To read the newsletter, click this link Landscapes of Injustice Spring 2019 Newsletter

Message from the Project Director, Dr. Jordan Stanger-Ross

A New Perspective on the Internment Era

Four years of Landscapes of Injustice research culminated this April at the Spring Institute where we presented, in polished form, the four claims that have emerged from our research. These claims structure our project’s latest book manuscript (now in review with McGill-Queens Press) and will give shape to the museum exhibit and the narrative website. In the coming issues of the newsletter and our social media posts, members of our collective and invited guests will explore the meaning of these claims to them.

  1. The dispossession entailed the deliberate killing of home. Home—the place where we belong—continues to hold meaning, even (and perhaps especially) for displaced people. When the Canadian government destroyed the homes of Japanese Canadians and sold all of their belongings, it compounded the harms of the internment.
  2. Dispossession is hard work. The dispossession required years of administrative work and the complicity of thousands of people. Hundreds of government officials laboured in the dispossession. Thousands of civilians stole and bought the belongings of their former neighbours. Japanese Canadians felt the burden of daily administration for an entire decade.
  3. Perpetrators of the dispossession reasoned wrong. Dispossession was not the work of angry racists alone. Although racism permeated the corridors of power, notions of citizenship, good governance, and fair play were also twisted in service of injustice. Ideals that Canadians now repudiate folded together with ones we still cherish to deprive citizens of their rights.
  4. Dispossession is permanent. The internment era was far too long—7 years, most of them after the Second World War had ended. But dispossession lasts forever. The lands, possessions, and opportunities lost can never be fully restored. The communities and neighbourhoods destroyed can never be fully rebuilt. Japanese Canadians and others live with legacies of shame, silence, regret, complicity, and loss. Even legacies of resilience and activism in the face of wrongdoing come with their own costs. We are heirs to landscapes of injustice.

Our project began with the conviction that this history was important. We’re now also confident that, working together with the community, we’ve found new ways of telling it.

In this issue of the newsletter, we’re very pleased to be able to launch this series highlighting these claims and exploring the core learnings of our research collective. Our first contributor, Community Council Chair Vivian Wakabayashi Rygnestad, discusses her “aha” moment, when she connected her own experience of the loss of home with related histories in Zimbabwe and the United States