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Japanese-Canadian veterans honoured in Vancouver's Stanley Park
VANCOUVER - Japanese-Canadian veterans were honoured in a Remembrance Day ceremony in Vancouver's Stanley Park.
David Iwaasa, a member of the Japanese Canadian War Memorial Committee, said the memorial where a crowd gathered Monday serves as a reminder of the community's history.
"All of these individuals served on behalf of Canada, and so it's a recognition of the contributions and sacrifices they made to help maintain the peace and understanding here in this country," Iwaasa told CTV News.
A solemn ceremony honoured those sacrifices, and it was announced that a centenary celebration will be held at the memorial in April. The Vancouver Park Board has been working with the committee to ensure the aging pillar is properly maintained, and recently levelled the paving stones so it's more easily accessible.
Located near the Vancouver Aquarium, the memorial has been in place for nearly a century and is meant as a tribute to soldiers who fought for Canada. It was unveiled on April 2, 1920.
The single column features the names of dozens of Japanese-Canadian soldiers who died in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War and in Afghanistan.
But it's also a reminder for some of the prejudice in the community's history, as outlined by the National Association of Japanese Canadians.
People of Japanese descent could not vote at the time the memorial was erected - including those who'd served in the First World War who'd had to travel to Alberta to enlist after being barred in B.C.
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Canada declared war on Japan and required all Japanese nationals to register with the Registrar of Enemy Aliens, regardless of citizenship.
The light at the top of the war memorial was extinguished, and remained off for decades.
Japanese Canadians were ordered to turn over their property and belongings. Mail was censored, farmland and businesses were seized and thousands were sent to internment camps in B.C.'s interior, the NAJC says. The majority of people who were detained were Canadian citizens by birth.
At one point, those who remained in camps were told they could leave, but had to move east of the Rockies, an order announced by then-prime minister Mackenzie King.
Despite the internment and hostility, the NAJC estimates 150 Japanese Canadians volunteered to serve with the Canadian army in 1945, and others joined British military units.
Still, they did not gain full rights of citizenship until 1949.