two years possibly. And then eventually we moved onto my grandfather's property and that's where we were at the time that Pearl Harbor and the whole relocation took place. We were in Haney, BC. I just want to mention something because this is a childhood saying and the only thing I really remember as the time that I and this accident in the lumber camp and that's the time when apparently logs rolled off a truck because the truck this huge truck had a flat tire and they were pile dup and they eventually got loose and they rolled down the hill. And we were caught in it and that's when I had my face ripped out and my brother had a broken leg at the time. I was four years old and he was three, and interestingly enough at the time that happened because we were in the lumber camp and because the truck was in the main road none of the cars could get out. And so they couldn't take me to the hospital or they had difficulty, they didn't know what to do as the story goes and then it just turns out that someone who had gone to Mission had just come back and he was on the other side and so when they got him to take me to the hospital. Otherwise they felt that I might not have lived because there's no way of getting to the hospital and so it was fortunate that this person happened to be there and so he drove me to the hospital. And the reason I share this story is because later on when I was involved in the redress movement and I was speaking in Vancouver at a conference this fellow came from Hope, BC to meet me and I remember that day because there was a snow storm and people were wondering “oh we're not going to get too many people”. But this guy came and he said the reason he came is because he was the person that drove me to the hospital and he wanted to meet me! So and since I got to know him as a result of that and later on we were trying to find this camp and he took Keiko and I up into the hills but we couldn't find the original camp. Anyways that's the story of how I met him after, after all these years he wondered what ever happened!
00:20:14.000
00:20:14.000
AM
Getting back to my original story then, is when I was five years old is when we were forcibly removed. I had just finished kindergarten so I do have kindergarten pictures and then the family my grandparents and parents decided that they would go to sugar beet farm. So 1942 May, they went to they came to Manitoba and we were placed on the farm in St. Agathe Manitoba which is about 25 miles South from Winnipeg in the French community. There were, my parents, my grandparents and then there was a family friend that my grandfather knew that also came with us so we all live in this four room house on the prairies. Uninsulated, no water, no electricity, not much it's just a building. And so the first winter was a very difficult one because it was quite cold and that's when I started school in St. Agathe and so we had to walk quite a long ways to school, I'm not too sure how I got there. Maybe I didn't get there too often I dunno but, interesting, the school itself was in French. It was a Catholic school and they taught in French not English and I remember they had about half an hour of English for day that was the extent of the English but it was a French speaking community. So all the kids that I got to know were all French speaking, I don't know how we communicated but we did. And we were there for two years on the sugar beet farm. My father by that time found a job in Winnipeg which is sorta out of bounds but I think he had special permission to work in a machine shop and so he got a job and he lived in Winnipeg in the rooming house, while we lived in St. Agathe. After the first winter the accommodations were so horrible that we had to eventually rent a house in town because you just couldn't live in it. So that's how we ended up in town, and it was right in town by the school and I could walk to school as well. WE were only there for two years and because my father was working in Winnipeg, the family decided to move to North Kildonan. And the reason North Kildonan is because that was beyond the city of Winnipeg limits at the time and we couldn't, Japanese couldn't live in Winnipeg at the time but you could live outside so. In many case people lived in either middle church or St. Norbert, all those little surrounding areas, but they didn't live in Winnipeg. So we lived in North Kildonan there must have been at least eight or 10 Japanese Canadian families that lived in that area as a result of the same situation. Maybe even more. So that's where I got my education when I first went to North Kildonan however because I couldn't speak English and I knew French and I was attending an English speaking school they had to put me back a grade because didn't have the language or the reading ability in English. Soi anyways but that's yup. I guess that was sorta a normal situation if you don't have the language. Uh and form there in 1948 we moved into Winnipeg and that was a time that the security commission allowed Japanese to finally move into Winnipeg freely so then you could also buy property. Prior to that you could not buy property, Japanese were prohibited from buying property. I believe from '42 to '47 and so in '48 you could buy property. My parents finally with the help of a friend bought a house and it was coincidently on Alexander Avenue laughs from British Columbia Vancouver 621 Alexander, we ended up on 631 Alexander in Winnipeg!
00:25:19.000
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AM
And so I went to school in Winnipeg Hugh John McDonald, Victor Albert, eventually to Daniel and from there I... After graduating from high school I got a job with the federal government, I worked with them for a few years and the fellow that I worked with one day called me over and said “you know just give you advice if I were you I would leave, or I would do something” he says “do something that you're more capable of doing, rather than working in the office”. So I quit and went to university and eventually became a teacher and a principle and so that's where we ended up.
EY
I just have a quick question for you because you just ended with the perfect topic, what drew you to further your education within Manitoba and not move to a different province?
AM
Well first of all I went to I started going to teacher's college for my education, prior to that I was in engineering. I was going into second year engineering and just so happened I met a friend. I hadn't seen for five years who was my high school partner or at least I knew him in high school and he had been living in BC just came back. He said “you know what” and I just ran into him in the street one day and he says “I'm going down to teacher's college, why don't you come with me, so we can talk?” And so I went with him and we're sitting in the principal's office in the teacher's office and at that time there's a shortage of teachers and they're saying how the government will pay for your tuition and all that and I thought “geez this is not a bad deal!” So I signed up to go into education as well at that time and so that's how we ended up at teachers college and so after we graduated he and I went up North and we taught on an Indian Reservation for a short period of time and then I moved into Winnipeg and started teaching for Winnipeg School Division. And so during the time I started teaching I went back to university, I guess after four years and Keiko by that time had graduated from nursing and so she was working and so I went back to university. So I went back for two years and I got not only my science degree but I got my bachelor of education degree and began my master's program, all in the short period of time. So but it worked out well and but your question is why didn't I go some place else. At that time I had started education teaching and then we had children and so it became a case of just staying here, since we I had obligations as well so.
EY
And Keiko what drew you to stay in Manitoba for further education towards work?
HM
I didn't think there wasn't any other option at the time really because you go out of high school and then even going to university I don't think we had any money because I know Grace is nine years older then me, my sister and she probably would have liked to go further but she had to go to work right away. To help support the family, because by that time we were on Beverley Street which we bought I think. So like when once I'm out of school then I think my dad by that time was working at Miseracordia because before that he was at Marlborough hotel you know. And then he I think he got ulcer or something so he had to have surgery. So while he was off he took a cooking course so then he and then by the time I was graduating from high school he was working at Miseracordia in the kitchen there so I applied there to go into the nursing program. And it doesn't didn't cost any money really, just to get your outfit and you get your residence there and you know you go to school and they you get to eat there and. SO everything was for three years free basically and they even gave you like 10 dollars or something a month you now after a couple of years once you start working on the wards. So you know it didn't cost anything and I think it was something that I had thought I would like to do as well.
AM
Yeah its interesting because Keiko's parents at the time decided to move back to BC.
HM
When?
AM
Around the '60s.
HM
Oh no that was after I graduated. After I graduated yeah.
AM
Yeah, after you graduated, yeah.
HM
Yeah
AM
Yeah, but around that time you were getting married so that's they went but we stayed.
HM
Yeah they were okay with...yeah.
AM
Yeah.
HM
Hmm.
00:31:10.000
00:31:10.000
EY
so what was their reasoning behind moving back to British Columbia?
AM
Well...
HM
I think the, probably the weather you know. Because there they were, they always found it harsh here and in fact years later when my dad came to visit I think he forgot by that time how harsh it is and he went out for a walk and then he came in he was just freezing and in the winter hey? And they never visited in the winter again after that laughs. But I think it was mainly partly that and partly because my next brother above me, he had gone to British Columbia to work and in the summer and I think he stayed hey?
AM
Mhmm
HM
Kenji. So he and then they were he was going to open this dry cleaning shop and things so my mother is a really good seamstress and so she was going to help with the mending and things like that, so it was partly to just support him and my other brother had also moved to BC. Yeah something like that. So and then I was graduating and Grace was married by that time and then my sister who was who had lived in Japan and came back I saw her for the first time when she was about 18 when she came back. 'Cause she had when I was born she want here and then it was after the war that she came back. So that was the first time I saw her. And so for her you know I couldn't she was speaking Japanese so it was a bit of a barrier and I think she found it very difficult too because she was the only child with a grandmother living in Japan. So it was you know and then she comes and here's a bunch of kids and difficult times, both parents are working and you know like when I think back now it probably was hard for her too. And then she had to find training for a job so she became a...
AM
Hairdresser.
HM
Hairdresser yeah. And my sister was three they were only about two or three years apart so she was helping her, she was the younger sister to my eldest sister. So you know I mean and I being the youngest I was kind of, the two boys, two girls and me so I was kinda like just on my own more or less. And they looked after me but I don't think, I don't think you know it probably didn't affect me really. When I was on Isabel you know you kinda learn to fight for yourself and everything you know because people were more when kids were growing up then they were really what would you say? Street smart or something laughs you know..
AM
laughs yeahhh, street wise yeah.
HM
If someone picked a fight, you'd just go and fight yeah laughs. So anyway, you know I don't think but you know you don't know what you're missing when you're there so you don't know what it's like. Except when you go and visit other people's homes. Little different.
AM
I think the things I remember most about our family was the fact that I think it was most difficult on my grandparents. Cause they didn't speak the language that well and especially for my grandfather how had established his own berry farm and he was in his early 60s I think when this happened and so at that point you know people are looking forward to retiring and here he's put on the sugar beet farm and it was hard labour and so on.
00:35:24.000
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AM
And I often felt that when I look back that the whole experience was likely something that you know, took his life earlier than it should have. Cause I think he was only here four years before he passed away and I do recall the time that he became ill and he had very little to give to the family. And I think it really bothered him, that in the end he didn't have anything really. When he had so much that he built up. So I think that's what I remember most about the impact I think of the internment on people with... I thought he suffered likely the most from it.
HM
Well just on that note, I think the language you know my mother didn't teach English...
AM
Yeah.
HM
Because when she came and married my father... my father was I was noticing that he worked at a Cod Fish cooperative society and he was a buyer for it. So because he was there in Canada at a young age he had some language. So that's why he was able to get a fairly decent job hey? And so my sister, my oldest sister remembers when he used to go to work and he was all he had a suite on and what did you call those things that you covered the shoes?
AM
Like a spats?
HM
Like a spats laughs, and I guess they lived in Vancouver right in Vancouver close to the dock, where they and so he just used to walk to work. So she kind of remembers that, I don't I wasn't born I guess at that time and he also and then my mother came from a family where she was sent to Wakayama city to learn how to be a good wife and to learn Ikebana and all the cultural things. So she and when she came to Canada they had a good life, you know they were comfortable and she didn't have to really have Japanese or English at that time because most people around that area were you know they could have enough people that they talked Japanese to each other. So I think, once they were removed from that situation had to move away, and especially in Manitoba you know. I think it was probably very difficult for her. I remember she was always going to evening classes for language laughs language classes. And I dunno whether she very, learned very much but just enough to kinda go to the store and do all the stuff you know. So yeah you know and I guess I just kinda remember that part about the language I spoke Japanese because it was in the home when I was little before going to school, I spoke Japanese to my parents. And then you kinda lose it a bit but you are still able to they speak half English half you know both ways. And then as you move away from home you lose it, I I can't speak very much at all now. So you know language probably was a big factor in and that's why I think my sister Grace always resents the fact that she had to do so much you know when the kids got into trouble, you know my brothers at school. She would have to go and speak to teachers or go with my mom so she took on a huge responsibility when she was only 13 or 14. So I remember she was very angry all the time, whenever she would talk to me about things like that, for many years like that you know. So I think there were a lot of things that were affected by the removal from that situation, you know.
EY
Do you believe, that the loss of, or you had mentioned the loss of your grandfather's land, it had a great impact on him emotionally but also because he wasn't able to then give his children and then his grandchildren anything. Do you think that that continued on for a couple generations?
00:39:49.000
00:39:49.000
AM
Well I think what likely happened is that everyone had to start, from the beginning. And it affected the family because in our case too both my father and mother basically worked all the time and it was my grandmother who really looked after us. And you know so that's a role that she played but I think in most Japanese Canadian families both parents had to work and they really sacrificed because I think in their mind too is that what was most important was the education. And so as a result of that kind of feeling, I think most Japanese Canadian families had children, a lot of them went to university. In fact the stats indicated that the Japanese as a group had the highest rate of people graduating from university! And that and prior to that many of them didn't go because in British Columbia going to university meant nothing, you couldn't even get a job! But I think they felt that through this experience that education was the key so I think that's the impact that had on our community but on the other hand, there was a loss that took place as well in terms of the family dynamic. Because I remember as a kid I always worked, like even when I went to high school I had several jobs, so we all had to work to survive because the jobs that you know our parents got were usually low paying jobs. Many of them worked in clothing factories and that kind of thing, sewing and because most of them didn't have any university post-secondary education that's where you ended up. And so I think through that they made sure that the children at least had the opportunities and I think they sacrificed tremendously to provide that.
EY
Speaking on the loss of, land and items. Were there certain items that you remember your family bringing back? Or Keiko items that your family still holds?
AM
Well in my case I it was interesting because at some point in time and this was after we were here. My I guess it was my grandmother must have out away this doll, a samurai doll or...
HM
Oh yeah.
AM
That we have and all the sudden it showed up and my mother said well that was something that was given to you when you were born and because the people restricted what they could bring in the trunk we found this thing that my grandmother must have put in there. Cause I don't think my mother did. And so it became a question of “why would you know someone take something like that when you have other necessities that you would be bringing”. But in a way it's interesting because I think you know for my grandparents that likely was very important. And so they did an exhibit way back in the national library in Ottawa and so we took that and put it in there as something that they brought over when you know, most people didn't bring those things. And why, the question is why would the person do that? I don't know the answer but it was likely because it was important.
HM
Well I think though, that a lot of people packed their stuff and they kept it locked.
AM
Yeah.
HM
Because you know even our stuff, some good dishes and ornaments and dolls. All that kind of stuff that you had in the home at that like, they thought they were going to get it back so they packed it all up and they left them in a storage room or locked it up. And in fact, one women years ago when I interviewed her, remember she said they buried it even.
AM
Right, yeah. Hoping to come back at some point.
HM
And they thought they could come back at some point to get it. So they left it and then of course within very short time it was vandalized, sold or you know all property was gone.
00:45:08.000
00:45:08.000
HM
It was supposed to be taken care of but they didn't. They didn't look after it and it was all gone, so they had nothing really to go back to. And so I think a lot of people even who moved East for many years especially the older ones, didn't want to go to BC again because they had all these bad feelings about it.
AM
Yeah.
HM
Because when we after Redress we had sort of like reunions and a celebration but there I remember a few people saying “oh I don't want to go back there” cause it's just...
AM
Yeah we had a conference called Home Coming in Vancouver and the idea was going back to the roots and yeah a lot a number of people refused to go out there. Just because of the I guess...
HM
Yeah I guess they still couldn't ha face it hey or deal with it. They hadn't dealt with it. I mean you could tell when you talk to people during, before redress and we'd have these little small kind of home meetings and they started to sorta open up. Because before that nobody really talked about it and then they start talking about you know... things that happened to them and all that and I think it was kind of a it was good. Because it sort of whereas if you went in to somewhere in Toronto or something and people say “oh yeah well that was the that was good that that happened because then you know we weren't just a ghetto there and that was a good thing that it happened” and well you kinda knew right away where they were at. They hadn't really discussed or hadn't really dealt with that issue yet you know. So you could kinda tell where people were at just by what they said.
EY
So you both have been back to your family's properties in British Columbia?
HM
Well we like I don't think we really had property. My... my father's brother had, in Steveston. But we lived, I was noticing like in my sister's notes their first resided at 522 Powell Street and then moved to 510 Alexander.
AM
Mhmm
HM
Before my older brother was born so that's about, Tom, yeah before he was born. So and then before that my oldest sister was born in Steveston so I'm not sure exactly if they. I don't think they really owned a place but they did live there while he was working with the fisherman's group. Yeah so I'm not sure about the property part.
AM
Yeah
HM
I should ask Grace more about that.
AM
I think in our case it would have been my grandparents who had the property and we did go back. It was interesting because we took our kids back.
HM
Oh yeahhh.
AM
To just show them. And the first time we went there I'm not too sure, the kids weren't there. You, my mother and I and Roy I think we went and saw the house that we lived in on our property, my grandfather's house was still there but this other house was the one that they and at the time that we went there it was being boarded up.
HM
Which part?
AM
The house that we'd lived in was being boarded up and they were going to tear it down and I remember my mother going though it and saying this was where this was and oh they moved this and duh duh duh. But that was and we were told that that part of the property was sold and that it would be converted. So the next time that we went to the same property that building was gone and there was a huge house on there, yeah big house. But our farm was still there and so the guy who owned my grandfather's house allowed us to go and visit so we took our kids there and so that they could see where...
HM
People were just ready to leave though I think, they had already sold it or something.
AM
Well they were in the process, there was a lot for pressure for him to sell it but what happened was that right around his house the builders built all new houses and he was the last one and they were offering him a lot of money to sell it and he refused to sell it. But after we had left and about two years later someone came and told us that our he went by our old house and it was all boarded up and it was being demolished. So now it's gone.
EY
do you remember the specifics of the two homes on the farming property? Rooms and...
AM
Oh! Yeah. Yeah and in fact we walked through my grandfather's house and my mother kept saying that it was still the same. Like even the shelving that he built was still there so yeah it was quite amazing, mind you the house looked like it was ready to fall apart at the time.
00:50:28.000
00:50:28.000
HM
Well you're talking about the house in the back where your mom and dad lived?
AM
No I was talking about my grandfathers.
HM
The main one was that one that's got the stairs going up like this.
AM
Yeah that was my grandparents' house yeah.
HM
And behind that was the other house that was built.
AM
Yeah yeah.
EY
So the individual who allowed the homes, had been bought the home during the internment period?
AM
Oh no, it was way after I'd think. Yup.
EY
did he remember who had bought the home? Before him?
AM
Well I'm not too sure if he remembered, what he was telling me though was he was saying that they started digging the property around the house and they found that you know I think kit would have been my grandfather went through a lot of trouble to prepare the and because it was all sitting on tiles for drainage. And he did, he ran a strawberry farm so it would have been for that purpose and he said he found quite a maze that this whole field of tiles and beneath it he said they even found some old medicine bottles. Japanese ones, yeah so. Would have been there a long time I would have imagined. But we have we have the picture of the house when we were young like when I was sitting there when I was three years old and we have the picture when we went it's the same thing laughs. Nothing's changed.
EY
Do you remember the, maybe not so much the measurements but do you remember how many bedrooms the home had?
AM
Hmm uh
EY
Different specifics?
AM
Yeah... well in the house that my parents lived in, I remember my mother saying that it used to be a garage attached to the house and they converted that to a living room so that became our living room. Like only a couple bedrooms in there, it wasn't very big. I do remember that the house there was a creek that ran through the back of the house to I remember that. And the time we went there they had even filed that in so they could build houses on top of it laughs so that whole area go filled in! So it was nice property that was virtually destroyed I think to make way...
HM
How about your grandfather's?
AM
Yeah.
HM
Do you remember how many rooms there was?
AM
no not really. I don't even remember if it was two stories although I think it was a two story house because I remember when I was a kid we were there one time and we saw flames out of our parent's house I guess something was burning. I remember that and so you know they had to get the fire and laughs that's the only thing I remember. And the other thing I remember is because he had a lot of different fruits like pears and apples, that we used to always eat it off the tree and then take one bite and you'd throw it away laughs. Wasteful! But those are things that you sort of remember as a kid yeah.
EY
So do you Art do you remember any items that you personally would have brought with you when you were given your one suitcase to bring during the internment period?
AM
Hmm... I don't recall any... you know I think as a kid you don't even think about things like that like for instance even the hardships I Mean you sorta go with the punch and you don't really know that people are... Cause you have nothing to go back to whereas for the parents they would they could see the impact of what was happening. I think we just accepted it as something that happens and you yeah. Just like any little kid I'd say. I dunno maybe Keiko.
00:55:08.000
00:55:08.000
HM
Yeah, I don't. Well I was too young to remember anything yet.
AM
Yeah I think we were both too young, whereas I think if there were, had they been 18 or 20 at the time they would have a different kind of feeling. Yeah.
EY
I'm going quite forward to speaking more closely to the National Association of Japanese Canadians and the redress period.
AM
Mhmm
EY
You had mentioned it earlier and you had mentioned that there were many people who did not want to go back to thinking about that process, or being a part of a reunion. Was the Japanese Canadian community of Manitoba quite involved in the redress movement?
HM
Oh yeah yeah he would be able to answer that cause, they were because he became president so yeah.
AM
Yeah I would say that well, we tried to, around the time the Japanese community was quite cohesive here even though the religious differences because of the experience of being on the sugar beet farms and then trying to survive as a community. It was quite cohesive and when they came to the redress we did a number of activities, historical activities, I remember we brought Tom Shoyama to be speaker, and he was quite instrumental during the time of the internment because he was editor of the national or the New Canadian the paper. And so we brought him in and he talked about the experiences and essentially out of that I think the message was, this whole thing was wrong. That you know it wasn't because of national security that this happened, it's a lot of discrimination and racism, etc. that precipitated this whole internment. And then we brought in one year we brought in Nancy Sahara who had written a book Politics of Racism and you know her research confirmed the fact that it was beyond just security of the country that this happened. And so I think our community who attended these things began to see that maybe there was more beyond just being moved. Because I think for most people they didn't understand what happened. They were told like I remember Mr. Obai, he was telling me he was one of the first people at the time of the movement when the government decided to remove people they initially started with people who were born in Japan. And he was one of the people born in Japan, he was quite young but he went because he was told that if he went and did this the rest of the people would not have to, like Canadian born people wouldn't have to be moved. And so he moved as a result of it and then he found out differently but. There is this and he lived in our community so he was one of the stronger supporters of Redress because of what happened and he had experienced it and he knew that there were certain things that were happening at the time that wasn't the reason why they were given. I think, you know I'm not too sure. But in our community I think there were people who like that who were quite active. Harold Hirosa another one.
HM
Yeah I was gonna mention Harold.
AM
Yeah he was here at the time when people were being moved from the sugar beets and he tried to mediate for them and help them, if things weren't working out with the farmers and that type of thing. And so there were people like that and so I think Manitoba was quite strong, not to say that they all.. I think the majority...
HM
You mean you're talking about redress now?
AM
Yeah
HM
Yeah there were some who... I think in the beginning some people were...
AM
Skeptical
HM
Skeptical, yeah skeptical is putting it mildly. They said never do that...
AM
Why bother, why bother. I think most of them were feeling nothings gonna happen, so why would you do this you know. I think there was that sorta defeated attitude that we're such a small community, the government won't listen to us. I mean they never listened to us before so why would that change type of thing. And even the Bird commission they felt that even when the government attempted to do something it wasn't to the satisfaction of the community. So they didn't have that much confidence in what would happen and so that's I think that was our most difficult task. But I think in Manitoba we did have a core group of people who were quite supportive and encouraged us as well.
HM
And I think especially after 1984, that's when they had the national meeting here national council meeting in Winnipeg and all the people came and that was when it was like a turning point of going this way or not and there were certain leaders that were there. Like Roger and even people like Joy Kogawa had some influence at that time and brought in even... even David Suzuki I remember a lot of people from Toronto and then because Manitoba was considered kinda neutral. Vancouver and Toronto always kind of had a bit of a not conflict but you know they didn't always see eye to eye on a lot of things. So Manitoba had leaders and they felt that they could they could be the influence saying for both sides and that they so they picked up the leadership and then elected Art. And Art was involved with the local organization since the '60s!
AM
Oh yeah yeahhh.
HM
So you know and then this national council met and so he was elected and form that point on I think there was a small, what did you call that? Executive, uhhh. Committee I guess.
AM
Advisory committee.
HM
From here of a number of people, Henry Kogima was there and a lot of people. And they kinda had meetings but we as a community still didn't have anywhere to meet. WE didn't have a cultural center, we didn't have anywhere so even the first... JCCA that was called Democratic something originally, the committee. The JCCA when they met they used to go in homes or some other places to meet all the time and I think they kind of have this hey they had sort of a united cohesive group of people. Who took on the task I guess and then human rights committee was organized cause I was involved with that and we sold books and fundraised a bit and things like that. And made sure and even Mr. Obei who spoke Japanese, so he used to write articles and he made sure that people were informed in Japanese and English so he used to translate all of the council meetings, made sure people understood it. And those kind of things really helped to make people aware of what's going on and become a little more comfortable with it because I think up to that point people didn't even want to talk about it. It was still kind of something that you know they were busy making up their lives so they didn't have time to be doing things like that. So you know after 1971 is it? When the...
AM
'77
HM
'77? Centennial celebrations took place, I think after that people began to become more aware...
AM
More aware of their history, yeah.
HM
Aware of their history. And that it was okay to talk about it and it's okay to ask for compensation because... people were reluctant to even talk about compensation let along individual compensation. Yeah so.
AM
Yeah. They were afraid that other Canadians would look down upon them if you start talking about you know redress and compensation there's that fear...
HM
Fear.
AM
Of backlash, I think.
HM
Because they were very comfortable a lot of people did very well in the down East they had businesses and they were very sort of became what do you call that? Integrated so you know they were part of the community and they didn't want that to be disrupted I guess. Whereas here is was a little different I guess. They didn't have that kind of attitude.
01:05:04.000
01:05:04.000
AM
Throughout that whole things thought even with the redress and national association, we didn't even have n office basically. We were working out of our home.
HM
Yeah laughs.
AM
Our living room! And you know so it's interesting through that whole period of time when we were meeting with government officials we never even had an office or any place and and I remember on time we met with some groups and they wanted our headquarters and all that and we had to tell them “you know we don't even have headquarters”. The perception was that we were quite strong because we were in the media all the time and all of that and they gave the impression that was quite a... aggressive organization whereas we didn't even have a place that we could put our stuff you know so. It was interesting how that evolved, it was only after redress that we started our national office and all of that. But prior during the whole campaign we didn't have anything.
HM
Yeah which is kinda odd when we think that the national was organized in 1947? Yeah '47.
AM
Yeah '47.
HM
Yeah strange they didn't have...
AM
But it died, it died and re-started.
HM
Oh yeah maybe it died.
EY
So in 1984 when you became the president of the NAJC...
AM
Yeah.
EY
What did that mean to you? Especially taking on the role while you were still pursuing your career?
AM
Well I mean at that point we were thinking about as Keiko mentioned you know the our own community in terms of East, West conflict and the conflict in the way. So I took on that role and we tried to smooth things out. But we always had a negative influence coming out of the East because they kept thinking that we in the West really don't know anything laughs. Politically you know? That we're not that... in tuned with it. So we've always had that where there was within our own community conflicts. We had people apposing us, saying we didn't represent them and all those little things and that took a couple years to overcome. So our first few years of our redress campaign was really trying to get our own community on side, never mind you know going after the government type of thing. But I think through the media coverage that we received things began to change. More Canadians began to support us and so on. The media certainly depresses really good, the editorial boards were very supportive and s all of that sorta gave the attitude= to even our own community it's maybe something that is not that negative. In other words the fear backlash that they hadn't anticipated was no longer something they feared so there was a change in that. And by 1986 I'd think, we had good support, within our community. In fact the government even at that time prior to that the government questioned whether we represented the do munity becaue4 there were certain conflicting organizations but after '86 I think they came to the conclusion that we were the representative organization.
HM
Yeah actually when you think about it now the way everything is transmitted and communication in those days it was like fax or phone like you know you had to phone the person to talk to them which is probably a good thing.
AM
Yeah
HM
And or fax something that you wanted to... and then yeah it you know is sort of a different time where lot of but when you think back you know you had to kind of have a thick skin because there was a lot of things that a lot of negative stuff. And it was sort of disappointing sometimes that our own community would be kind of like that you know, members. Yeah, cause even when we went to that rally in Ottawa, we went there and a couple members of the community there well one women I was there because I was gonna participate because we took our son. But one women that used to live here and she phoned me to see if I wanted to come visit with her while they were doing this stuff and I said “no I'm going to this rally” and she said “oh” and then I found out that this other person who was there was kind of an influence a negative influence and they didn't want this to be happening because you know. Remember that? Tony.
AM
Oh yeah.
HM
Yeah and I thought, that really kind of upset me because here we all were. So then her uncle who happened to be from Winnipeg, I think he phones and spoke to her you know and said “well you know your mother in Winnipeg is supporting it and you should be” and you know. So it was that kind of thing even within families there were a lot of conflicts.
AM
Yeah there were divisions yeah.
EY
One of the things that came from the redress was the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, did you both want to speak on that a bit?
01:10:59.000
01:10:59.000
AM
Well the Race Relations concept there was already prior to the redress some talk about having race relations foundation. But I think it was during our redress campaign that we began to realize and it evolves because one of the ministers Jack Murdoch actually raised this question with us and he basically said “you know we're talking about negotiations what did you really loose?” You know, what did your community loose? And it was a good question because we didn't have an answer for it. We could say well people lost their property, how much, what did you know in other words quantify it and we didn't have the date and so we decided that we would conduct a study. And we had gone to a number of accounting companies and Price Waterhouse is one of them to do this study. And then we found you that it would cost 150 thousand dollars to do this study, and we started a campaign to raise funds, I think we raised about 30 thousand at that point. And we realizing “to get a 150 thousand we're never gonna get there!” So we applied for funding we asked the government “could you help us” and basically they said “why would we help you, I mean you're gonna use it against us why would we pay for it?” And so we realized at that point in time that there must be a lot of organizations such as ours who really can't do much research because you just don't have the funding and that's when we decided that maybe that's what the race relations foundation should be able to do is help groups! Not to lobby for them but at least to rely sources of revenue sources of funding to do the research. And so we decided because we had such a hard time trying to get funding that that should be part of the redress settlement so that's where the concept arose that there should be a foundation to help other organizations through similar situations. And the you know the Canadian Race Relations Foundation still exists and they're dealing with issues of racism and I don't think that we'll ever get to a point where we can solve all the problems. And so there's certainly a need to have a body like that, but that's how the genesis of the Race Relations Foundation came about. And when the government approved the redress settlement and that was part of it we were invited to take part in settling the parameters for that foundation so, remember we went to Ottawa a number of times to meet with government officials and we sat down and at least worked out what we felt was the important part of it. And one was the arm length relationship with the government because if you're going to criticize them you have to have some distance. So that was an important part of it. And they also made it into a charitable organization as well, as part of the bill. It was a charitable organization.
EY
Speaking on... community and organizations. Both of you continue to be incredibly involved with the Manitoba Japanese Community, as well as the greater Canadian Japanese community. What does community mean to both of you?
01:15:08.000
01:15:08.000
AM
Well I guess for me, it's our heritage. Somehow I mean it would be easy to just forget about it but yet it's a very important part of your identity and I think that's so important. So I think yeah I mean that was more my perspective and even for our children and grandchildren that that's something they should always keep in mind who they are. I don't know Keiko may have more...
HM
Well I guess to me like just having worked at folklorama and I kind of organized the cultural display area. It's not just the display but it's also a whole room where you have different cultural things like traditional ones and people who you know they their martial arts, the you know things like origami, shodo, they're all being shown to the public. And that's kind of an identity thing but community now in Manitoba is really a changed and because of the high intermarriage rate if you know people wonder “oh are we at the Japanese pavilion, because like just about half of them are not Japanese”. But most a lot of them are the result of intermarriage, the kids but it's also people's their friends and everyone comes and help. And there's also people who have gone on the JEP program like this one Ally who is the fellow's wife or girlfriend and she studied in Japan, she came back and so she's quite knowledgeable of the culture and language and things so she draws in the alumni from that you know experience in Japan. So a lot of those people know more than even me or a lot the kids about Japan and Japanese culture. Especially particularly now the culture, so then there's also the other part of the more recent people who have come. The newcomers and to me they're the ones who will probably have some of the discrimination or because they are they have the language, they may have an accent or you know they come here and they don't maybe know you know they're not comfortable. So they're the ones that probably are the Japanese that we used to be that faced some discrimination so to have a place like this for them to come and talk to one another whether it's in Japanese and then to you know just to sort of fill their identity to be able to be comfortable. I think that's kind of important hey?
AM
Yeah.
HM
To have a place for them to come, And the came with the kids, and you know when you think about it its changing so much that now the kids you know they're older, we're into the fourth fifth generation and who knows you know this place may not have that the Japanese who experienced that was time experience. Those kids may not no longer be here any longer but then hopefully other people will come and you know learn about the history while they're here but also have their own history and their own culture that they could have here. So it's kind of important to have a place whereas we didn't have that when we were growing up.
AM
Yeah and so I was saying that' the involvement part that comes in like we think its important so. And in order to maintain the community you know you have to take part and encourage other people to and so. And that's why I think things like folklorama are good for us, even though takes a lot of work and the people say “oh do we have to do it again?” And you know or...
HM
laughs but it brings everybody together! Yeah.
AM
Brings people together, otherwise there wouldn't be any activity that would do that. So.
EY
I just have one final question, and you can both answer this separately or together. If you could pass on a message to future Canadians, about the experience and about your life experiences what would it be? Or any pieces of advice for really anyone.
01:19:55.000
01:19:55.000
HM
Experience...from our experience, advice from our experience...well I guess in in a perfect world I guess you would really want people to be unbiased and laughs you know to work together and you know just be accepting of everyone and you know. I think we seem to be like that in Canada but sometimes it comes out that it's not so I think we always have to be vigilant and just be able to step in when there is a situation and to maybe like for us as older people laughs to maybe advise younger people about what they could do if they are in situations like that. To be open here, to people coming here and saying “okay this happened, what should we do?” Or you know, so just to be able to share some of our history and knowledge about experience with people in our own community and also anybody else. Because I'm sure they a lot of the people in other communities experienced similar situations so I think it's a lot of sharing that we should be doing.
AM
Well I think the part that's important is that we have to remember who we are and where we came from and I think very often some of the stories like our experiences important because a lot of it was based on racism and all of those things. And we have to remind people that the even today some of that is exciting for other groups, and that we as a community need to speak out against it. Cause I think during the whole redress settlement to the turning point for us was when we were able to bring other Canadian on board and say “come and share this with us”. And we said the way we dealt with it is we called the redress a Canadian Human rights issue. Once we started using that concept that this is a Canadian issue other people came on board and I think that was an important step for us because prior to that it was always looked upon as our communities, it was a Japanese community against the government you know. That type of thing. Whereas we had the collision of other Canadians and their support made a big difference in how the government began to look at us. It wasn't just our community now arguing for redress but there were other Canadians that were involved. So I think its important the message, and the I think racism will continue to exist and so we need to be one of the people at least speak out against it and that's what we the NAJC had a human rights committee who's part of a role is to ensure that we provide support for other people in terms of need.
HM
Yeah I was just going to you said something about forgot what it was now. But... well you know something like the NAJC is in a position to be able to facilitate a lot of discussion you know? I don't know whether they're doing that as strongly as I would like it to be. The other thing is oh yeah I know what it is, even though the settlement and the agreement was more about loss of freedom and rights, the property part I think when people realize that we weren't foreigners you know, we weren't you know Japan Japanese and we want redress. Once they realized that you know you lost property or you lost all these things people seemed to be able to relate better somehow...and it's terrible laughs.
AM
Somehow as a citizen yeah!
HM
You know they say “oh they lost all that? And you know that was terrible!” they'd have that reaction because it's a tangible thing that they can relate to of losing your house, oh my gosh you know like that. So that probably is something that even though that's now what we fought for that's kind of important in that way hey?
AM
Yeah.
EY
Do either of you have any final thoughts or any final stories you'd like to add?
01:25:03.000
01:25:03.000
AM
Well I think the one story I that I think I'd like to share is that fact that there were 4000 people who were sent to Japan and... and they were sent there half of them were Canadian citizens who were born in this country, they were quite young at the time but they were born in Canada. And so when the redress suddenly took place, one of the things that we worked out with the government is that we would send a delegation to Japan to seek out those people. Because here this whole settlement took place but people in Japan wouldn't have really been aware that they were also eligible because they were here at the time and they were sent to Japan after the war. And so they were eligible for redress, and so we made it a point to go to Japan to publicize that and so as we were in Japan the interesting part was that the media in Japan was quite taken by what's our government did. You know, I mean it's not too often a government will seek out people to give money to and here the delegation going to Japan meeting with people and encouraging them to you know... apply for redress and so on. So they followed us for about three or four days the whole crew. And because they found that very unusual and I remember meeting with one of the top officials in the Japan government from foreign affairs and we met with them and we explained what happened and the government of Canadian was not apologizing and offering compensation for those people. And this guy said “oh you know Japan would never be able to do that as a country” he said “we would never be able to admit that we did something wrong as the government you're always right, right?” And so he said you know he was really quite taken back by our government's action. But the comment that he made he said you know really he said “it takes a mature country to be able to recognize that there's a mistake you do something about it” and I thought you know that's really good because Canada is really a young country in relation to all these countries and yet when they come to Human Rights at least we're recognized as one of the strong members of the countries that really stood out for that. So in a way it was a good experience because I think you know you felt proud about your own country. And so...
HM
Well I'll just make a I just thought of a comment I could make. It is about something like what you're doing and projects like Justice...Injustice
EY
Landscapes of Injustice
AM
Landscapes
HM
Landscapes of Injustice laughs, yeah. And it's really important to preserve these because you know even our community doing it is probably not enough and as we've always wanted to get this history into the schools and it never seems to have happened because of the beaurocracy of the levels of education. So by you know having research done on this issue or you know just people talking about their experiences and having it recorded before they pass away is really I think it's really important and so I hope at some day you know it will be part of lessons learned you know. Like when you always talk about lessons from other situations, so I mean this is a really good... situation that could be a good lesson for kids to relate to you know?
AM
Yeah
HM
Yeah!
AM
And you know we're trying to do a little bit of that at the cultural centre too, we're thinking of having a historical wall or something and have resources here and that type of thing so...
HM
Ohhhh yeah! Did I...
AM
You're involved.
HM
Yeah I think I mentioned that to you that we wanted to dop that eventually once we clean up the library so hopefully we'll do that. Yeah.
EY
Alright well I think we'll end it there for today. Keiko Yeah!
EY
Thank you both!
AM
Yeah!
01:29:52.000

Metadata

Title

Art and Keiko Miki, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 09 August 2016

Abstract

Keiko and Art begin the interview describing their earliest childhood memories. Both interviewees provide a brief history of how their families found themselves in Canada and what work they did to make a living. Art describes his family's experience of being forcibly removed from British Columbia during the war and having to relocate to Manitoba where they worked on sugar beet farms. He explains what motivated him to stay in Manitoba and pursue further education. Keiko then reflects on her parents' decision to move back to British Columbia and why they made this choice. Both Art and Keiko recall the various forms of property that their families lost during the war and also attempt to illustrate the emotions that were felt during and after that time. Near the end of the interview they comment on the Redress movement, their involvement in that event, and what they felt as it was taking place.

Credits

Interviewer: Erin Yaremko
Interviewee: Art Miki
Interviewee: Keiko Miki
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: MJCCC, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Keywords: Japanese; Canadian; Ancestry; British Columbia ; Canada ; Cannery; Fishing; Secretary; Work; Racism; Manitoba ; Whitemouth; Winnipeg ; NAJC ; MJCCC; Community Council; ; 1900-2015

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.