June 19, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)



Wait until the time comes, but do not forget this: it will not be said about me that I did not act in the traditional British way with regard to these Japanese. It is not going to be written on the pages of this country's history that I treated these Japanese in any way different from the treatment that is accorded persons in the same situation throughout the British commonwealth. Let the Japanese do what they will; let the Germans do what they will; but I hope that this government and this country will uphold the true traditions of the British people in matters such as this.
The hon. member for Kamloops said that the men were dictating the policy of the camps. While I have anything to do with the matter, as long as the foremen act decently they will not be dictated to by the men in these camps. Only the other day we had a strike in one of the camps because they wanted a foreman removed. That was the camp where they were put on two meals a day- two good meals, might I say-and through that policy we were able to straighten out the difficulty.
I am not going to say to the House of Commons that we shall not have trouble in these camps. You can not have large bodies of men, whether Japanese, Canadians or what have you, without having occasional outbreaks. I think I should say also that of course we have had difficulties. Only the other day four thousand German prisoners came to New York to be interned in this country, on very short notice, and we have been confronted with difficulties of this kind. At the moment we have not sufficient space in our
Japanese Nationals

internment camps, though within the next few days we hope to have accommodation available to take care of another seven hundred men.
I am just answering these points as they were brought up. The hon. member for Fraser Valley (Mr. Cruickshank) said something about seeing men going to the beet fields in western Ontario, and that some of them had cameras. With regard to these people I would say that they volunteered to go there, and according to my reports they are doing a good job. Let us be fair and decent about the matter. Goodness knows there is a terrific shortage of labour in the beet fields of this country; and if these men behave themselves and work as they should, I do not think we should raise any objection to things like that. I might also say how difficult the removal of these people is made when they are painted in the colours in which some hon. members painted them this afternoon. When my department and the security commission go to the provincial governments in order to arrange the removal of the Japanese from British Columbia to the other provinces, things like this make it difficult not only for them but also for ourselves to carry out this policy. At the moment two members of the British Columbia security commission are in conference with the government of Ontario endeavouring to arrange to remove Japanese families from British Columbia to the farms of this province. For my part I hope that can be worked out; it will be a constructive step. The hon. member for Fraser Valley laughs, but I want to say to him that any fool can spend money. This government could have put these people on a rock pile in Alberta, we will say. That is not clever. Again my hon. friend laughs. I would rather see these people spread over the country, working at productive employment; I should prefer that even to have them working in the road camps which British Columbia wanted to build in order to complete their road system. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot have your roads built with the Japanese in Ontario; they must be in British Columbia. That is the only way you can build roads there. You cannot argue both ends against the middle, as some hon. gentlemen have been trying to do this afternoon.
I think I have covered the matter sufficiently. There was a point raised by the hon. member for Yale (Mr. Stirling) with respect to the Japanese having intermediaries purchase land for them. At the moment an investigation is being made by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to see if this is being done; and, if it is, steps will be taken to correct the situation.
IMr. Mitchell.]
In conclusion, I just want to say that I am informed by the British Columbia security commission that they hope the movement will be cleaned up within the next six weeks. I want to say also to the Japanese government that we welcome any investigation by the representatives of the Spanish government in this country, who at the moment are looking after the interests of Japan here, or by the International Red Cross. I think, after that investigation is made, our treatment of these people will be found to compare favourably with the best treatment of any interned aliens in the world, and we should be proud of that too. I hope that may be written into the pages of our history, because, after all is said and done, we have some of our own flesh and blood in Japan, and we must not forget that. As I have said before, I know the Japanese; I fought with them in the last war. When it comes to ruthlessness there is not a nation on the face of the earth that can compare with the Japanese. But let it be said of us that at least we set them an example, so that our young men in the Straits Settlements and in Japan may get the treatment we think they should get. Let it never be said that an excuse for the ill-treatment of those young men of ours might be made of the way in which we treated the Japanese in this country. I think that is a practical approach to the problem; I believe what I have said is sound, and I think we might well be proud of the way we have undertaken this very difficult problem, under extremely severe and sometimes might I say, unfair criticism.

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