Bruce Yoneda, interviewed by Kaitlin Findlay, 03 May 2019

Bruce Yoneda, interviewed by Kaitlin Findlay, 03 May 2019

Abstract
Bruce Yoneda shares the stories of his upbringing in Edmonton as a Sansei youth and the eldest of his 4 siblings. He traces his family back to Victoria where his grandparents built a beautiful house on the Gorge and they ran a dry-cleaning business. Bruce discusses the different perspectives his parents carried of their experiences. He also describes his father’s education journey in becoming a doctor and his own similar education path and career as an orthopedic surgeon. Bruce was born in 1949, within the window to qualify to receive a check from the Redress movement; he talks about how he viewed that money compared to how his parents did. When. moved to Victoria to open his own practice, he tracked down his grandparent’s old home and visited. The current residents had been expecting someone from the family to come eventually and they returned stone lanterns originally brought to Canada from Japan but his grandfather. Bruce reflects on how the internment of his family affected the future generations by focusing on what his uncles, his and his siblings, and his children have been able to accomplish.
00:00:00.000
Kaitlin Findlay (KF)
So we're recording, I do this intro for the recording. This is Kaitlin Findlay siting with Bruce Yoneda doing an oral history interview for Landscapes of Injustice and it's May 3rd and we're at the University of Victoria. So, Bruce, would you like to introduce yourself?
Bruce Yoneda (BY)
My name is Bruce Yoneda, I'm an orthopedic surgeon practicing here in Victoria. I am third generation, so it's my grandparents on my mother's side that came over from Japan that I know a little bit about their history but I was born Vegreville but I was raised and educated in, I worked in Edmonton, and then I went to Toronto to do my post-grad training and I came here and so I've been here in Victoria for 37 years, March two eighty two.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
And well still pretty well in full time practice in orthopedic surgery.
KF
Could you— where— could you repeat where you were born.
KF
Alberta, yeah.
BY
World's biggest Ukrainian Easter egg. You can see it for miles, it made it as a centennial project, you can see this giant, looming Easter egg for miles around. But I'm always proud that I was born in the Ukrainian capital of Canada.
KF
Yeah, Laughs. yeah.
BY
But we— we moved to Edmonton from when I was only two so I don't remember much about Vegreville.
KF
And where was your family before Edmonton—oh uh Vegreville.
BY
Well, my—my primary family was in Edmonton, my mother's side of the family, they're the ones that you're probably most interested in. My mother's side of the family, her father Kosaburou is one that immigrated from Japan in the 1930s and it has been explained to me that he came over here to make enough money to bring his bride over who was, it was kind of a formal betrothal and he was kind of a labourer farmer type guy and she was kind of Japanese nobility. And we're actually, my son looked this up in our family tree and we're actually related to the Japanese Yakuza, they had you know, all this property and things around Tokyo. And so that was on my mother's side of the family. And so my grandfather came over here to make enough money to bring her over and to you know raise a family and start a family.
KF
Yeah.
BY
So he started off by working as red cap on the railways and then he got enough money that he was able to start his own business here in Victoria and he started the first kind of, you know, walk through drive-in dry cleaning business and it was this neat little office right beside where the Odeon theater is right now, so just around the corner from that, he had this place where you dropped off your dry cleaning and he also was kind of the forerunner to Starbucks because, he had this little coffee machine, you know you paid 5 cents and got a little cup of coffee. And his actual plant was on North Park, which is about 3 or 4 blocks away so that the clients would get their dry cleaning done there and then he would bring it back to the office by the Odeon and they would pick them up by the late afternoon. He did very well at this business at this client orientated so, he made enough money to well, bring my grandmother over and then they bought this— they built this beautiful house on the Gorge which is still there, Gorge Road and Erma, as my mother describes it, it was this beautiful brick house with this Japanese gardens in that my father—or grandfather had kind of organized and developed himself, and it was such a beautiful backyard that the tourist buses would stop there for afternoon tea Kaitlin laughs. on the way up the Gorge, I guess going out the Gorge was part of their route for showing off Victoria. So all the tour buses would stop at their backyard for afternoon tea and keep on going but that was what was taken away from them at the beginning war, they, as my mother described it, early one morning, all this soldiers came to the door and you have 5 minutes to pack up your stuff and haul them away in buses and so her side of the family was taken to Hastings Park, which is the old race track near Vancouver. Pause. My father's side of the family, I don't know much about his side of the family, because he never talked about it much, but I think his side of the family were— my father's side of the family had a boat building business on Glenn Lake and my grandfather used to build these kind of very fast light, boats the rum runners used to carry confiscated liquor for up and down the coast.
KF
Hmm.
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BY
And the boats that my grandfather built were really well known cause they were very light and very fast and very reliable, and one of them is still part of the—it's still part of the— they always have an annual, well not antique but they call it Classic Boats Show at the Inner Harbour here Labour Day weekend.
KF
Okay.
BY
So one of my grandfather's boats, some guy brings it up from Seattle cause there's some sailor that owns one of these boats and he always brings it up for the Boats Show on Labour Day weekend Kaitlin laughs. But anyway, that boat yard got taken away from them when they confiscated everything, and his side of the family got interned in Slocan you know, in the interior. But somehow he just he either escaped or just kept on going cause he hitchhiked his way to across BC to Edmonton and went right into med school, he did his medical training in Edmonton and then he worked as a family doctor in Vegreville, that's when I was born.
KF
Yeah, okay.
BY
And then he decided he wanted to become an obstetrician, so he came back to Edmonton to do his post grad studies in Edmonton. Then, I think I mentioned to Jordan that he was the first Japanese Canadian to become a fellow in the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada, which was you know, quite an honour I think. and uh then he uh, went on to practice very successfully as an obstetrician in Edmonton. But he was away so often catching babies, that it was my mother that raised us all, there's 5 of us, and there's only um I think 7 years between myself, I'm the eldest, and my youngest sister, there's only like 7 years between the 5 of us. So we all got to sit together, we all when out with each others boyfriends and girlfriends, Both laugh. we went to the same schools. And my mother, she had us doing everything together, you know, she had us going to Judo, piano, music, art, and uh boy scouts and girl guides. She spent all her time making sure we got to all these activities because she really wanted us to become “Canadianized.” I think when I was in Junior high school, she decided we should take Japanese lessons but I found them really difficult, like it was, Japanese to me was way more difficult than French, like French was compulsory in my schooling and French to me was very easy as to me it was very easy because it was very logical very simple. . .
KF
Yeah.
BY
You know, very sensible. Whereas Japanese is completely illogical and I mean they have all these different idioms and different levels of language and no matter how hard I tried to learn Japanese I kind of fail miserably so—
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
—I never did learn Japanese so, much to my chagrin, but you know it's on my bucket things of, list of—bucket list of things to do one of these days when if and whenever I get time to do it. So the 5 of us all grew up, went to school, worked in Edmonton and I did med school there, or my university, and then my undergrad and then my med school there, and then I worked at as uh did my internship at the University hospital in Edmonton and then I worked as an emergency doctor at the University hospital and the Misericordia hospital in Edmonton which I really enjoyed. But I decided during my training in med school that I, you know, really interested in orthopedic surgery so I did an elective in Toronto because my preceptor all throughout med school was, happened to be the Dean of Medicine, whose also a classmate of my fathers, who you know, made sure that I did whatever I wanted to do as far as electives experience. He happened to be a classmate of Robert Salter, whose probably the most famous Canadian orthopedic surgeon who's Chief of Surgery of the Sick Kids and they were also interested in children— so when I was in med school, my preceptor sent me out to Toronto to do a month elective with this guy, Salter, and that's sort of what convinced me to, I really wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon so— In those days, you could do either a straight internship, which means right after med school, you spend six months in surgery and six months in medicine and then you when in right into, specialty program which is usually another three years, and then you're done. But, the other alternative was to do a rotating internship which was two months of surgery, two months of— literally everything. So it made you a much better experienced to become a family doctor. So when I was doing my elective in Toronto I asked Salter, you know I told him then that I was really interested in going back into orthopedics and should I do a straight internship or a rotating internship and he said, no no go out there and do a good rotating internship, and not only do that, go out and practice for two/three years, like a, when I was doing my lecture in Toronto, all the residents were, had been there done that, like they had been on practice for several years. The guy that I spent most of my time was this guy, Hamilton Hall who became famous as the back doctor cause he set up all these franchises across North America called the Canadian Back Institute, like there's one here. And he had been practicing in Africa for 10 ten years before he went into his orthopedic training, and the advantage of doing that was that you know you were just much better experienced at you know medicine in general. You know everything from little kids to to, you know, tropical diseases you know you name it, all these guys had been there done that so they're much better equipped to become real resident, you know especially a resident because, nothing would fuss em, you know, as far as a kind of unknown or unseen. . . conditions.
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KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
So that's what I did, I did a rotating internship in Edmonton, and then I worked as a for a couple of years, and then I got into the ortho program in Toronto, and it was only because I was, Coughs. excuse me, I spent that time with Salter and Hamilton Hall, who by then, Salter was Chief of the whole program and Hamilton Hall was, Chief of surgery at Victoria—or er the Toronto general. So, because I could use them as my references Kaitlin laughs. I was the only non Ontario goldenboy to get into the program, the rest were all—
KF
Yeah. Laughs.
BY
Ontario golden boys that had come up through the Toronto system and were well known. I was the only kind of outsider in the, program and it was only because I had spent that time when I was a lowly medical student with Salter and Hamilton Hall. So it was a really grueling program, unlike the other programs in Canada it was usually four years, the Toronto program was five years and it was the only, it was the first program in North America, post-graduate program in North America, where once you were started, if you worked hard, you were guaranteed to finish. Whereas all the other programs were on a parameter system where they would start with like 20 residents and end up with about 2, you know, so you either get shuffled off or cut or transferred to some other program, so um, that being said, the Toronto program was really grueling, you're up, you know, working 24/7, you don't have any time off, you're always running around doing rounds or. . . Laughs. What I found very interesting when I was with Salter as a student, he you know, I was at the end of this 13 man parade of people following him around, and he'd always introduce me as this special guest coming from Edmonton, but when I was his resident, he treated me like shit, I mean he, I couldn't do anything right, he was really a terrible surgeon, he didn't want to operate and he had terrible bedside manner so he was always sending me in to apologize to the parents because of what he had said or what he had done. I mean, nowadays, he would've been thrown in jail for some of the things he—you know patient abuse or parent abuse or, he sort of depended on me to kinda ruffle—or smooth the waters off with what he had said to the parents or to the patients, which was even worse. Anyways, most of the big guns in Toronto were like that, they were kind of like showmen that were internationally known, but in practical life, they weren't all that great as far as being orthopedic surgeons, so I figure I literally survived that program and I, thanks to one of the guys, at, I went to med school with in Edmonton, who ended up here, he and I were always interested in children and young people problems so he was the youngest guy ever to get his orthopedic papers cause he did the one year and the three years and he was done so he was an orthopedic specialist by 25 which was unheard of Kaitlin laughs. and he ended up here. I had not been to Victoria before but he said it was just swamped with business so about 2-3 no about 3 years later when I was doing my exams, he phoned me up after I was done and he said what are you going to do when you're done? And I told him I was thinking of going back to Edmonton or maybe to Saudi Arabia cause there's, unbelievable orthopedic opportunity in Saudi Arabia, neither of which my ex was rather keen about. And he says, “oh well why don't you come to Victoria?” So I said, “oh sure I'll come check it out.” So I remember leaving Toronto in the middle of November just after my exams and it was this raging blizzard that closed the airport right after our plane got out and 5 hours later, I'm here and people are riding their bikes and they're playing tennis and they're wearing shorts, and you know flowers are blooming, it's just paradise. 5 hours away from Toronto and I couldn't believe it was the same country. And then I stopped at Edmonton on the way back— well the guys here were great and well I told them that I really just wanted to do children and sports medicine and I really didn't want to do artificial hips or replacements, and they said, “yeah you can do as much of those as you want just take your share of and cover your share of the overhead, and then you can do whatever you want.” And then I stopped at Edmonton on the way back, and they said, “oh yeah we'd love to have you cause they'd known me since I was a little child,” but they said I'd have to take call at 5 different hospitals, I'd have to publish two papers a year, and I was only going to be given two days of overtime a month! Which as a surgeon, you can't live off two days of surgery a month, and it was like -30 degrees and really gloomy Kaitlin laughs. and so there wasn't any doubt about where I was going to go when I was done my fellowship training.
00:15:22.000
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BY
So I ended up here Laughs. and I've never regretted it, it's been just an unbelievable, you know fun and worthwhile time to live here and practice here. But in the meantime, I've sort of found out by the grape vine you know this kind of Pause. dark history of our— my mothers side, never did find out much about my father's side of the family. Because I remember growing up in Edmonton, my mother always ranting and raising about uh she wanted to get her own—she wanted my father to buy her a house in, she didn't want to come to Victoria, she wanted to go back to Toronto, you know where her family had gone after the war. My grandfather had done the same thing, he had uh when they had got out of Hastings Park, he got, moved the family to Toronto and he set up another dry cleaning business in Toronto and he started buying little bits of property, you know like parking lots and little houses and he made a fortune just buying very good real estate, mainly because of the location. He always advised me, if you're going to buy property, the whole key is location, and how convenient it is it get to it. So you know, he did very well as a, running this little dry cleaning shop in Toronto which then kind of developed into this real estate empire. So I remember from Edmonton as little children, we made trips out to Toronto by train and in those days it was a 5 day train trip and it was kind of monotonous but it was always kind of a thrill to go out into the big city and visit my grandparents and uh they were always kind of doting on us because we were the only grandchildren out of the family, so you know, they probably couldn't spoil us enough. I remember my grandmother was basically, kind of, kept the house, she didn't work or anything. She always kind of walked around in these big coats and having tea with her colleagues or cronies Kaitlin laughs. and grandfather was running around all these little properties and the dry cleaning business and they treated us very well. And they really wanted us to Canadianize like they didn't speak Japanese, except when they didn't want us to know something like when they're planning a birthday party or Christmas presents, they would talk Japanese. Kaitlin laughs. But the rest of the time, they always wanted us to speak in English with them and each other. They were very adamant that we become as Canadian as possible, because in Edmonton, there was only— when I was growing up in Edmonton I think there was only about 200 Japanese all together, total, so there was a fairly strong Japanese community center but you basically had to brought up in the Caucasian schools and clubs, and in those days, there was only the public school system and the private—Catholic school system which was sort of private cause they had to wear uniforms, but uh other than that, there wasn't anything like all the private schools around here. They had a very busy university and I mean U of A was a you know a very highly developed institute, especially when its kind of out in the middle of nowhere and it was like, quite the brutal climate out there, but it was certainly a great academic setting to grow up and go to school in so I survived that too so Laughs.
KF
Yeah, yeah. So when did you first learn about the internment years.
BY
Oh right when I was a little child, I remember my mother ranting and raving about how you know, the soldiers came to their house, this beautiful house they had on the Gorge and you know they told them to pack everything up and and take one suitcase and they had about 10 minutes to do that you know in the middle of the night, I remember if it was 40 or 41, but she said it was so unfair because they always thought they were going to get everything back but they never got anything back.
KF
Yeah.
00:19:45.000
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BY
But she would kind of mention it and she had this bad habit of kind of wallowing in her past injustices, and that was one of the ones that she really kind of went over and over again about how badly they were treated and uh. Whereas my father, you know, it just rolled off his back, he said well, it happened but you've got to get on with your life and that's what he did you know, he just kept on going. He headed to Edmonton to start his career. But, my mother, she kept going on and on about how they were mistreated but even so, I mean she was one of four siblings, she was the only girl and the youngest—no the second youngest of the family, but they all did really well. I mean one on my uncles, one of them was an engineer on the Avril Project before it got canned, and then became a very good real estate agent in Toronto. My next uncle was a bio-chemist and he developed all the formulas for the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company in San Francisco Kaitlin laughs. that's where he went right after he did his bio-chemistry at UBC and he got hired by Ghiradelli to develop the chocolate formulas so, have you ever had Ghiradelli chocolates?
KF
No, no. Laughs.
BY
Oh, they only sell them in San Francisco and there's a few of them out along the west coast and every once in a while, you'll see them here like at the, I see them every once in a while at Bed and Bath and, they'll sell like these bags of Ghiradelli chocolates maybe for Christmas stockings or Easter treats but they're really good chocolate and I always like to get them when I see them because I know my uncle developed the actual formula for these chocolates.
KF
Yeah.
BY
And then my other, my third uncle. He was sort of the black sheep of the family. He was, my mother says he was a psychopath, like he was always, he could convince ESSOS to buy freezers, you know, he had that charm about him. He was grossly over-educated, he went through dentistry, became a fully practicing dentist and then I think he just got bored. So he went back and did med school, and then in from med school, he went into urinals and throat. So he was this fully practicing urinals and throat surgeon. And he didn't really work that much, so I can never figure out. . . Cause he always had all these really fancy clothes and fancy cars, and I don't know how he got all that.
KF
Yeah.
BY
He didn't work hard enough to get all that stuff. But, he was kind of the black sheep of the family. And this is my mother, she was sort of like the, princess of the peet, she was like spoiled rotten by her parents and you know, they had the best of everything. She was convinced she should get a university degree because all through out this internship and everything her brothers all got sent to university and she didn't cause, in those days it was felt that the woman's space was in the home, you know to cook and clean, to teach music and all that sort of thing. So all the time we growing up and she was raising us, she was doing night school at U of A and you know, after about 10 years of night school, she go her degree, which I thought was pretty amazing. She's always said this, you should do as much as you can to get educated because uh, she figured that the more education that you had, the better off you're gonna be. So she said it was really important that we all do well in school, and we did, we all got really good marks and worked hard on our academics stuff and it was because of her. The influence that I think that we did that. My father was never around, out catching babies, so, she had this very strong influence and I think it was partly from her grandparents that you know, that you should get the most education possible and get exposed to all these cultural things like music, drama, and arts and uh sports. We got sent to all these lessons, to kind of broaden our horizons as she called it. I can remember, each of us when we got to grade 5, she started us on piano lessons. And she said she'd continue paying for piano lessons as long as we practice. Well, I being the first one in the family, I got set with all this first, and I sort of felt obligated to continue practicing as long as I could tolerate it. Fortunately I'm quite tolerant so, cause other kids in the family, they quit after about two years, but I kept going. It really helped me, I can remember siting there on a nice warm summer day and all my friends are out there playing football and I'm inside on the piano pounding away Kaitlin laughs. you know cause I had to practice at least a half an hour everyday. But it really taught me, I actually practiced a lot of self-discipline, you know having to sit down and make myself practice or work when everyone else is out there having fun.
00:25:06.000
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BY
But, because of that, I took up violin in junior high school and got really good at that. But then I got to the point where it was hurting my ears, in high school I took up the french horn. And I just loved the french horn, I kept up with the french horn right until my internship. And playing the french horn in the junior symphony and in the concert band, was better than being on one of the school teams. Cause we had these very nice kind of these simple classy uniforms. We did all these weekend band show trips to the local towns and the park band house. As a group of young musicians, we had so much fun traveling and doing these concerts and I think it was way better or way more worthwhile in the long run. Cause I remember my musician colleagues but I don't even remember my other high school colleagues, the ones that played basketball or the ones that were on the school teams. So it certainly roots to struggle to with piano a half an hour everyday.
KF
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well I guess piano let's you see, you start to see yourself improve.
BY
Yeah.
KF
And that's where some of the learning is.
BY
Yeah, yeah.
KF
So for your parents, do you, you said that your mother's family had a dry cleaning store, on I guess, what is that now, Yates?
BY
Well word is that the spot where the shop was is still there. You know where the Odeon Theatre is, and right beside the Odeon Theatre is this alleyway of all these little, they have tattoo shop and they have a bunch of others shops. But his dry cleaning shop was in that alley. But in those day it was like this main drag, where people would drop off their dry cleaning and pick up a coffee and then come back in the afternoon and pick up their dry cleaning when it was done. So he was kind of like a forerunner when it was done, for like a drive thru dry cleaning and Starbucks. He had this selection of coffee and teas that people could buy on the way out.
KF
And where was their home? Where did they live?
BY
On the gorge.
KF
Oh right.
BY
They built this beautiful house on—It's still there, it's the corner of gorge and Erma.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
It's this beautiful brick house that, its overgrown now, the shrubs and whatnot. I remember seeing pictures of it when I was a child, it was like a show house. It was just this beautiful brick house that uh my mother always wanted something like it in Toronto.
KF
And, when was your mother born?
BY
She died last year and she was 97, I think she was born in 21, something like that.
KF
Yeah, yeah. Sorry to—
BY
But she was born here, like in Victoria.
KF
In Victoria, yeah, yeah.
BY
Yeah she's Canadian. So she was, basically the first generation. Well my grandparents were considered the first generation, they're the ones that actually came from Japan. But she was the first Canadian born, Japanese, of our family.
KF
Do you know where she went to school?
BY
Vic High, I think in those days they called it Victoria College, they didn't call it Victoria High. But it's that building where Victoria High right now. That's where she went to junior high, well Pause. I remember her saying that's what she went to high school. And they used to go for their weekends at the beach at Cordova Bay, and in those days is it was just like a ern no, not Cordova Bay, Cadboro Bay, no Cordova Bay. They used to have their summer picnics and Easter parties and summer parties on Cordova Bay. And there was nothing on Cordova Bay then, like there was the odd cabin but there was no like rows and rows of beach houses. and there wasn't that restaurant or anything. It was just uh, consider it as a summer resort for Victorians to go to Cordova Bay for a weekend or uh after a picnic or something.
KF
And then, where did your dad grow up?
BY
He, I think he was born in Port Alberni. But he grew up here, and went to school here. I don't know much about his side of the family except I know he went to Victoria High. And he was what you call a precept. Which meant, I guess he was supposed to supervise other students, you know, to keep them in line. Which was kind of ironic because her was this short little scrawny Japanese guy, I mean he was about 5 foot 3, 5 foot 4\. But apparently he was a really good rugby player because he was small and fast.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
But, that's pretty much all I know about his schooling.
KF
So did they meet at high school?
BY
No, I think they met in— Long pause. Yeah that's a good question, I'm not sure where they met. Pause.
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BY
Yeah you're right, I think they did meet in high school cause, I remember mom saying she used to know dad in high school but them they got separated during the war, you know, diverted different directions. And then, I'm not sure how they met after the war was over, Pause. cause, he ended up in Edmonton and she ended up, or her family ended up in Toronto. So I'm not sure how they got connected again.
KF
And so what year were you born?
BY
I was born in '49.
KF
'49?
BY
Yeah.
KF
Okay, okay.
BY
Which is ironic because the Canadian government came out with that redress program in I think it was 1997 or something, and they kind of admitted then, that there was no coincidence that it happened and property got confiscated and Mom was never paid back. So they decided to give every Japanese-Canadian that was born before February the 28th, '49 this 22 000 cash check, you know, tax free. So because I was born two weeks before that deadline, I got this nice check from the government for 22 000 Both laugh. which came really in handy which happened right in time for my first divorce, I used it to place a down payment to buy a little house of my own. Otherwise, I'd be slumming or walking the streets or something. And my parents were so, kind of, affronted by that, this kind of what they considered a just a token payment, toward what their property was really worth. When they got their money, they gave it to the Red Cross or something.
KF
Hmm.
BY
My mother was a great believer in the Red Cross as one of her charities. And her church St. Paul's church in Edmonton, there was another one of her favourite activities. But yeah, I think they kind of literally snubbed their nose at this payment, and gave it away.
KF
Yeah, yeah. So, your parents were in high school. They were teenagers—
BY
Yeah, here. Yeah.
KF
And then when, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
BY
Yeah.
KF
Do you, do they have stories of—
BY
So I don't know what happened to them in that time period. All I know is that in 41, they got rounded up and taken to their various intern camps. But I'm not sure what stage they were at as far as schooling. They would've still been in school but I don't know, yeah I guess they would've been in high school then. Pause. Yeah, because if that happened in '41 and she was born in uh. No it must have been later than that because she was born in '21, and so in '41 she would've been, oh yeah she would have been 20.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
So she was either just finishing high school or you know, her brothers and my father were thinking about university or were already in university. But, she was still definitely at home when they got rounded up.
KF
Mmm hmm, mm hmm. Did your families tell stories about that time?
BY
No, as a matter of fact, they didn't really like talking about it very much because I think it brought up bitter memories, you know, of everything that had been confiscated from them. But they said, my mother said that living in Hastings Park was like living in a prison camp with barbed wire all around it and everybody living in like these barracks. Like there was no apartments and such, and you would eat like armed forces food. They tried to do the best they can with what they had but they purposefully didn't like talking about that time period. Cause I think they were interned in there for 2-3 years, before the war ended.
KF
Yes and then your mother's family went to Toronto and your dad, it sounds like your dad's family spoke even less—
BY
Yeah.
KF
But they ended up going to Edmonton.
BY
No they went to Saskatchewan, I think. That was one of the things that really bugged my mom, because, my father, as soon as he did this specialty training, the first thing he did was buy a brand new house in Saskatchewan, which really irked my mother cause we were living on top of this drug store you know, with a wood fire stove and uh here she's trying to raise these little toddlers with diapers and everything and her mother-in-law is getting this brand new house built for her in Saskatchewan by my father. So she never forgave him for that, you know, for buying this for his mother who never really had much to do with his upbringing, as she kind of ostracized him when he left them behind during the war in Slocan. So for him to turn around and buy them this house in Saskatchewan, I still don't understand why he did that.
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KF
Mm hmm. Can you explain that a bit more, so his parents were in Slocan?
BY
My father's parents.
KF
And then he—
BY
Yeah. And his family were already in Slocan. But he, just kept going, he hitchhiked himself all across BC and when right to Edmonton and went to med school.
KF
Oh okay. Yeah okay.
BY
And then after the war, that side of the family immigrated to Saskatchewan.
KF
Okay.
BY
But he, he obviously stayed around in Edmonton and somewhere in there, my father and my mother got married, so I'm not sure when and where that happened, but. . . Cause I think they actually got married here in Victoria but I don't know how they got from uh Hastings Park and Slocan and Edmonton, back here and then back to Edmonton again.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
Something happened there that, I don't know.
KF
Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And did your dad— So your dad's side of the family, being in the boat building industry, because my understanding is that the boats were sold very early on.
BY
Yeah.
KF
Did they ever talk about losing that?
BY
No, no. The only thing I know about them is what I've told you, they had the reputation for being very fast and reliable and durable. So they were the prized possessions of the rum runners, because they could run up and down the coast with these fast, light boats that the coast guard couldn't catch. But you know, what happened to the boat yard, I think that the gate there for that boat yard is still there out at Glenn Lake, but uh, there isn't anything left of that boat yard, not that I know of.
KF
Hmm hmm. What did your grandfather do, did he retire after the war?
BY
Well you know, he went to Toronto, he set up another dry cleaning business, bought little bits of property here and there and then uh he basically retired on the income just on his rental properties. He had 2-3 rental houses and a couple parking lots, you know, it was enough income to live on.
KF
That was your mother's side?
BY
Yeah that's my mother's father.
KF
And your father's side?
BY
Yeah, I don't know what they did.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
They went to—all I know is that they went to Saskatchewan. And obviously there isn't much of a boat building industry in Saskatchewan but, I don't know what they did, after that.
KF
Yeah, yeah. And I was just wondering, when your family was in Victoria, were they, do you know if they were close to the Japanese Canadian community or involved here?
BY
Oh Pause. I don't know. Long pause. Yeah I honestly don't know. Yeah, I've had a few inquires about Caucasian friends that my mother grew up with. You know, they remember her fondly, going to school her and going to these beach parties and, that kind of thing. But I don't remember whether she was ever a part of like a Victoria Japanese-Canadian community.
KF
Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
BY
I don't even know if there was such a thing back then. Cause if there was then I'm sure my grandparents would have made sure that they were a part of it. But uh, they didn't mention anything about that.
KF
So, how— you were born in 1949 in Edmonton.
BY
Well, right outside of Edmonton.
KF
Yeah, yeah. What is your earliest memory?
BY
Uh, Pause. usually kind of playing with my siblings. Cause, even though I was the eldest, there were still at least 2-3 others you know, that were younger than I was running around. I remember these, we must have been on the train trip on our way to Toronto to visit my grandparents and those were really memorable.
KF
Yeah, yeah. What was your grandparents house like?
BY
Oh it was just kind of really nice, I mean it wasn't pretentious, but it was this nice big uh kind of Edwardian style, 3 level—or 4 level house in uh right near downtown Toronto. So it was right beside the subways. My grandfather's always pretty adamant that the location of the house be close to transit, you know, public transit. And in Toronto, have you ever been to Toronto?
00:40:08.000
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KF
Yeah.
BY
Yeah, so, you know, if you're on the subway, you're close to everything. You don't have to worry about parking, you don't have to worry about cars or anything. So yeah, they had this really nice Edwardian house in, it is on Avenue Rd. which is just off the subway, Eglinton and the subway station. Pause. And I remember it had this very distinct smell to it. I mean it didn't smell stale or anything, it just had this distinct odour that when you walked in oh you're in grandma's house or grandfather's house.
KF
What time of year did you go?
BY
We usually go, uh— Pause. I think we always went in the Spring. Because I always remember the weather was always nice, and we didn't have to go through rainstorms or snow or anything else. Whereas I remember all that when I actually had to live there. You know, I think it was colder and there was more snow in Toronto than they had in Edmonton! Kaitlin laughs. It was really a cold damp winters, whereas in Edmonton, it was cold but it was always blue skies and really crisp snow, And the winters in Edmonton were way nicer than the ones in Toronto.
KF
Yeah, Pause. cleaner in a way.
BY
Yeah, they threw tons of salt in Toronto, so you come in after going to school or going downtown and you'd be covered right up to your knees in salt.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
It was kind of disgusting. Yeah they threw salt on everything and everything was all slushly and icy, and it was kind of dreary and dark all the time, whereas Edmonton, the winters were all bright blue skies and sunny, even if it was -20, it was tolerable cold, compared to damp Toronto.
KF
Yeah, yeah. What type of food did you eat growing up?
BY
Oh Laughs. my mother was very adamant that we all learn how to look after ourselves, so we were each responsible for one dinner a night. Like my night was Thursday and I had to cook some sort of liver. My brother, who had Wednesdays was easy, cause he had hamburger and my sister had Tuesdays and she had pasta. And I mean, you can compare. But liver! There's only so many ways you can prepare liver. But my mother decided we should all learn how to cook and live with liver. But it was basic all Canadian food. And so it was a real— there was this elderly couple who lived down the block from us in Edmonton who were first generation as well but they really knew how to cook Japanese food really well. And so every once in a while we would go over there for a incredibly gourmet Japanese meal and uh, we always used to go over there for New Years Eve, which is a big deal in Japan. So they had all these special dishes that they only had at New Years time and, Pause. my aunt in Toronto, my uncle's wife, she was probably the best Japanese cook I've ever known. She could just make unbelievably good, teriyaki chicken or sushi. And she taught my mother how to do all the —my mother I don't think had the patience or the will to do really good Japanese sushi, she really wanted us to be Canadianized so she was a really cook for North American ware, but she wasn't that keen on cooking Japanese food. But we did get really good Japanese food from my aunt and my neighbours down the hall, er down the block from us. So I still kind of have a preference, if I'm gonna go eat out, that's my first preference, is uh Japanese food.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
And there's tons, here in Victoria.
KF
Yeah, I'm sure compared to Edmonton.
BY
Yeah, yeah.
KF
What was your school like growing up?
KF
Yeah.
BY
Oh uh, it was really good. It was actually a lot of fun, you know. I don't remember much of junior high school other than that I didn't like it very much Kaitlin laughs. In high school, they put all the so-called swankies all in one class together and they were all from grade 9— no, 10, 11, and 12, were all together in this so-called smart kids class. And most of them were kind of nerdy Kaitlin laughs. but they were basically pretty fun, to be with all the time. So, and then in high school, that's when I joined the junior symphony in Edmonton and this concert band. So you know, we went around to all the band shows and we had all these weekend road trips to the local communities and uh that was a ton of fun.
00:45:04.000
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KF
Yeah. Did you face any racism or discrimination growing up?
BY
Sorry did I what?
KF
Did you face any racism or discrimination growing up?
BY
Not— Laughs. The only thing I remember about that was, when I was in grade 1, I was this scrawny little Japanese kid and down the alley there was this big German bully, and he loved coming up, you know, the alley and pounding the piss outta me, you know, just for fun. When my parents found out about this, they sent me to take boxing lessons at the Y Kaitlin laughs. and the boxing gloves were so heavy that I couldn't even hold them up, let alone defend myself Kaitlin laughs. But as soon as that kid found out I was taking boxing lessons, he left me alone, which is typical of a bully you know. But Pause. that's pretty much all I remember about racial discrimination. Cause I'm sure the reason he picked on me was cause I was this scrawny little oriental kid that, there was no way that I could beat him up so. Other than that, yeah I don't remember any, racial tones or inclinations around our education, I think we were just accepted as part of the community.
KF
Hm hm. Did your parents have anything in their house from pre-war? Bruce pauses. Or from the internment camps?
BY
Umm, no they had a few wood block prints, which I've become a collector of just because I really like them. And my grandfather brought over this stone lantern, you know the stone lanterns are really common nowadays cause you see them in all the garden shops but he brought over like a real granite one, it wasn't just a poured concrete one. And, he had it set up in—it was part of that Japanese garden in the gorge road house. So after the war, and when I found out I was going to be moving here, I asked mom about that stone lantern and whether it was still at Gorge Road and she said yes, as far as she knows, it's still there. Cause the people who got that house after the war, it became the Norwegian consulate—
KF
Laughs. Okay.
BY
And they were also quite interested in maintaining the you know, the yard and the gardens, I mean not quite as you know, beautiful as when my grandparents maintained it but, they had left this, stone lantern in the middle of the yard. But they had it assembled in the wrong order, Kaitlin laughs. like it was three parts and they had the part that was supposed to be on top on the middle, and the part that goes on the bottom they had on top, they had it assembled in the wrong order. And the owners kind of had been forewarned that they, you know, the relatives of the original owners, somebody may want to come back and either buy or you know, take that stone lantern Kaitlin laughs. So when I moved to Edmonton, we bought this really nice house on Newport Avenue and I had the backyard, it was kind of a very small backyard that wasn't well suited for running around in, cause it was too small. So I had it made into this really nice Japanese garden and I went over to that house and, they said oh we knew you'd be coming and we'll sell it to you for 1 dollar. And so we did and I brought it back and I had a canal drilled up through the middle of it so you could run a light into it. Cause it's supposed to have a candle in it but you know it's kind of a hassle to put it a candle there, so I had an electrolight put in there that we can turn on and off, and then I assembled it in the correct order and put right in the middle of this Japanese garden. When we moved from there, my mother wanted to get that lantern back so she had it shipped to Edmonton and it got put into the Devonian gardens which is sort of University of Alberta has this really complex garden thing, just outside of Edmonton and has all different sort of gardens, you also have you know, Greek gardens, you've got a really nice Japanese gardens, it's got a bunch of other themed gardens. And they put that Japanese — or Japanese lantern rather, right in the middle of this Japanese garden in the Devonian gardens. So that's where it is now. But originally it was brought over— my grandfather had it shipped over back in the 1930s, so it's really the only genuine lantern you'll see around. But you know, there's hundreds of kind of look-a-likes or copies of it cause it was a really nice shape to have in your background garden.
KF
Was—
BY
I don't remember any other artwork or Pause. not really.
00:50:00.000
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KF
Yeah. Or anything from the internment years?
BY
From which?
KF
The internment years?
BY
No, definitely not from those years. Pause. When my mother passed away last summer/October, we were going through these boxes and boxes of all these old photographs and stuff and there were a few photographs in there from their internship, but I mean they're all really grainy, black and white and just showed them from really far away, you could hardly tell who was who. But they were all in this prison garb uniforms. The guys had to wear these baggy slacks and pretty cut jackets of a shirt. So you couldn't really tell, cause photography was so bad, you couldn't really tell who was who in those pictures. Pause. Those were the only real pictures I ever saw of the internship years.
KF
Hmm.
BY
Apparently they built a really nice memorial at the camp at Slocan, I think my brother and sister have been there.
KF
Hmm.
BY
They set it up as this really nice memorial and with the plaques and who lived in them, they've kind of like, refinished all the barracks so they were like how when the people were actually living in them. So that's one of the bucket things of things to see and do someday, go see the memorial in Slocan.
KF
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was one of the first ways that I learned about the internment, was just driving through—
BY
You've driven through there?
KF
Yeah.
BY
Oh, oh.
KF
We just stopped for, I think to use the washroom in, to New Denver. We were like, “what is this?” They have a beautiful memorial garden there and we were able to look through some of the things. But yeah—
BY
Who— I mean, who maintains that then? Just like the local town council? Or is it some kind of society, or historical society that maintains it?
KF
I think there's a specific society.
BY
Huh.
KF
But when I've looked at the New Denver, when I've looked it up online, it seems associated with the town also. But it must have also come out of Redress funds—
BY
Oh maybe, yeah.
KF
—too? Pause. You said your mother would often talk about the internment or—
BY
Oh no, she didn't like talking about the internment, but when she brought it up, she was always very bitter about it.
KF
So what made her, was it you asking that brought it up? Why would she start talking about it?
BY
Yeah, we definitely didn't— She definitely didn't like bringing that topic up, but. So I think that the time that it did come up for when she was talking about you know, wanting to get financial security for the family and whether they were ever going to get, you know, any compensation back from the government for you know that beautiful house on the Gorge that was confiscated, and of course, nothing did come out of that. Except for that Redress thing, which by then it was a kind of a token, she called it a slap in the face to give them 22,000 for that beautiful house on the Gorge which was— but I think that she purposefully tried to avoid even talking about that. And in certain my father didn't talk about it at all. You know, he just sort of felt it was a done deal, he was just getting on in life and you couldn't undo that, so why worry about trying to undo it.
KF
Did your grandparents talk about it?
BY
No. No they never talked about it.
KF
Did you ask?
BY
No, cause I wasn't really too aware of what was going on. It's bad that I wasn't too aware until I saw that letter that Jordan showed me that my grandfather had written to the government and you know, that's when I realized it really must have profoundly affected him, because he had this complete trust that justice was going to be done and that he was going to get all his belongings back, and his property back. Of course he didn't, but Pause. you can see it when you read between the lines of that letter how you just assume that the Canadian government is going to do the right thing and reimburse or at least give him some sort of compensation for what was taken away from them and you know, it was kinda heartbreaking. Pause. But until I saw that letter, I didn't know he had any feelings about it at all. Cause I didn't know and I wasn't aware of it.
KF
Yeah, yeah. And if they don't say anything about it then. What about your siblings?
00:55:00.000
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BY
Probably, they're even uh— Pause. I mean I don't consider myself very much affected by this because it was all either way before me or way after me, but for my siblings, it would be even less so. Because you know, a couple of them will remember those train trips to Edmonton— er, from Edmonton to Toronto, but I don't think they'd remember much else about— other than growing up with my mother. But they wouldn't remember much about visiting my grandparents or uncles in Toronto. Cause they either weren't there or too young to remember.
KF
Can I ask you about when you went to the house on the Gorge and knocked on the door, was that your first time seeing the house?
BY
Yeah, and I actually didn't go in the house, I just went up to the front door and they opened up, so I introduced myself, “oh yeah, we've been expecting you.” So they took us around to the backyard where they had the lantern assembled in the wrong order Kaitlin laughs. So he was explaining, “well we'll look after moving it,” cause we had to get a special moving company to move it cause the thing weighs a ton, literally a ton. So we had to get a special moving company that could move it without damaging it. So I never did actually go in that house but Pause. it was kinda neat to walk up to that house, you know to think that my mother and grandparents had lived there sometime. And you could see that — I think he, my grandfather, had actually designed that house, cause you could see that it was designed to be very practical. Like it was very nicely designed but it wasn't designed to be a show house, it was designed to be like a family home.
KF
Hmm.
BY
Yeah, that was pretty nice. And it's still there. My brother and I have taken pictures of it for our own interests of the outside, but it's so overgrown with all these shrubs and flowers that it's kinda hard to see the house itself now, cause it's so overgrown with vegetation.
KF
Mmm hmm. Did you spend long speaking to the people there?
BY
No, they were just, I knocked on the door, introduced myself and they said, oh yeah, we've been expecting you. We just presumed that you want to come around and take the lantern. And I said, “yeup.” Kaitlin laughs. So we went over to the lantern and I arranged for this moving company to come pick it up in segments the following week. So that's the only time I've talked to the people that are, I don't even know if they are still there now.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
BY
It wasn't much of a discussion about it.
KF
Yeah! Pause. It's so interesting that it came to their mind right away when you knocked on the door, like you could have been anyone but they knew. Pause. So, Pause. were you involved with the Redress movement?
BY
No, no, I just had this cheque Both laugh. show up, you know came outta the blue. It was like this bonus that was sent from the heavens at the time I needed it the most you know. But yeah, I wasn't getting any that this was coming, or what to do with it. Yeah, cause the first thing I did was phone my accountant and said, you know, should I declare this as income—will there be income tax? No, he said that the whole deal that the Redress program was that would be given to the benefactors tax free, you know, not declaring it or anything. So that's what I do, it literally just showed up.
KF
Yeah.
BY
Put it in the bank.
KF
Did you talk about it with your family?
BY
Well the only ones that got it were my parents and myself, because the rest of the kids in my family weren't old enough. And my parents, they didn't want to talk about it. They just said, “oh it's like a slap in the face” and they were going to give it to charity, which I think they did do.
01:00:06.000
01:00:06.000
KF
Hmm.
BY
He just, he expressed kind of dismay right at the beginning when I announced I was going to Victoria, that he didn't want me going there. But he didn't say why, but I assume it was because of the experience of the war. You know, we got turfed out and, Long pause.
KF
And your mother?
BY
Yeah, same thing. She said, didn't want— well she wasn't quite as adamant about my moving as my dad was but, you could tell that she was really disappointed er, pretty upset that I considering moving back to Victoria. She never said anything about it after that.
KF
Yeah, yeah. Pause. Did they have any friends in Victoria that they stayed in touch with?
BY
Pause. I think my mother had a couple of friends, like from her high school, that she kept in touch with, Well she was part of this, I think it was so secret women's organization called PEO. I forget what PEO stands for, Pause. princesses of the something. Some sort of British organization, you know, women's British organization. But she was the long time member of this PEO, which has a sister chapter here, which is how she kept track of her PEO sisters, as she called them Kaitlin laughs. the ones in Victoria that she kept in contact with PEO in Edmonton. But other than that, I don't know of any specific friends that she maintained, you know, that lived here or that continued to live here. Pause. A few of their colleagues, especially my father's colleagues two of them ended up retiring from Edmonton to Victoria. I think he would visit them when they saw each other at meetings but never made any special trips out here to visit them once they had moved here. So I think he was very leery about coming to Victoria for any reason. Too bad actually.
KF
One of the questions I have here is that, do you think that the internment changed your family.
BY
Ah well I can't really say because I wasn't there, but, I think it certainly changed the future of the family, because it literally determined the you know, where I was going to be growing up and going to school. Same thing with my siblings, and the fact that my grandparents ended up in Toronto. They actually really wanted my mom and the kids to move to Toronto but because my father had already set up, done his studying and started practicing here, he didn't want to move to Toronto.
KF
Mmm hmm.
BY
So that's why we ended up in Edmonton. So indirectly, that's sort of how the internship affected us, as children, because it kind of predetermined where we were going to go after the war. Which I couldn't have done anything about that.
KF
Mm hmm, did your grandparents stay in touch with the Japanese Canadian friends in Toronto? Do you know?
BY
They had a few friends here in Victoria. You know, a couple of them or a few were in Vancouver. And that's on my mother's side of the family. My father's side of the family, you know didn't have anything to do with this at all. I only found out secondhand like everybody else, shortly after I've been in practice in this discipline in about '84-'85, one of the nice young interns at the Jublilee came up to me and introduced himself, “hi my name is Mike Miles and I'm one of your interns and do you know that we're first cousins?” Kaitlin laughs. Oh Laughs. okay no, I didn't know I had any cousins. And so his mother was my father's sister. And she was then living in Vancouver, and the son Mike, grew up and educated in Toronto—er in Vancouver, came to Victoria to do his internship, and he's in practice here. So he's a relative I didn't even know about. And then my daughter, my eldest daughter, went to school in Western Ontario, or Western University in London, Ontario and her roommate, I think they got assigned roommates completely random, and it turns her roommate was an uncle on my father's side of the family's daughter.
01:05:11.000
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KF
Okay. Laughs.
BY
So it was, the roommate of my daughter was my directly my cousin, Pause. and he apparently was a very successful engineer in Vancouver. So I found out in this roundabout way, that I had this other side of the family that I didn't know about that lived in Vancouver. But I've never met them, my aunt or my uncle that lived in Vancouver, as far as I know, they still live there. But I have not met them.
KF
Mm hmm. So you mentioned your daughter, do you have other children?
BY
Well my eldest daughter, she's still here, well she's come back here. Then my next son is in Toronto, Laughs. huh, ironically. Kaitlin laughs. He's a computer animator. And then my youngest daughter, in the first family, is a, kind of a nurse manager for this women's health thing in Israel. So by them I have Pause. four grandchildren, three grandchildren in Israel and one in Toronto.
KF
Oh, congratulations.
BY
Yeah, and we're having this giant family reunion in Island of Hornby, which is my one and only vacation spot. This year for the first time we're all gonna come, merge in onto Hornby Island the week I'm going to be there. And we're going to have a little, kind of a family celebration for my mother who deceased in October, and then for my younger brother who deceased like ten years ago. We're gonna have the biggest ever— you need a family reunion. So my kids from Toronto and Israel and my other set of kids who are here, and then my cousins and nephews and nieces from Edmonton and Toronto—er Edmonton and Kamloops and Victoria are all going to be there. So there's going to be like 40 Yoneda's running around Hornby Island in the end of July, so that's going to be nice.
KF
Yeah, yeah. My grandmother passed away just over a year ago, in the last spring, and we had a celebration of life and it was nice. Yeah.
BY
I think there's nothing more special than family and relatives, especially when you get together. Especially when you don't get together very often. A family reunion like that is pretty special. Life time memories.
KF
Yeah! Well it's hard to get people together too.
BY
Yeah.
KF
Are your children interested in this history?
BY
Yeah, because my son who's now working as a chef at the beach house, I think when he was in grade 8, he had to do a family tree project. He's the one that found out that my grandmother was ex-Yakuza, and you know, Japanese royalty. And he found out that my grandfather was kind of a lowly, you know, labourer, that had come across to Canada to make his money. But he found that out by, well I don't know how he found that out but that's he found out about that side of the family. And my daughter that just finished a performing arts program at UVIC, she's always been into dance and singing and acting and she down quite a few Japanese plays, although when they came up, either there was an assignment she had to do for one of her classes or you know, one of those things she wanted to do on the side. And she took Japanese dance when she was a young kid, or young girl. So that was part of her cultural upbringing, I think it was to—as she calls herself, she's a, “halfie,” Kaitlin laughs. so she's like half Japanese and half Caucasian but, she's proud of the fact that she's a, “halfie” Both laugh.
KF
Yeah. Did you send them to Japanese Language school?
BY
No, no they— actually I thought it would be more important that they learn French or Mandarin, which is think is more relevant to what they're growing up in.
KF
Yeah.
BY
And my daughter, the one that just finished at UVic, she thought it was more important that she takes Spanish, which I quite agreed with. So she took Spanish during high school.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
01:10:00.000
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KF
Pause. I wanted to ask, because you mentioned how seeing the letter that your grandfather wrote changed how you though about them.
BY
Well, it just exposed me to something I did not know before, you know. Like I didn't know he was, he could be so articulate and expressive in his—he typed out this beautiful letter to the, and it was very well written. And I didn't even know he was even capable of such things. And then all the stuff that I didn't know about either, about how all the had been taken, and that he assumed, because he was so Canadianized that, you know, that the government was going to do the honourable thing and give it all back. You know, you could see how naive he was, but it was just because he was so, not addicted, he was so convinced that the Canadian government was going to do the right thing and not know else. Yeah and that's why the letter kinda was a real eye opener, that I haven't been aware of before.
KF
Mm hmm, mm hmm. Long pause. So I think that we've gone through most of the questions that I have. Is there anything you want to add?
BY
Umm Pause. I mean it's very interesting you know for this to come up because, you know, this would have kinda of sailed right over my head, not knowing any of it. But to have it kind of reopened and exposed to me has been very interesting. You know, it's something I definitely gonna be passing off to my children, so that they are aware of what their past family history, especially in relation to growing up in Victoria, you know, it's sort of— you never think of Victoria as being a Japanese Canadian cultural center, but it really is. There are so many people who have lived here all their life but you know, aren't exposed to this evacuation during the war that, they're just not aware of it. So for them to be made more aware of what happened, I think would do them best, you know, do them really well in the future. You know, first of all to make sure it never happens again but secondly, to at least make other people aware of what happened. Which I don't think the public in general, well until this kind of thing came up, I don't think that the great majority of the public would be unaware of what happened.
KF
Did you ever learn about this in school?
BY
No.
KF
In history class?
BY
No.
KF
No?
BY
No, no. Never mentioned it at all.
KF
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
BY
Especially in Edmonton, I mean, they wouldn't, they probably wouldn't have any interest in what was going on in the coast during the war. So I hope that — I take it that that's one of your aims, is to try and get this into you know, the BC curriculum or the elementary and junior high school curriculum?
KF
Yeah, the curriculum just went through a new updating, and it's organized by competencies, by what I understand. So there are themes that need to be taught, so teachers can choose what they teach. So our, what we're trying to do is make them as good as possible, and as easy as possible for teachers to teach and just to get them into teacher's hands so that they start teaching it. Because I'm not— I think there's a theme that they have to teach and then they have a few options. Pause. But I think there's, it really is educational, to try and let people know that this happened and that it happened within Canadian legal systems and Canadian law. And that people continue to be affected by it also, yeah. Pause. How did you come across the project, or how did you meet Jordan?
01:14:44.000
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BY
That's a good question, Pause. Oh I know, this is kind of, one of my lady friends is I think Jordan's superior, Tara Ney, she's on the Psychology staff here. I think he's either one of her grad students or, anyway it's Tara that told me about this project. She's actually the first one to show me that letter, and she asked me if I'd be interested in participating cause I'm sure that Jordan and his cause would love to grill me about what I knew about it. So yeah, that was about a year ago.
KF
Yeah, yeah, okay. And then one question that we've asked other interviewee's that we ask at the end of the interview is if you have a message for future Canadian's or for people—
BY
What do you mean, like future Japanese Canadian's? Or future Canadians of, you know, non-Canadian descent?
KF
You're choice, yeah. And someone who would be listening to this interview.
BY
I think I still have complete faith in Canadian citizenship that, personally I don't think this type of thing would ever happen in Canada but, secondly, I'm quite willing to let bygones be bygones and just keep trucking along and do what I can for, you know, to better Canadian society as opposed to being a Japanese Canadian, of descent. You know, trying to better Canadian society, I should carry on as a Canadian, that's the best way I feel anyway. That's I think the way my parents wanted me to be, is to be a Canadian first, and Japanese Canadian second. I think they were very ahead about that, that we all be Canadianized as much as we can. Despite the injustices done in the past, to basically carry on and just to make sure it never happened again.
KF
Mmm hmm. Well thank you, thank you for the great interview.
BY
Well thank you for the patience and understanding.
KF
Yeah, no problem. It's really interesting, living in Victoria, to hear the stories of Victoria. Yeah, yeah.
BY
Yeah, yeah.
KF
I would like to see more recognition of the Japanese Canadian history here I think.
BY
Yeah, what's pretty interesting when I was looking all of this up, my grandfather, when he was first trying to set up business. He had, I don't know why got this idea of setting up a dry cleaning business, maybe because there wasn't one here, but he went around to all the different banks to get enough money to front out starting up a business. And nobody would lend him the money, cause you know, he was first generation Japanese that immigrated, had no collateral, he had no finance backing.
KF
Yeah.
BY
Except the Bank of Montreal. And it was the main branch that is still there now, they decided they'd take a chance and lent him the money and help him get his business started. And of course they were right in their intuition because right off from the beginning. So when I first come to town, I had done most of my banking with Toronto Dominion because I was based out of Edmonton and then Toronto. But when I came here, I had to do the same thing, I had to get up some money because I had to join as a partner, a group of orthopedic surgeons, you had to put up, $50,000 as a share to this company to practice orthopedic surgery and, in Canada. And I did the same thing, first of all, Toronto Dominion wouldn't lend me the money, even though they've been looking after me for like, since I was a child. Kaitlin laughs. But they wouldn't front me the money to start my practice. And ironically, BMO, the main branch said they would said, oh yeah, they'll look after me. That's when I brought up the history, well you know, you looked after my grandfather 50 years ago, the same situation. Cause it's the same building Laughs. it's the same downtown branch that did that so, I'll always be indebted to the BMO for doing that and being apart of our the family history, twice!
KF
Twice! Both laugh. Yeah, no that's great. Thank you so much.
BY
Oh you're very welcome. I hope that was so interest, or some value to— Oh did you want me to sign something?
KF
Yeah, I need you're, and read through them, and then you get to keep— I'll keep the ones you sign and then you get to keep this, just for your own reference.
BY
So I'm the participant?
KF
Yeah.
01:20:06.000

Metadata

Title

Bruce Yoneda, interviewed by Kaitlin Findlay, 03 May 2019

Abstract

1940s-50s, present
Bruce Yoneda shares the stories of his upbringing in Edmonton as a Sansei youth and the eldest of his 4 siblings. He traces his family back to Victoria where his grandparents built a beautiful house on the Gorge and they ran a dry-cleaning business. Bruce discusses the different perspectives his parents carried of their experiences. He also describes his father’s education journey in becoming a doctor and his own similar education path and career as an orthopedic surgeon. Bruce was born in 1949, within the window to qualify to receive a check from the Redress movement; he talks about how he viewed that money compared to how his parents did. When. moved to Victoria to open his own practice, he tracked down his grandparent’s old home and visited. The current residents had been expecting someone from the family to come eventually and they returned stone lanterns originally brought to Canada from Japan but his grandfather. Bruce reflects on how the internment of his family affected the future generations by focusing on what his uncles, his and his siblings, and his children have been able to accomplish.

Credits

Interviewer: Kaitlin Findlay
Interviewee: Bruce Yoneda
Transcriber: Natsuki Abe
Audio Checker: Natsuki Abe
Encoder: Natsuki Abe
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Victoria, British Columbia
Keywords: Vegreville ; Alberta ; Redress ; Education; Medical practice; Victoria ; Business; Toronto ; The Gorge

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.