Feds enforce Japanese internment

On today’s date in 1942, former prime minister Louis St. Laurent (then Canada’s justice minister) released the infamous “notice to all persons of Japanese racial origin”, which subjected Japanese-Canadians to government-enforced interrogations, curfews and internment as well as job and property losses.

On April 8, 1974, Canada Post issued a 7-cent definitive stamp (Scott No. 592) depicting St. Laurent as part of its Caricature series.

St. Laurent was brought into politics as the justice minister for former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s cabinet. Together, the Canadian cabinet decided not only to forcibly remove all Japanese-Canadians from their homes but also to take possession of their businesses, properties and other assets, which were then sold to fund the internment program. All this despite evidence from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of National Defence that suggested the internment was unwarranted.

In August 1944, Mackenzie King continued to encourage Japanese-Canadians to move east, with official policy stating Japanese-Canadians must move as far east as the Rocky Mountains or be repatriated to Japan following the end of the Second World War. However, by 1947, many had been granted exemption to the no-entry zone, and two years later, legislature was enacted allowing Japanese-Canadians the right to vote provincially and federally, officially marking the end of internment.


The first-day cover of the St-Laurent postage stamp as part of Canada Post’s 1974 definitive series.

On September 22, 1988, former prime minister Brian Mulroney apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for its internment of Japanese-Canadians throughout the Second World War. The Government of Canada also announced a compensation package for surviving internees, who received $21,000 each. Additionally, any Japanese-Canadians who were deported to Japan had their Canadian citizenship re-instated. The package also awarded $12 million to the National Association of Japanese Canadians to promote human rights and community building. A $24 million endowment fund was also created to establish the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, which has a goal of eliminating of racism.

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