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Obasan by Joy Kogawa

            In the novel Obasan, written by Joy Kogawa, an important event occurred that changed the lives of many Japanese Canadians during World War II. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor the racism towards the Japanese Canadians became more intense. The Canadian government believed that their intentions were favorable towards everyone by capturing and moving the Japanese Canadians from their homes, in British Columbia, to internment camps. The treatment of Japanese Canadians during the war was an unjustified act on the part of the Canadian government and due to the Charter of Rights and Freedom the act committed by the government would not be tolerated by anyone in today's modern society.
             Prior to the war, about 22,000 Japanese Canadians lived in British Columbia, with more than half of them being born there. It is believed that the internment camps came to be because of a sense of racism towards the Japanese Canadians from the government and other Canadian citizens. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the racism became more intense. According to many Canadians, the Japanese were "causing a threat to Canada"1 and were punished for a crime they did not commit. The excuse Canada had for this action was that "Japanese people were not white and could be Japanese 'spies'".2 In the novel Obasan, one of the letters from Aunt Emily says "we're a 'lower order of people'. In one breath we are damned for being 'inassimilable' and the next there's fear that we'll 'assimilate'."3 In other words, this means that the Japanese were the lower class. It also means they were condemned for not being capable to be utilized. On the other hand, there was a fear that they would incorporate the customs of Canada into their own lives. Lastly, in 1914, when the War Measures Act came into place, the federal government was given power when "a war, invasion or uprising, real or suspected"4 was detected.

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