‘They were just gone’: presentation in Duncan on project delving into history of Japanese Canadians

Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives hosting a presentation by the Landscapes of Injustice project team

One day, Japanese Canadian students like Tayeko Fukakusa were just gone from their schools and communities. (Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives)

One day, Japanese Canadian students like Tayeko Fukakusa were just gone from their schools and communities. (Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives)

On Friday, July 26, the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives is hosting a presentation by the Landscapes of Injustice project team, in partnership with the Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery Society. The presentation, running from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Island Savings Centre is about the dispossession of Japanese Canadians.

“They were just gone.”

More than 140 people of Japanese ancestry were taken from the Cowichan Valley after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. School children suddenly disappeared from their classes, and friends were shocked by their sudden absence. They were sent to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) grounds at Hastings Park in Vancouver, housed in animal barns, and eventually sent to internment camps in B.C.’s Interior. Duncan resident Mary Rambold (nee Spencer) donated an autograph book from her school days to the museum that included the names of Japanese Canadian friends, like Tayeko Fukakusa.

“They were just gone,” said Mary.

Landscapes of Injustice is a multi-year research project focusing on the dispossession of Japanese Canadians during the 1940s. The project has past the midway point and is transitioning from the research phase to the knowledge mobilization phase.

Project Manager Michael Abe will give an overview of the project, outlining the research that has been undertaken and inform the audience of the plans to disseminate the results of the primary research to the Nikkei community and the general public.

Curatorial postdoctoral fellow Yasmin Railton will speak on the progress of the nationally travelling museum exhibit currently being created from Landscapes of Injustice research. She will share examples of a recent community consultation initiative designed to promote public engagement with the exhibit and this difficult history.

To complement the current exhibit The Suitcase Project by Kayla Isomura, Research Coordinator Kaitlin Findlay, will present reflections from Drs. Jordan Stanger-Ross, Heather Read, and herself on the Landscapes of Injustice Oral History Collection and how Japanese Canadians described belongings, whether lost or preserved, in their interviews. They found that stories of things were more often stories about people and relationship than simply thing’s themselves.

For more information, please contact museum curator Kathryn Gagnon at 250-746-6612 or email cvmuseum.archives@shaw.ca.