UBC Undergraduate Research

Lest we forget : the contributions of Japanese-Canadian veterans in the First World War MacLeod, Alex


In 2016 The Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre will publish a book commemorating the lives of the Japanese-Canadian men who selflessly risked their lives fighting for Canada during the First World War. At a time when Japanese immigrants faced discrimination and racism the question as to why they volunteered has gone largely unanswered. When the government of British Columbia denied their requests to enlist for no other reason than their ethnicity, these brave men made the arduous journey to Alberta where they would find acceptance. Facing countless injustices, Japanese-Canadians were anxious to prove to their fellow Canadians that they were worthy of equal treatment and the right to vote. Having conducted research, reading first and second hand accounts of these veterans and their family, I have come to the conclusion that fighting for Canada was seen as a way of achieving the status of being a citizen. And while this effort was unsuccessful in the short run, their heroism and selfless contributions to the war effort marked a social shift in terms of recognising Japanese-Canadians as citizens even if the government would drag its heels for decades to come. Despite providing a context for which to analyse the lives of Japanese immigrants to Canada, the main purpose of this research is to shed light on the personal and individual lives of these veterans in an attempt to keep their stories alive for future generations and to commemorate the brave men who in the face of great injustice fought for the rights we take for granted today. These are their stories.

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