Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre Receives National Historic Site Designation
On Saturday, July 31, 2010, a ceremony will be held at the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver to mark its official designation as National Historic Site. The event, which is open to the public, will run over the weekend and includes commemorative events, entertainment, workshops, and the annual Obon Ceremony.
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre bears witness to the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War and the history of internment camps located in the interior regions of British Columbia.
Located at the heart of one of the camps constructed under the authority of the British Columbia Security Commission, it is one of the few sites that still contains tangible evidence of this episode in Canadian history. The buildings associated with internment constitute an important place of memory for the Japanese Canadian community, and the ongoing existence of these structures supports the survival of the history of this event.
On February 24, 1942, a federal Order in Council under the War Measures Act authorized the internment of “enemy aliens” and Canadians of Japanese descent were moved to camps for the duration of the war. By the summer, the British Columbia Security Commission, the provincial agency charged with implementing the federal government’s internment policy, had constructed a makeshift centre at New Denver, a hamlet in British Columbia’s southeast interior. The first internees arrived soon after.
In its layout and overall character, the New Denver camp was similar to other internment facilities in the interior. It consisted of a grouping of frame shacks or living quarters, a Japanese bath, which was soon converted to a community hall, and a series of outbuildings.
While other centres were demolished after the war’s end, some of the buildings still exist or have been reconstructed at New Denver. Managed by the internees through their own Kyowakai Society, the New Denver camp housed roughly 1500 persons during the war. At conflict’s end, the camp was transformed into a tuberculosis centre, while healthy inmates were required to abandon the British Columbia camps and start life anew elsewhere.
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre offers compelling insight into the Canadian government’s treatment of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s. For Japanese Canadians, the centre’s creation bears witness to the Japanese renaissance of the 1970s and to the redress movement of the 1980s. With its Centennial Centre and peace gardens, the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre has become a treasured place of remembrance and community identity for today’s Japanese Canadians.