Photos of Japanese-Canadians in the 40s

Co-curated by the Nikkei National Museum with the Royal British Columbia Museum and the Landscapes of Injustice research collective, this bilingual (French-English) exhibit showcases the personal histories of people from seven families interned during WWII.

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Museum of Surrey 17710 56A Avenue

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Displacement and Resilience

In 1942, the Canadian government uprooted and interned all 21,460 Japanese Canadians living in coastal BC. The following year, it authorized the sale of everything they were forced to leave behind. As a result, when Canada’s internment era finally ended in 1949, Japanese Canadians had nothing to return to. Their homes, farms, businesses, fishing vessels, cars, family pets, personal belongings – were all gone. Despite promises to protect their possessions, the promise was broken and over 1,700 parcels of land and thousands of belongings were sold without consent.

Visitors will see previously unreleased photographs and select historical items. The multisensory experience features the Offices of Loss, which shows the administration of lives, and how this all happened, a map table that illustrates where this all took place, and an Oral History Theatre that offers first person accounts from both descendants and bystanders.

While the exhibit uncovers a very dark part of Canadian history, it also emphasizes that this history is a resource, calling on us to create a more just Canadian future. For families, Broken Promises is a vehicle to start a conversation with children about racism and how they can be catalysts for change.

Learn more about the dispossession of Japanese Canadians.

Take a virtual tour of the exhibit.

The hope of Broken Promises is that lessons can be learned from a difficult and messy history and made actionable in the present day . We invite you to follow the seven narrators, identify what home means to you, dive into the bureaucratic mire located in the Offices of Losses, review a sampling of case files that offer snapshots into lives administrated by the state, listen to first person experiences, and grapple with the legacies that remain.

Creation of the Exhibit

Begun in 2014, this multi-faceted project is supported by a $2.5-million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and $3 million in matching contributions from institutional partners. The exhibition received an additional grant of $285,000 from Canadian Heritage. Based at the University of Victoria, the project involves 15 other partners including four other universities, two government agencies, four major Japanese Canadian organizations, one provincial and one federal museum, and three historical societies and learning associations.

Museum of Surrey is pleased to host the travelling exhibit, co-curated by:

  • Nikkei National Museum
  • Royal British Columbia Museum
  • The Landscapes of Injustice