Passing Time, Moving Memories: Interpreting Wartime Narratives of Japanese Canadian Women


  • Pamela Sugiman


The story of internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II has become part of the collective memory of most Canadians of Japanese descent. Promoted as part of the community’s efforts to seek redress for wartime losses, the collective narrative has centred around loss of property, the indignities of detainment in Vancouver, expulsion to ghost towns, and violation of human rights and principles of democracy. The Redress Settlement with the Canadian government in 1988 has prompted a further unearthing of personal memoirs, in a conscious effort of Japanese Canadians to recover their history. The individual experiences examined here, through the author’s personal memories, from private letters written during the war by Japanese Canadian women and intercepted by the Canadian government, and from recent interviews with second-generation Japanese Canadian women, reveal diverse experiences within the collective story. In particular, these accounts challenge the image of the silent, unresisting, and uncritical Japanese Canadian woman.