A test of religious tolerance:
Canadian government and Jodo Shinshu Buddhism during the Pacific War,1941-1945
by Akira Ichikawa
Canadian Ethnic Studies
Vol. 26 No. 2 1994
Copyright by Canadian Ethnic Studies
Canada's treatment of Jodo Shinshu Buddhist ministers and adherents between
1941 and 1945 unfolded against the backdrop of a bigger drama that
overshadowed and affected it: the wholesale removal of Japanese Canadians
in British Columbia. To claim that government assumed a tolerant stance
toward the ministers and the faith as compensation for suspending due
process raises the perennial dilemma facing democracies: what freedoms get
priority when national security is thought to be at risk? The episode also
shows how fallible bureaucrats translated policy into procedures supportive
of religious liberty. Jodo Shinshu is described from its unfavorable
pre-war image to its post-war renewal, the latter boosted by a government
dispersal policy that helped to spread it across Canada. The wartime
experience remains an example of what could happen to religious, racial or
other minorities during a crisis, however much multiculturalism may
formally dominate in Canada at century's close.
In the now-familiar story of the mass roundup and detention during the
Second World War of Canadians of Japanese ancestry, a hitherto rarely
studied group of men whose spiritual influence far exceeded their numbers
helped to maintain a Buddhist foothold in Canada. At a time, decades before
Canadian preoccupation with human rights and multiculturalism, when
accidents of birth and race often shaped government policies, ministers of
the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism from Japan were among the more than
23,000 persons forcibly removed from their homes in British Columbia.
References to Buddhism and to its Canadian practitioners occur in the
literature of the Japanese in Canada, but there is little in the way of a
sustained discussion of Jodo Shinshu or of the government's treatment of it
during the Second World War. To correct the oversight, this paper
describes how the Canadian government approached the faith and its leaders
between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, and shortly
after Japan's defeat in August, 1945. The study hypothesizes that the
administrative stance toward Jodo Shinshu may be framed as a test of
religious tolerance, although that test occurred in a setting where the
more fundamental procedure of due process had been suspended to implement
the over-arching evacuation policy. An appreciation of government's
position toward Buddhism, then, presupposes some knowledge of the political
dynamics informing that latter policy.
Initially, a brief description of the historic sect is followed by a sketch
of it as it was established in pre-war Canada in various Japanese immigrant
communities, mainly in British Columbia. The popular image of Buddhism on
the eve of the Pacific war as being in league with Japanese imperialism and
as an obstacle to Canadianization precedes an examination of Jodo Shinshu's
establishment and administration in the detention centres. The spread of
the faith to other parts of Canada with the concurrent resettlement east of
the Rockies is offered as evidence that policy makers and bureaucrats
largely unfamiliar with the faith inadvertently contributed to its survival
and propagation. The post-war Canadian setting where tolerance of cultural
differences, at least legally, was far more apparent than before the war
contributed to the renewal of Buddhism.
This paper relies heavily on documents and terse reports of the British
Columbia Security Commission (BCSC), the federal body struck to oversee the
removal of the Japanese from the protected zone and their subsequent
supervision; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP); the Department of
External Affairs (DEA); and the recollections of three Jodo Shinshu
ministers who lived through the period.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in Pre-War Canada
There were eight ministers for a Canadian Buddhist population numbering
around 15,000 at the outbreak of the Pacific war, although combined temple
membership amounted to a tenth of that figure. All were ministers of a
Japanese sect often perceived, fairly or unfairly, by North Americans as
having close and sympathetic links to an expansionist Japanese
government. Its founder, Shinran (11731262), a 12th-century monk
sometimes compared to Martin Luther for his break with orthodoxy,
championed a Buddhism aimed at commoners. Jodo Shinshu (jodo, pure land or
realm; shin, true; shu, religion) became the most popular of several Pure
Land sects which emerged during the Kamakura (1185-1333) revival of
Buddhism; its appeal--along with that of the Nichiren and Zen
sects--contrasted with the esoteric form introduced to 6th-century Japanese
court life and that flowered among the aristocracy in the Nara period
Perhaps Shinran's greatest personal contributions were his break with
celibacy vows, symbolic of the distance between the spiritual and the
temporal, and the concomitant elevation of everyday life as compatible with
Buddhist objectives. Rather than seeking enlightenment through ascetic and
monastic practices, as was the wont in both the older Theravada tradition
and the original Mahayana extension into Tibet, China, Korea and Japan,
Shinran lived a commoner's life and invoked the name of a buddha known as
Amida--Namu Amida Butsu or nembutsu--as the way to achieve release from
Shinran's teachings grew, despite his own disavowal of founding a new
religion, let alone leading it, and solidified in an institution known as
the Hongwanji (literally Primal Vow temple) in Kyoto that came to dominate
Japanese Buddhism during the seven centuries after his death. By the late
19th century, during the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japanese laborers, most
of whom were nominal Buddhists, began migrating to Hawaii, the United
States, Canada and various Latin American countries to work in mines and on
sugar cane plantations, railroad gangs, lumber crews, fishing boats and
farms. They carried their various faiths with them and, in time, often at
their request, Jodo Shinshu missionaries followed and established a
presence where immigrants settled.
The Buddhist Churches of Canada, the umbrella organization through which
individual temples maintain links to the mother temple, dates its founding
to November, 1904, in Vancouver, a year before the arrival of the first
Jodo Shinshu resident minister. While there were immigrants who embraced
other sects of Buddhism, institutional Buddhism in Canada in time became
synonymous with the Jodo Shinshu mission served by ministers born, trained
and ordained in Japan. Temples were founded in Vancouver, in the Fraser
Valley, on Vancouver Island, in the Okanagan (Kelowna) and in southern
Alberta (Raymond) where immigrants had settled, some before the turn of the
century. At the outbreak of the Pacific war, four ministers were
assigned to two temples in Vancouver (Headquarters and Fairview), and one
each in Maple Ridge, Steveston, New Westminster, and Royston on Vancouver
Island. Satellite and outlying temples and fellowships were served by
circuit ministers from the main temples on a regular or special basis.
The Okanagan and Raymond temples, which were outside the protected zone,
became important centres for maintaining continuity and for those Buddhists
opting to leave before facing forced detention and removal to camps and
Image of Unassimilable Buddhism and Canadian Security
If there were concerns about possible links between Jodo Shinshu in Canada
and Japanese imperialism in East Asia, there is little in either RCMP or
Canadian Army intelligence accounts to suggest that the religion was a
threat to provincial or federal security. At the same time, it has been
noted that where Japan and Canadians of Japanese ancestry were concerned,
the intelligence branches were "extraordinarily weak in general and
especially so in that they had almost no officers able to speak and read
Japanese." This may have accounted for the absence of specific
references to Jodo Shinshu in intelligence accounts. Nevertheless, the
perception of a connection between Buddhism and Japanese nationalism in the
larger population would not have been inconsistent with the racial
animosity toward Asians generally and the Japanese specifically. This
suspicion was heightened by such common practices of the Japanese as
retaining dual citizenship, establishing language schools and clustering in
enclaves seemingly resistant to assimilation. Without the ominous
developing international context, these acts individually were innocent and
unexceptional in themselves, paralleling as they did the experiences of
other immigrant groups who engaged in activities designed to perpetuate
traditional and comforting practices in a new and strange land.
At the same time, the recentness of Japanese immigration and the
introduction of Buddhism to Canada contributed to Jodo Shinshu's public
image. Knowledge of Buddhism, only about three decades in North America by
then, was limited largely to Orientalists, religious scholars, Christian
missionaries to Asia, and world travellers, who constituted a small, elite
group in Canada and the United States. Moreover, there was little assurance
that the knowledge they held was sophisticated or that those with such
expertise made much of an impression on government. Keeping in mind that
most common Japanese practitioners,themselves with little or no formal
education, hardly knew or cared about scholarly distinctions among
different sects, the same may have held in the case of North Americans
familiar with general Buddhism but not Jodo Shinshu.
To the extent that Jodo Shinshu was distinguished at all from other Asian
religions, its characterization as a foreign creed hampering the
assimilation of the Japanese to Canadian society was unremarkable. On this
point, the Vancouver Unit of the Fellowship for a Christian Social Order
(FCSO) identified religion as contributing to the gulf between "Orientals"
and "Occidentals" and implied strongly the retarding effect of
Japanese-trained Buddhist clergy on assimilation:
A large proportion of our Japanese residents are members or adherents of
Christian churches. Many others are Buddhists; since on this continent
there is no centre for the training of Buddhist priests, it is necessary to
bring Buddhist clergymen from Japan. Canadian Buddhists have subscribed
freely to patriotic funds and to gifts to Canadian soldiers, but it is
perhaps inevitable that Buddhist churches should be centres of influence
not favourable to processes of Canadianization."
The FSCO, founded in 1934, was "easily the most radical organization of
social clergy in Canada," an outgrowth of the Movement for a Christian
Social Order, begun in 1931 in Toronto, that eventually became "national in
scope and ostensibly interdenominational in orientation, though clearly
dominated by the United Church." If as liberal a religious organization
as this could identify the Japanese-speaking clergy as an obstacle to
Canadianization, how much more so the general population's attitude toward
the possibility of assimilation of Buddhists.
More to the point, however, the FCSO statement hardly demonstrated the
inevitability of what it lamented. Further, even if assimilation or
Canadianization was a desideratum of some Japanese Canadians, that goal was
shared by a few in the white population who largely characterized all
Asians--Japanese, Chinese and East Indian alike, whether Buddhist or
not--as culturally unassimilable. Given the racially charged atmosphere
of British Columbia, then, it was dubious that wholesale adaptation of
Western attitudes and behavior by highly visible Asian populations would
have overcome other legal and informal hurdles to assimilation. Whether
the FCSO intended to argue in favor of an efficacious Christianity to
hasten Canadianization, the implication that it somehow helped the Japanese
sounded hollow, especially in light of the establishment and propagation of
separate and largely segregated Japanese churches of various Christian
denominations. Nonetheless, the intimation was strong that conversion,
indeed, advanced assimilation.
Buddhism itself may have contributed to the overall negative picture of the
Japanese in Canada, with its old-country aura, its reliance on a language
of strange scripts and sounds and its exotic rituals and costumes. However,
apart from occasional references to Jodo Shinshu or Buddhism for
identifying certain individuals, there was little or no serious discussion
of religious principles and practices or their political overtones that
indicated anything threatening in the limited intelligence scrutiny the
Japanese in Vancouver and outlying centres came under from as early as
1937 to the time of their forced evacuation in 1942.
The lack of Canadian surveillance of temples or ministers did not mean they
were ignored altogether, as revealed by a peculiar package of British
intelligence documents issued June, 1942, over the signature of the
legendary Canadian spy-catcher, William S. Stephenson. In one of the
documents, an unidentified agent's suspicion of Jodo Shinshu was obvious in
an interpretation of a news item gleaned from The New Canadian, an
English-language Japanese weekly. The item was a report of a New
Westminster Young Women's Buddhist Association meeting that began with a
minute of silence which was given a sinister meaning.
This would probably be included, as is the custom in Japan at such
meetings, in order that all might remember Japanese soldiers killed in
Jodo Shinshu gatherings typically begin with a moment of silence or
meditation during which time the mind might be cleared to help hear the
"call of the Amida Buddha," in short, a ritual to intensify the religious
experience. This is not to deny that there may have been those at the
meeting who remembered deceased family members or friends, some of whom
very likely may have been killed serving in the Japanese military; but,
typical of an intelligence mindset, the operative's singular construction
overlooked a more plausible explanation and exaggerated the possibility of
a direct link between the meditative act and support for Japanese
The minister of the New Westminster temple, Rev. Shinjo Ikuta, unnamed but
identified in the report as having lauded the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis after
Japan's accession to it in a talk he had given at the Vancouver temple, was
listed as a prime suspect for arrest in another part of the same
document. Overall, however, the ministers were only one among a number
of others--businessmen, farmers, fishermen, Japanese-language newspapermen,
judo instructors--believed to be community leaders whose internment was
deemed prudent in case war occurred.
Internment and Removal
The RCMP did not share the Stephenson document's evaluation of Rev. Ikuta,
although it did include a Jodo Shinshu minister among the first 37
so-called leaders interned immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack.
However, the arrest of Rev. Eon Mitsubayashi, assistant minister of the
Vancouver Buddhist Church since his arrival from Japan in 1937, had less to
do with religion than his alleged Japanese military officer background
before becoming a minister. This surmise seemed to be confirmed by the
fact that the remaining seven ministers--six of whom were Japanese
nationals--were neither immediately interned nor detained, and were allowed
to continue their ministerial duties during the period between the attack
and their eventual detention or removal at various times in 1942.
Indeed, Rev. Ikuta, who appeared high on Stephenson's list of suspicious
Japanese and had been resident minister of the New Westminster temple since
1934, was neither interned nor forced into a detention centre but was
permitted to travel--apparently with little or no security concerns--with
his wife and their five children to Raymond, site of the Buddhist temple in
Mitsubayashi, first detained in an Vancouver immigration branch holding
area through mid-February, 1942, was separated from his wife and young son
until the end of the war in work and labor camps in Seebe (Kananaskis),
Alberta; Petawawa, Ontario; and the internment camp at Angler, Ontario. His
name appeared on a list of men released from a hostel in Moose Jaw,
Saskatchewan in July, 1946. Reunited with his family in Coaldale, Alberta,
he served six months as minister of a temple established in that town in
1942 before ultimately being deported to Japan. One other
minister--Rev. Sukan Asaka of Royston--was sent for six months to the Blue
River-Yellowhead road camp project at Thunder River, B.C., north of
Karoloops, before being reunited at the Sandon, B.C., ghost town camp with
his family, who had been held separately at Hastings Park assembly centre
Of the remaining five ministers, three--including the sole Canadian said to
have been on the last ship leaving Japan for Canada before the Pearl Harbor
attack--were sent to Sandon, designated as the Buddhist centre in an
incipient but ultimately unsuccessful plan to segregate the population
according to religion. Rev. Dozan Katatsu of the Steveston temple, Rev.
Ryuichi Hirahara of the Fairview branch of the main Vancouver church, and
Rev. Takashi Tsuji, the Canadian who served briefly at the main Vancouver
temple, were at Sandon with Rev. Asaka. In time, Rev. Katatsu was placed in
charge of the Lemon Creek temple; Rev. Hirahara, Slocan; Rev. Asaka, New
Denver, leaving Rev. Tsuji in Sandon as well as looking after a
congregation in Bay Farm? Rev. Renshin Tachibana of the Vancouver Buddhist
Church was sent to Tashme, a camp 14 miles east of Hope, B.C., and a few
miles outside the protected area. Rev. Yutetsu Kawamura of the Maple Ridge
Buddhist Church was invited back to Raymond by a farmer whom he had
befriended during his first ministerial assignment in the early '30s, but
this time to labor on a sugar beet farm. After six months, he was permitted
to move to Picture Butte--a small town north of Lethbridge--to help found a
temple there in 1942 for about 250 families who also had moved into the
area before the deadline on free movement.
The mass uprooting left the Buddhist mission in Canada in limbo. The
temples fell to the care of a government-appointed custodian whose apparent
indifference aggravated the miseries. Temples were used to store members'
personal possessions and other goods they were not allowed to move because
of BCSC-imposed baggage restrictions. Much to their sorrow virtually all
temples were vandalized, the contents pilfered, maliciously scattered about
and damaged or lost in inexplicable fires. Most religious
paraphernalia--including ashes of deceased members stored in temple
columbaria--had been taken by the evacuees or subsequently removed by
special permission, and the remaining temples and property disposed of by
the custodian. ithout any assurance of a spiritual leader, or the
comfort of close-knit congregations of long-standing. The task of building
new associations in camps was undertaken quickly even though it often
involved strangers linked only by a common religion working together to
reconstruct a semblance of their former life. Raymond, the eventual
destination of two ministers, was the only temple in the country for a time
with a resident minister. Even here, certain townspeople sought to have the
temple closed until their action was overruled by federal authorities whose
principles, personal sensitivities and political savvy prevailed. The
decision, discussed below, bespoke the extent to which the well-being of
Buddhism fell into the hands of people largely unfamiliar with it on a
Freedom of Religion within Government Limits
Other than individuals like Hugh Keenleyside, the assistant Undersecretary
of State for External Affairs, and Prof. Henry F. Angus of the University
of British Columbia, bureaucrats and politicians responsible for the
Japanese in Canada had little or no knowledge of Buddhism beyond the
popular view that it had some connection with Japanese imperialism. Despite
this apparent ignorance, whether out of a conviction in religious freedom
or fears that interfering with a religious group might invite complaints to
the International Red Cross or to Spain, the Protecting Power or, worse
still, reprisals against Canadians in Japan, the Canadian government
consciously avoided hindering the observance of Jodo Shinshu rites and
practices in the various centres. Extant documents dealing explicitly with
Buddhist matters reveal that the authorities generally restricted their
involvement to the substantive issues initiating them, such as handling a
request from detainees about obtaining the services of a minister or
deciding whether Buddhist ministers should be given maintenance (relief).
These two points are explored more fully below. The BCSC exercised the
greatest day-to-day influence as its mandate was to "make orders respecting
the conduct, activities and discipline of any person evacuated under the
provisions" of Cabinet policies justifying the mass removal.
Buddhists as a group may not have been as active as the main-line Christian
faiths in relations with the administration, mainly because their
organizational base had collapsed with their exclusion from the protected
zone. They also were disadvantaged by a deliberative bureaucracy informally
clinging to the idea of faith-based interior centres and non-governmental
intervenors who tried to loosen the Buddhist-old country hold, especially
on the Canadian-born second generation (Nisei). Overall, religious
tolerance can be read into the daily operations under the BCSC, although
various of its procedures may have been occasioned by political expediency.
When a Raymond town hall meeting of May 24, 1942, petitioned the town
council to close the local Buddhist temple, policy makers at DEA rejected
the request as inconsistent with religious liberty. Interpreting the
request as unnecessarily restrictive and designed to place an additional
constraint on top of that imposed by the BCSC, Keenleyside pointedly wrote:
Local communities . . . have demanded even more stringent regulations and
these have in some cases been promised. For instance, the application of a
type of supervision which goes beyond the demands of military or police
security and reflects racial dislike is often demanded (in the resolution
of the Raymond meeting a curfew is asked for). The proposal that the
Buddhist temple should be closed is on the face of it inconsistent with one
of Mr. Roosevelt's four basic liberties and there is no evidence from
police sources that the temple is used for improper purposes.
The response to A.D.P. Heeney, clerk of the Privy Council, who sought DEA's
views on the town hall request, illustrated the gulf between policy and its
implementation, particularly by a BCSC constrained by time and political
pressures to establish bureaucratic procedures quickly. Keenleyside traced
the grievance fathering the request to BCSC-generated
expectations which are not completely consistent with one another and are
not consistent with various statements of general policy made from time to
time on behalf of the Government.
Less-than-ideal conditions saddled BCSC with a massive task, and
Keenleyside was not unsympathetic to its difficulties. At the same time, to
prepare for the long-term treatment of Canadians of Japanese origin,
Keenleyside proposed that government
make a frank, sincere and explicit public statement showing the
difficulties which have been encountered and the obvious impossibility of
fulfilling all the expectations which have been allowed to arise or even
deliberately excited. The government might then take general responsibility
for what the [BCS] Commission has done while explaining that the details
must be subject to considerations of general policy?
Keenleyside's concerns were expressed even as the evacuation was
proceeding, making the confusion understandable; but subsequent BCSC
regulations, some mentioned above and discussed below, stand out as
recurrent problems of translating policy into action. Still, policy-makers
and bureaucrats alike tried to give the appearance of acting consistently
with Keenleyside's admonition in another part of his response. There, he
warned that the treatment of a racial minority
involves considerations of an international character and should be kept in
harmony with the war aims to which the United Nations [countries arrayed
against the Axis powers] have expressed their adherence or which they may
formulate from time to time.
Keenleyside, a British Columbian and a former first secretary at the
Canadian legation in Tokyo between 1929 and 1936, was the only External
Affairs member in Ottawa with any official experience in Japan. As a young
man in Vancouver, he met and worked with both Japanese and Chinese. This,
together with his background in diplomacy, generated an understanding of
the Japanese rare among government officials. Both he and Professor
Angus, at DEA on loan from his university, were the two most knowledgeable
about the Japanese. Unfortunately for those Japanese who placed their hopes
for a temperate decision on these two, their strong opposition to the
tougher policy which government eventually chose weakened their influence
on the Japanese question within Cabinet, the Department and among federal
and provincial B.C. politicians. The most outspoken among the latter
was A.W. Neill, an independent member of Parliament representing the
Comox-Alberni riding, who was frequently joined by Conservatives and
Liberals alike in accusing Ottawa of defining the Japanese issue as a
British Columbia problem, rather than a national one. Liberal Cabinet
member Ian Mackenzie (minister of pension and national health), while more
circumspect in expressing his anti-Orientalism, had the ear of Prime
Minister Mackenzie King, who was politically aware about maintaining party
Ultimately, Cabinet concerns about Buddhism were based almost equally on
anticipating the Japanese government's reaction to the way detainees were
treated as they were on religious tolerance. In a bureaucratic instance
echoing this practical concern, BCSC Commissioner George Collins worried in
a letter to Arthur J. McNamara, deputy minister of the Department of Labor,
that denying Buddhist ministers maintenance might be interpreted by the
Japanese government as "suppressing or obstructing their religions
activities" and could create a misunderstanding between Japan and the
DEA. The response was notable for its pragmatism, but to the faithful
among the detainees who in any case would not have been privy to or cared
about the distinction, the main result was that they were allowed to
practice their religion in the new settings.
Jodo Shinshu in New Environs
Most expulsions from the protected zone were completed by October, 1942,
more than 10 months after the attack at Pearl Harbor. The dilatoriness of
the proceedings and, more convincingly, the complete lack of treasonous
activity by the Japanese in British Columbia in the meantime belied claims
that they posed a security threat or that the emergency conditions prompted
by the war did not permit the luxury of due process. Still, as the reality
of the uprooting set in, the detainees temporarily suspended whatever
perceived injustices there were to attend to everyday life in new and often
Leaving spiritual matters pretty much to the practitioners of the various
faiths did not altogether eliminate disagreements with the BCSC over
regulations and intentions? Two instances of the latter were exemplified by
the manner in which a request for a Buddhist minister for Kaslo was handled
and how political concerns led to assisting Jodo Shinshu ministers who had
no outside institution to fall back on to help sustain Buddhism in an
Faith-Designated Centres: A Minister for Kaslo
With the exception of Rev. Tachibana in Tashme, the ministers were
concentrated in the west Kootenay region within a 60-kilometre radius:
Sandon, Slocan, Lemon Creek, New Denver, Roseberry, Popoff and Bay Farm.
Ministers were permitted to travel between centres to perform marriages and
funerals and look after their members, although one of the ministem at
Sandon complained that he had neither the means to travel nor to support
himself. Photographs of dharma (Sunday) school teachers' and young
Buddhists' gatherings in the area record the thriving Jodo Shinshu life in
the camps. [Figs. 1 through 3]
Photographs also reinforce the conventional view that an unstated BCSC rule
to segregate detainees according to religion may have been operating
informally. The seed for such a plan may have been sown in a letter the
Archbishop W.M. Duke of Vancouver sent to Ian Mackenzie, soliciting
Mackenzie's help to remove about 150 Japanese-Catholic families as a group
to a location near Grand Forks, B.C. Mackenzie suggested the matter be
explored with Austin Taylor, the BCSC chairman, and agreed to apprise the
minister of labor (Humphrey Mitchell) about the Archbishop's request. A
subsequent proposal, never hardened into policy but favorably received by
the BCSC initially and the Japanese, would have sent United Church members
to Kaslo, Anglicans to Slocan, Roman Catholics to Greenwood, and Buddhists
to Sandon, but foundered later and eventually was allowed to die when a
faction within the BCSC "was suspicious of the solidarity of Japanese
people and the tendency to move from place to place as a group." Rev.
Tsuji recalled a half-century later that Sandon was a "Buddhist site" and
Jodo Shinshu followers were encouraged to gather there, but added that the
Buddhists were the largest and most active group in all of the camps
regardless of nominal designation.
The BCSC also had other, more practical and pressing reasons to ignore the
proposal, such as having to balance the increasingly vocal public demands
that large numbers of Japanese be removed from the protected area quickly
against finding sites with receptive populations or populations who did not
protest the influx of Japanese. Moreover, even if one assumes that
non-churchgoers could be identified and separated from church members, the
administrative task of categorizing them by religion and assigning them to
one of the sites would have been next to impossible. If nominal Buddhists
or United Church members, for instance, were operative categories, the BCSC
would not have been able to find sites large enough to hold the numbers
listed for both denominations in the 1941 census. While formally
ignored, the plan appeared to have had de facto acceptance among BCSC
workers whose casual bureaucratic references linking certain sites to
particular religions recur in directives and other documents.
Apropos this point was a letter from Buddhists in Kaslo complaining that
their "many inquiries [since their removal in 1942] as to having a Buddhist
priest here" had gone unanswered. A petition bearing the names of 220 Kaslo
residents of the Buddhist faith followed but that, too, prompted no action.
The Buddhists persisted in their objective by turning to BCSC Commissioner
Due to the fact that there is a war on we are fully prepared to withstand
any form of physical hardship to a standard, but would at least like to
gain relief and comfort mentally through our religion.
E.L. Boultbee, general manager of interior housing, New Denver, who
regarded Kaslo as a centre for non-Buddhists, nonetheless showed readiness
to overlook that unstated rule:
While we have not encouraged a Buddhist Priest to take up residence in
Kaslo as it was more or less recognized as a United and Church of England
settlement, I would suggest that you advise the Committee [making the
request for a Buddhist minister] that we will have no objection to the
installation of one priest provided they find accommodation for him?
Collins next asked H.P. Lougheed, supervisor, Kaslo, whether he would
recommend the transfer of a minister from Sandon if one were willing to
move. Lougheed responded by injecting the issue of harmony into the
equation and reiterating the accommodation problem:
. . . This point has risen several times in the past and I have always been
advised to keep a priest of this faith out of here as much as possible as
they felt that it might upset the harmony of the town.
At the moment there is a delegation in Sandon seeing whether or not they
are able to obtain a priest. The Buddhist Committee feel that the
Commission should be responsible for the housing of the priest. . . . [O]ur
housing position is still very acute and it is very difficult for me to
tell them unless I know the number in the priest's family . . . .
[A]pproximately two hundred and fifty Japanese . . . follow the Buddhist
faith. A great deal depends on the type of man that comes here whether any
petty jealousies among themselves may be set up. With a great number of the
older generation I can certainly see the point wishing for a priest of
their own faith. My only hope is that if he comes here that we will be able
to carry on in as much harmony as we now enjoy.
The fact that Lougheed would admit to the recurrence of the request
suggested foot-dragging on his or his office's part, although he does not
identify who advised him that the harmony of Kaslo depended upon the
exclusion of a Buddhist minister, why that should be so, or, most
curiously, why so many Buddhists landed at a site meant for United and
Anglican church members. Moreover, he did not elaborate on the "petty
jealousies" that might be revived by a minister's presence.
Rev. Asaka was mentioned as a possible candidate following a meeting with
the Kaslo Buddhist delegation. Lougheed was unclear about Rev. Asaka's
status despite knowing that Asaka was to have been transferred to New
Denver at an earlier date. The exchange concluded with the note that the
Committee had asked Lougheed to see whether Rev. Asaka would be able to
accept the Kaslo request if he had not been transferred.
The foregoing illustrates the administrative stonewalling and vagueness
created by a request for a Buddhist minister at a location officially
undesignated but practically accepted as Christian. On the one hand, the
episode bespoke the deliberateness characteristic of bureaucracies and, in
this case, a failure to respond speedily to the principle of religious
liberty which had been championed in Keenleyside's letter to Heeney. On the
other hand, it smacked of ad hoc decision-making that hardly inspired
confidence in the overseer's judgment. The correspondence ended as noted
above, with no apparent resolution. An RCMP report from the Kaslo
detachment a year later suggested that a minister never was sent to Kaslo.
In a memorandum of a visit to Kaslo by the honorary Spanish consul from
Vancouver, Cpl. F.S. Farrar reported that "[o]ther complaints follow - a
Buddhist priest for Kaslo . . . ," indicating that the original request had
gone unanswered. Cryptically, a subsequent report of a visit in 1945 by the
delegate of the International Red Cross did note that a minister was
located in Kaslo.
Starting Anew: The Matter of Maintenance
If uprooting and confinement generally upset lives and worked hardships,
Buddhist ministers were particularly vulnerable. The exception was Rev.
Tsuji who was fluent in English and able to adapt to the sudden change by
serving as a principal of the Bay Farm school. The other ministers, whose
formal Japanese training and background offered virtually nothing in the
way of a livelihood in Canada other than being a Buddhist missionary, faced
the daunting task of surviving at least until some kind of Jodo Shinshu
network was in place. The dilemma facing individual ministers was
compounded by the complete lack of a support mechanism outside the
detention sites, unlike the Japanese Christian ministers whose hardship may
have been leavened by a national infrastructure that offered comfort, aid
and encouragement. Even before the war, because of their origin,
Buddhist ministers and temples subsisted on the generosity of their
members; with the war, this source of support vanished with the mass
evacuation and required time to rebuild. Moreover, the largely symbolic
links to the mother temple in Kyoto--which in any event were not backed by
a salary or allowance--were severed for the duration of the war, and no
central administrative hierarchy existed to keep the widely separated
ministers apprised of one another's activities.
BCSC memoranda debating the wisdom of extending relief to the ministers
expressed concerns that failure to do so would be misread in Japan as
persecution of incarcerated Japanese nationals. As shameful as the idea of
welfare might have been to the Japanese, those--among them Buddhist
ministers--who were unemployable in the scheme of interior camp life were
given maintenance based on provincial relief rates. As noted above,
Commissioner Collins favored granting maintenance to the "four or five
families involved" because "the head of the family in most cases is not fit
nor accustomed to heavy manual labour." Granting maintenance conformed
with Collins' apparent opposition to the idea of Buddhist ministers'
confining their activities to spiritual duties; he emphasized this by
declining "to authorize transportation for them to travel among the various
communities for missionary work." How many ministers ultimately were
placed on maintenance is not clear, although there are records from June,
1943, to December, 1945, indicating payments to a minister at Lemon Creek?
Robbed of their source of income, unable to be gainfully employed in camp,
restricted in their missionary work, the ministers and their adherents fell
on the indulgences of the BCSC, the strength of the practitioners
themselves, and, in some important ways, the Japanese Christians. While the
Buddhists in time regrouped and restored practices that sustained their
pre-war temples--donations for a variety of religious services--the
Christian churches continued to fill a vacuum in camp life. The United,
Anglican and Roman Catholic members who received support from external
church hierarchies, often from people who had some past missionary
experience in Japan or with the Japanese, were instrumental in initiating
kindergartens, assisting in establishing and teaching high schools, and
providing related fellowship in which many young Buddhists
participated. Jodo Shinshu young adults who wanted to leave the camps
also took advantage of Christian church assistance to resettle in eastern
towns and cities. LaViolette reported that various government authorities
suspected Buddhist priests of discouraging resettlement because there were
no Buddhist temples east of the Rockies, but he added that there appeared
to have been no discrimination by the Christians against Japanese who
wanted to resettle because they happened to be Buddhists.
There is no recorded instance of an explicitly prejudicial stance by the
BCSC toward the Jodo Shinshu community, but how sensitive those in
positions of authority were to requests of ministers and adherents is
illustrated by the examples discussed. It would not seem unfair to
characterize the Kaslo episode or the reason for approving maintenance as
begrudging or hostile at worst, benignly neglectful at best? At the same
time, ironically, government-backed sugar-beets projects that had sent
4,000 people--many of them Buddhists--to Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario by
the end of October, 1942, breathed new life into the Buddhist movement
in Alberta and helped establish the foundation for its post-war beginnings
in the other provinces.
Buddhist Revival in Alberta
Raymond was the site of the only pre-war temple--founded in 1930--outside
of British Columbia. Rev. Kawamura tells of a Buddhist fellowship founded
the same year in Hardieville, a small coal-mining town north of Lethbridge,
populated by immigrants from Okinawa; but many moved to Coaldale about 10
miles eastward and entered farming when the mines were closed. Evidence
that the Hardieville association continued at least into 1942 is recorded
in a RCMP memorandum concerning a request from Rev. Kawamura that he be
permitted to conduct a "cemetary [sic] day" [Obon] service there. The same
report also noted that "Mr. Mitsubayashi" had led the observances in
1941. Given the few Jodo Shinshu ministers in Canada, Mr. Mitsubayashi
and Rev. Mitsubayashi of Vancouver--the only minister interned--undoubtedly
were one and the same person, and the subject of RCMP surveillance four
months before the Pearl Harbor attack.
While the combined populations of Okinawans who moved to Coaldale before
the outbreak of the war and the later evacuees from British Columbia
contributed to the establishment of a temple in Coaldale, it was the church
in Raymond which received the major influx of newcomers. Raymond's pre-war
congregation of about 125 had Rev. Kawamura as the resident minister until
January, 1940, when he decided to return with his family to Japan. En
route to Japan in Vancouver, however, he was intercepted by Rev. Zenu Aoki,
the acting bishop, who asked him to go to the Maple Ridge mission to fill
temporarily a vacancy created by the death of the resident minister. War
interceded; Rev. Kawamura never got to Japan and, in time, returned to
Raymond as noted. He and Rev. Ikuta became the loci around which the small
local Buddhist population and those expelled from the protected zone
gathered to help revitalize Jodo Shinshu in southern Alberta.
Unlike the confined ministers, Revs. Ikuta and Kawamura were employed
initially as laborers upon their arrival in Raymond before resuming
ministerial duties, Rev. Ikuta in Raymond and Rev. Kawamura eventually in
Picture Butte. They came under RCMP surveillance, begun before the Pacific
war of the resident Japanese population and broadened to include the
newcomers, that continued long after the end of the war. From among
numerous RCMP reports, an early dispatch, based upon interviews with
neighbours, concluded with the notation that Rev. Kawamura's residence on a
farm enhanced "his freedom of movement and ability to contact people
As the West Coast inhabitants tried to acclimatize themselves to a
landscape which must have seemed forbidding to those more familiar with
temperate winters and maritime conditions, old religious ties helped to
cushion the shock of prairie life. Besides temples at Raymond and Picture
Butte, others were founded in Coaldale and Taber, in 1947, and Rosemary, in
1948, locations where only a smattering of Buddhists lived before the war.
A growing social life around the new temples--a feature reminiscent of
pre-war churches which doubled as a centre for non-religious and community
events--attracted many to dances, suppers and various fund-raisers that
relieved an otherwise restricted and monotonous existence. Lethbridge was
open--and grudgingly at that--to the Japanese only for employment, the city
council of that largest of area towns having voted to prohibit them from
residing within its limits. In time, however, that ban was lifted and the
Buddhists who moved there formed an association in 1948 which grew to be
the largest in southern Alberta.
The type of resistance to Buddhism noted above in the Raymond town hall
meeting did not end with the close of the war, although the source of the
hostility shifted. RCMP documents identified a closer and surprising source
of opposition, Japanese Christians in southern Alberta, who charged
Buddhist ministers with obstructing the realization of a status for
Japanese Canadians equal to that of the dominant population. The severity
of the accusations and the magnitude of the support among Japanese
Christians are difficult to infer from the reports themselves, for names of
leaders and supporters and their exact numbers are not disclosed. The RCMP
reported in one case that "[l]eading members of the Japanese Christian
Associations had no objection to the Buddhist religion" but blamed their
marginal status as Canadians of Japanese descent largely on "the retention
of the Japanese nationalistic ways of living as promoted by the Buddhists."
It further was claimed that "through the acceptance of Christianity the
Japanese will find themselves accepted as an integral part of Canadian
society." This oft-repeated assimilation claim in support of
Christianity recurred in other RCMP reports without elaboration, but never
more intensely than when deportation orders were issued, first, to Rev.
Ikuta and, later, Rev. Kawamura.
When Rev. Ikuta's dilemma became widely known, the RCMP reported the
following from a person identified only as "one leading Japanese
I and others are pleased to hear that it is planned to send one, and we
hope the rest, of the Buddhist priests, back to Japan. The sooner they do
it will be better for all the Japanese. As the spiritual leaders of the
Buddhists these priests hold the Japanese to the Japanese modes and ways of
living. In their services they always speak of the soul and spirit of
Japan. They promote the continued use of the Japanese language and when
they have spare time they teach the Japanese language to Canadian born
Japanese . . . . In my opinion the Buddhist priests are about the only
personal ties the Japanese in Canada have with the old Japanese Nationalism
and customs. When they go and the Japanese accept Christianity as a lot of
us have done we will be able to live on almost normal grounds with the
Canadians . . . . We can be assimilated, as far as that is possible, and
live in harmony here, as soon as the old Japanese customs are dropped and
that will not take place as long as Buddhists (sic) priests, of the
Japanese variety, remain here.
Through the intervention of key individuals, including the manager of the
sugar beet factory which employed Rev. Ikuta and Sen. William A. Buchanan,
combined with representations from both community and temple members, a
year's extension was granted to Rev. Ikuta. Rev. Kawamura, too, applied
and, with similar support which involved Senator Buchanan, received an
extension. Further extensions were ultimately granted and neither was
forced to return to Japan. An attempt to retain a third minister--Rev.
Mitsubayashi--who by this time had joined his wife in Coaldale, met with
strong opposition, especially given his alleged Japanese military
background, and he and his family eventually were deported as noted above.
As the drama in southern Alberta was being played out and the British
Columbia interior sites were being closed, the remaining ministers and
detainees were faced with a choice of moving east of the Rocky Mountains or
being forced to repatriate or emigrate to Japan in what became known as the
second relocation. The repatriation order, aimed as well at those born in
Canada who had never lived in or been to Japan, eventually was rescinded
because of intense political opposition and negative public opinion. Adding
weight to the opposition were some justices who narrowly found the action
legal on appeal but expressed major reservations about its wholesale
application. Even at that, revocation did not come soon enough for about
4,000 persons who decided or were forced to go to Japan. Additionally,
since the path back to the protected zone remained blocked by government
decree, those who did not want to stay in the interior were constrained to
move out of the province in keeping with the dispersal policy.
Rev. Tsuji eventually reached Toronto where he helped found a temple there
in 1945. Temples also were established during 1946 in Winnipeg, Hamilton
and Montreal, cities in which sizeable numbers resettled, but all without
the services of a minister. The other incarcerated ministers either
returned or were deported to Japan just at a time when the demand for
their leadership and guidance was increasing in new congregations. The
Japanese diaspora in both Canada and the United States introduced Jodo
Shinshu to areas largely unfamiliar with either Buddhism or North Americans
of Japanese descent, an unintended consequence of parallel racist
policies. In British Columbia's lower mainland, the centre of prewar
Jodo Shinshu activity, the reconstruction of Buddhist congregations could
not begin until 1949--four years after the end of the war--when the
government officially lifted the ban imposed in 1942, and then only in
Vancouver and Steveston where there were sufficient numbers of returnees to
rebuild. They, too, had to manage with either lay ministers or leaders
until more full-time ministers were trained or became available in the
Summary and Conclusion
The enormity of the mass evacuation overshadowed the wartime difficulties
of the Jodo Shinshu community, especially its ministers, and threatened its
existence in Canada. Whether Buddhism was considered a contributing factor
to the mass removal because of allegations against it as a manifestation of
Japanese imperialism or a victim sideswiped by a policy laden with
political, racial and economic over tones, the removal policy framed a
context in which to understand how government regarded Jodo Shinshu. The
Buddhist ministers' well-being and that of the faith, at a time when
animosities toward them were rife, were linked to an ironic twist of
priorities wherein the Canadian government highlighted religious tolerance
even as it had made a shambles of due process. Piling irony upon irony, the
government inadvertently fostered the faith and may be said, with
hindsight, to have contributed to its spread to parts of the country that
were not home to the Japanese Canadians before the war. While dispersal was
designed to resolve the "Japanese problem" in British Columbia, and the
idea of relocation east of the Rockies was regarded by the BCSC as part of
its mandate, there was little to indicate that the diffusion of Jodo
Shinshu was an avowed intention of that policy.
The re-establishment of the faith, with temples in new locales, occurred
without major changes in the composition of its congregations. The gradual
shift from Japanese to English as the primary language in use both
reflected and acknowledged the emergence of second-generation,
Canadian-born members as lay leaders. An organization called the Canada
Bukkyo Fukyo Zaidan (Canadian Buddhist Propagation Foundation) was founded
in Raymond in April, 1946, with the objectives of financially helping new
temples in central and eastern Canada and recruiting second-generation
ministers. Even when the rare Canadian-born candidate was found,
however, the future of Jodo Shinshu in Canada remained closely linked to
policy considerations of the mother temple in Kyoto since ordination rites
remained its prerogative.
About the same time, a greater tolerance in Canada toward cultural
differences began taking hold and the pre-war image of Buddhism as a
barrier to assimilation began fading with the end of hostilities with
Japan. The idea of assimilation itself gave way first to a celebration of
biculturalism, then multiculturalism. First-hand knowledge about a Japan in
defeat further exposed many North Americans to things Japanese, including
religions, and, indeed, may have piqued sufficient interest in Canada and
the United States to prompt and encourage Japanese studies in university
curricula. These factors, along with the change in emphasis to
English-language rites and services in the temples, worked to reduce the
aura of foreignness about Buddhism in Canada and, in some cases, made it
more accessible to the general population.
In summary, seven ministers and a government commitment, however lukewarm,
to a basic freedom in wartime helped maintain a Buddhist foothold in Canada
during a dark period in the history of both the country and the sect.
Religious tolerance toward Japanese-Canadians of all faiths was costly,
considering the wholesale suspension of due process and the resulting
upheaval of citizens as the price. But the Jodo Shinshu membership suffered
additionally by having been cut adrift, understandably, from its main
anchorage in the enemy state of Japan, and losing the kind of institutional
support structure that the national Christian church networks were able to
offer their Japanese brethren. The larger lesson for Canada and Jodo
Shinshu Buddhism is that in a clash of basic rights, even when
constitutionally entrenched, compelling political reasons will shape which
freedoms may have to be sacrificed for the security of the state.
Repetition of mass detention on the basis of race or religion seems
increasingly implausible in the late 20th century, the notorious War
Measures Act invoking the evacuation having been repealed by Parliament and
the 1982 Canada Act entrenching fundamental freedoms in the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms gaining legal and political ascendance. Still, the felt
need for such provisions as an override principle (the "notwithstanding
clause") in the Constitution and anti-hate legislation at century's end
suggests a lingering animus against anything markedly different from the
mainstream, a suspicion that under ideal conditions could mushroom to
overwhelm political principle and governmental policy-making processes in a
manner inimical to religious, ethnic or other minorities.
Research for this article was funded, in part, by a grant from the
University of Lethbridge Research Grant. The author is indebted to the many
research consultants and others for their assistance in locating crucial
documents at the National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, and the British
Columbia Archives and Records Service, Victoria; and to George Brandak,
Special Collections Division, University of British Columbia Library.
Thanks to a sharp-eyed and perceptive anonymous reviewer who saved the
typescript from many silly and embarrassing errors. Special thanks to Revs.
Yutetsu Kawamura, Kenryu T. Tsuji, and Susumu K. Ikuta for sharing their
personal recollections and helping to fill gaps in a story which needs
1. Language describing both Canadian and American wartime policies toward
their respective populations of Japanese varies with the source.
Governmental terminology such as evacuation," "interior housing
settlements" or "relocation" are often weak or misleading, but along with
the alternatives--"mass internment," "concentration camps" and
"deportation"-- are part of a continuing debate. This study tries to cleave
to middle ground, although the author is fully aware of the politics of
language that has surrounded the topic. Re:the use of "concentration camp,"
see Roger Daniels' unapologetic preference for this term in Prisoners
without Trials: Japanese Americans in World War II (New York: Hill and
Wang, 1993), 46.
2. Mark Mullins' monograph is perhaps the most informative and complete
English account of the Buddhist Churches of Canada. Religious Minorities in
Canada: A Sociological Study of the Japanese Experience (Queenston,
Ontario: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989). Also see Leslie S. Kawamura, "Changes
in the Japanese True Pure Land Buddhism in Alberta," in Religion and
Ethnicity, ed. by Harold Coward and L.S. Kawamura, The Calgary Institute
for the Humanities (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 1978) 37-55.
Two books in Japanese remain untranslated. Shinjo Ikuta, Kanada Bukkyokai
Enkaku Shi: Dai Niji Taisen Izen no B.C. Shu o Chusin ni (A History of the
Churches of Canada: Pre-World War II with special reference to British
Columbia), Published for the Buddhist Churches of Canada (Kyoto: Nagata
Bunshodo, 1981); and Yutetsu Kawamura, Taiheiyo Senso Toji Kanada Bukkyo
Shi (The History of Canadian Buddhism during the Pacific War) (Kyoto:
3. Mullins, using 1941 census figures, lists the number of Buddhists at
14,759, 27. Also see Charles H. Young, Helen R.Y. Reid and W.A. Carrothers,
The Japanese Canadians, ed. by H.A. Innis, reprint edition in The Asian
Experience in North America: Chinese and Japanese (Originally published by
the Univ. of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1938) (New York: Arno Press, 1978) 96;
and Forrest E. LaViolette, The Canadian Japanese and World War II: A
Sociological and Psychological Account (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press,
4. See Young, et al., 95, 99-100; LaViolette, 78-79; and Ken Adachi, The
Enemy That Never Was: A History of the Japanese Canadians (Toronto:
McClelland and Stewart, 1976) 113.
5. Brief but useful descriptions of the Jodo sect and Jodo Shinshu
especially may be found in The Encyclopaedia of Religion (1987) and The
Encyclopaedia of Japan (1983).
6. Rev. Chisato Sasaki was the first minister assigned to Canada. The
Nichiren sect had a small church in Vancouver before World War II. Toyo
Takata, Nikkei Legacy (Toronto: NC Press Ltd., 1983) 32-33.
7. Ikuta, 91-93, lists the pre-war temples and their founding dates:
Vancouver Honpa (headquarters), 1904; Vancouver West Second, 1916;
Vancouver Fairview, 1918; New Westminster, 1927; Marpole, 1928; Steveston,
1928; Mission, 1929; Raymond, 1930; Royston, 1930; Maple Ridge, 1932;
Okanagan (Kelowna), 1932; Chemainus, 1932; Victoria, 1934; Skeena, 1934;
Ocean Falls, 1935; and Whonnock, 1939. Extant temples are in italics,
although Vancouver without the headquarter appellation and Okanagan as
Kelowna. For Alberta and other temples founded during or after the war, see
text and Note 67 below.
8. First ministers are recorded in Ikuta, 80; for founding, see previous
note. Steveston, a fishing village at the mouth of the Fraser River, is
part of present-day Richmond; Maple Ridge, a fanning community in the
Fraser Valley; and Royston, in a coal-mining area south of Courtenay. In
the late 1980s, the British Columbia Buddhist Churches Federation, a
provincial organization of British Columbia temples, was renamed the
British Columbia Jodo Shiushu Buddhist Churches Federation in recognition
of the variety of and in deference to other Buddhist groups which were
founded in the province and Canada in the 1960s and 1970s.
9. Patricia Roy, J.L. Granatstein, Masako Iino and Hiroko Takamura, Mutual
Hostages: Canadians and Japanese during the Second World War (Toronto:
Univ. of Toronto Press, 1990) 48-56, quoted material at 48.
10. For brief references to a connection, see Young, Reid and Carrothers,
95, 106; LaViolette, 78-79; Adachi, 114. Winifred McBride Awmack, who
taught two years at the Tashme high school that was in the charge of and
staffed by the Women's Missionary Society of the United Church, prepared a
highly descriptive and historically valuable account. She, too, notes the
connection, although she cites it to emphasize the gulf between Old World
parents and their Canadian-born children. British Columbia Archives and
Records Service, Add. MSS 2119, "Tashme - A Japanese Relocation Centre," An
Essay for a Sociology Course at United Church Training College, March 25,
11. "Canada's Japanese," 8. No date is given but it appears the 11-page
pamphlet was published in the early 1940s.
12. Robert A. Wright, A World Mission: Canadian Protestantism and the Quest
for a New International Order, 1918-1939 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Univ.
Press, 1991) 22829.
13. H.F. Angus, "The Effect of the War on Oriental Minorities in Canada,"
Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, 7:4 (November, 1941)
506-16, especially at 507.
14. From among a number of books recounting the restrictive measures
against Asians generally and Japanese particularly, see W. Peter Ward,
White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy Toward Orientals
in British Columbia, (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 1978) 114-41.
15. Rigenda Sumida's 1935 M.A. thesis claimed that Christianity proved to
be an important channel of assimilation for early Japanese immigrants.
Sumida appeared neither to define assimilation nor indicate how to measure
the degree to which it may have occurred, other than to assert and reassert
that Christianity helped. The Japanese in British Columbia, 2 vols.,
(Vancouver: Univ. of British Columbia, 1935) 129, 132, 138. For an account
taking issue with Sumida's assertion, see Adachi, 112.
16. Ward, 145. See also Ann Gomer Sunahara, The Politics of Racism: The
Uprooting of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War (Toronto: James
Lorimer and Co., 1981) 19.
Surveillance of "persons of Japanese nationality who pursue occupations of
a seafaring nature" can be dated to 1932; and suggestion that the Canadian
military intelligence had "listed and located" all Japanese by January,
1938, is documented in Roy, et al., 32, 37.
17. National Archives of Canada (hereafter NAOC), Royal Canadian Mounted
Police Papers (hereafter RCMP Papers), RG 18/3569, "Report of Japanese
Activities in B.C., 1942", June, 1942. Stephenson, director of British
Security Co-ordination, New York, sent the report to S.T. Wood, RCMP
Commissioner, Ottawa. Much of the information appeared to have been a
duplication of what the RCMP already had or disputed by Canadian
authorities, Appendix 6, 52-53. The scope of the information and the
apparent time needed to collect the information indicated that the report
was in the making for months before the date of its issuance. Events passed
up the usefulness of the dated contents, and the report may be seen today
as a historical curiosity.
18. Ibid., Appendix 4, 38.
19. Ibid., Appendix 6, 94. Rev. Ikuta is listed as No. 20 among the 35
Class A suspects who were considered the greatest threat to security and
whose immediate and simultaneous arrests were recommended. There were Class
B suspects whose arrest also was suggested and Class C suspects against
whom action would be determined by information garnered through
interrogation of Class A suspects. Rev. Ikuta's first name is given as
Shimsei. The second Chinese ideograph used in his first name may be read jo
or sei, the Japanese reading of given names rendered in Chinese characters
being notoriously idiosyncratic. The confusion in reading suggests that
Stephenson's agents had help from or may have been Japanese-language
experts, Japanese nationals or Canadian-born Japanese with a knowledge of
the language but not acquainted with Rev. Ikuta. Claims that some in the
Japanese community assisted intelligence agents were rife, although nothing
ever has been established conclusively.
20. Ikuta discusses this, 84, and cites year of arrival, 89. The fact that
Rev. Mitsubayashi had a non-religious background should not have been
suspicious in itself since many Jodo Shinshu ministers in Japan held other
jobs prior to their ordination. Most ministers, as was Rev. Mitsubayashi,
were from temple families which owned the temples and, by tradition, kept
succession in the family. Hence, if the temple priest had a son, the son
would be employed in any number of occupations or professions until his
father retired or died. Given the context of hostilities between the Allied
countries and Japan, however, a military background was not innocuous.
21. A curfew restricted evening gatherings, but daytime activities were not
banned. The latter, however, were so restricted in time that the temples
were virtually closed except for funerals. Ikuta, 84-85.
22. Ikuta, 10. NAOC, Department of External Affairs Papers (hereafter DEA
Papers) RG25/2978/3464-B-40C. British Columbia Security Commission (BCSC)
Permit No. 01152, signed by Grant MacNeil, secretary for BCSC, was issued
to Rev. Shinjo and Mino Ikuta and teir five children to travel from New
Westminster to Lethbridge, Alberta, "to the Japanese Church there," May,
26, 1942.. The destination was Raymond, Lethbridge having no Buddhist
temple at that time.
The permit further read, "They must travel by rail, leaving Vancouver by
May 30th and must not re-enter the Restricted Area. This commission assumes
no responsibility for the cost of education of children of school age." The
point about education cost was a general problem between local and BCSC
jurisdictions for all families with school-age children.
Rev. Ikuta's oldest son, Susumu, now resident minister of the Calgary
Buddhist Temple, recalls getting off the train in Calgary during a station
stop and trying to find a restaurant. From his recollection, security on
the family's movements was lax and hardly consistent with what might be
expected for a suspect. Conversation, Rev. Susumu K. Ikuta, July 14, 1990.
23. NAOC, DEA Papers, RG25/3004/3464-C-40, Feb. 3, 1942 shows Rev.
Mitsubayashi to be among 38 to be transferred to Seebe, Alberta. Ibid., DEA
Papers, RG25/3004/3464-K-40, Note from Lt. Col. H.N. Streight, Commissioner
of Internment Operations, to Alfred Rive, Office of the Undersecretary of
the DEA, Feb. 18, 1942, for the transfer from Seebe to Camp 33, Petawawa
and Angler, and government intention to release internees from Angler on
authority of a blanket release form, July 15, 1943. NAOC, RCMP Papers,
RG18/3567/C315-36-3/7, Dec. 30, 1946 lists Mitsubayashi among 209 persons
released, July 3, 1946, and the Mitsubayashi family of three among 290
sailing for Japan as deportees or repatriates on the "Marine Falcon," on
Christmas Eve, 1946.
24. Y. Kawamura, 25-26.
25. Ibid. Rev. Hirahara was designated kantoku or director of the Canadian
temples by Rev. Zenu Aoki who held that post until his departure for Hawaii
shortly before the attack at Pearl Harbor. Rev. Hirahara, however, never
had occasion to exercise supervisory authority because of his and other
ministers' imminent incarceration or removal. Interview, Rev. Y. Kawamura,
June 14, 1992.
26. Y. Kawamura, 26, 28-29. Kawamura, like Ikuta, travelled with his wife
and young children to Raymond by train and recalled no special security
precautions. Interview, June 24, 1992. Because of dwindling membership, the
temple in Picture Butte was closed formally in 1992, shortly after a 50th
anniversary commemoration, and the remaining members joined the Lethbridge
27. Rev. Y. Kawamura recalled visiting, by special travel permit, his Maple
Ridge temple during the war. He said what the B.C. humidity did not turn to
mold vandals had rifled through or stolen. The temple butsudan (image of
the Amida Buddha, the accompanying shrine and other altar ornaments)
eventually were sent to Manitoba where many of the members were moved, and
is at the Manitoba Buddhist Church in Winnipeg today. Nothing else was
salvaged or salvageable. The temple changed hands several times and by the
time of his most recent visit had been converted to a tavern. The tavern
owner retained parts of the inside in their original state and Kawamura
said he detected design remnants of the old temple. Upon relating the
history of the building to the current owner, Kawamura was offered a drink
on the house. Interview, July 17, 1991.
28. Ikuta, 86. Many of the funeral urns containing ashes remained unclaimed
through the 1980s. The Raymond Buddhist Church, on July 18, 1993, held a
special dedication ceremony during its annual Obon service at which time
the remaining urns were sealed in a monument erected for that purpose.
"Raymond Okotsu Memorial Monument dedicated," Nikkei Voice, October, 1993,
8. Obon, a major Buddhist holiday, is a day to remember and venerate
ancestors and the deceased.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of the Mission Buddhist Church by the
custodian was donated by former members toward the establishment of the
Lethbridge Buddhist Church. History of Lethbridge Buddhist Church, compiled
by Akira Terashima, type-script, 1992, 3.
29. P.C. 1665, Mar. 4, 1942, establishing the BCSC.
30. The deliberateness with which BCSC authorities responded may be seen in
the Kaslo ministerial case below. LaViolette notes that church workers of
the Women's Missionary Society of the United Church at Lemon Creek camp
"hoped . . . to counter the influence of the Buddhist Church and its close
association with Japanese culture and life of the Old Country." 113-14, n.
22. The claims for Tashme made by Awmack, 24, may resonate with the
objective of her fellow workers at Lemon Creek. Her assertion about youths
who were formerly Buddhists but attending Christian church following their
relocation may not be difficult to verify inasmuch as the only Buddhist
churches outside the camps were in southern Alberta and most young people
were relocated to Ontario and Quebec.
31. NAOC, DEA Papers, RG25/2978/3464-B-40C, Letter, Hugh L. Keenleyside to
A.D.P Heeney, clerk of the Privy Council, June 18, 1942, 2.
32. Ibid., 1.
33. Ibid, 3.
34. Ibid., 4.
35. Keenleyside also was head of DEA's Far Eastern division in 1940 and
1941. See Memoirs of Hugh L. Keenleyside [Vol. 2: On the Bridge of Time]
(Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1981) 155. He writes fondly of his
relations with Japanese and Chinese clients of the Vancouver bank where he
worked as a young man, and is perceptive enough to identify the Daibutsu
(the Great Buddha) in Kamakura as the Amida Buddha in Memoirs of Hugh L.
Keenleyside [Vol. 1: Hammer the Golden Day] (Toronto: McClelland and
Stewart, 1981) 103-4, 336.
36. Sunahara says the two effectively were "squeezed from the
decision-making process" by spring, 1943, 113. See also 192, notes 4 and 5.
Angus received little support from officials in Keenleyside's estimation.
On the Bridge of Time, 121. Keenleyside also believed Prime Minister King's
attitude toward him (Keenleyside) changed for the worse after the
"anti-Japanese furore in British Columbia," Ibid., 170-81, especially at
Both Keenleyside and Angus were unnamed, but attacked several times in the
House of Commons by A.W. Neill, Independent M.P. for Comox-Alberni, Angus
as early as Feb. 18, 1941. Canada, House of Commons, Debates, 1018. He
repeated the attack against Angus on Feb. 19, 1942, Debates, 714, 718-19;
and against both on June 19, 1942, Debates, 3485. See also remarks by
Thomas Reid, Liberal from New Westminster, and subsequent exchange with
Humphrey Mitchell, minister of labor, Debates, June 29, 1943, 4172-74; and
G. Alexander Cruickshank, Liberal from Fraser Valley, who actually shouted
out Angus's name, Ibid., 4173. The attacks continued even after Sunahara
believed Angus and Keenleyside were frozen out of the decision-making. See
also J.L. Granatstein, A Man of Influence: Norman A. Robertson and Canadian
Statecraft, 1929-68 (Ottawa: Deneau Publishers, 1981), 159, note.
37. Mackenzie's role in successfully pressing for the restrictive policy is
discussed in Granatstein, 159-61.
38. NAOC, DEA Papers, RG25/3007/3464-AZ-40, Letter, George Collins to A.
MacNamara, Mar. 15, 1944.
39. Awmack recounts tensions resulting from the United Church's desire to
establish a high school in Tashme, especially as BCSC authorities wanted
little reason for deterring young adults to apply for settlement east of
the Rockies, 11-12. See also her account of restrictions on visitors,
especially against those from the church who might speak out against
sending detainees to Japan, 17.
40. NAOC, DEA Papers, RG25/3006/3464-AN-40C/Pt. 1, Report of Ernest L.
Maag, Delegate in Canada of the International Red Cross Committee, to S.
Morley Scott, Special Division, DEA, Feb. 22, 1943, 12. The complaint
occurred several months before the letter documented in Note 54 below which
relates an attempt to restrict missionary work among centres. On another
point, transportation costs between camps were the ministers'
responsibility, and became an argument for maintenance since they had no
other means of regular support. Letter, Collins to A. MacNamara, Mar. 15,
41. NAOC, Ian Mackenzie Papers, MG27IIIB5/24/67-25(1), Letter, Archbishop
W.M. Duke of Vancouver to Mackenzie, Mar. 3, 1942; and Mackenzie to
Humphrey, Mar. 9, 1942.
42. The point about solidarity is made in Tadashi Mitsui, The Ministry of
the United Church of Canada Amongst Japanese Canadians in British Columbia,
1892-1949, Master of Sacred Theology Thesis (Vancouver: Union College of
British Columbia, 1964) 256-7. Mitsui does not identify the faction
opposing the plan, but describes the process leading up to its failure. See
Sunahara's discussion of solidarity in another context and the government's
unwitting contribution in assisting the evacuees to establish organizations
in each camp, 93-4.
43. Letter from Rev. Tsuji, Sept. 27, 1990. Independent verification is
limited by availability of data, but the following were calculated or
gleaned from the International Red Cross report, Note 40 above: Tashme,
2,644 total, 500 Protestants, 50 Catholics, rest Buddhists; Greenwood,
1,199 total, 120 Roman Catholics, 20 Protestants, rest, Buddhists; Sandon,
930 of which 90 per cent are Buddhists. No breakdown for other centres,
NAOC, Ian Mackenzie Papers, MG27IIIB5/24/67-25(4), Nov. 23, 1942. A BCSC
document on interior housing, dated Oct. 31, 1942, lists 1,171 men, women
and children of whom 85 per cent are Roman Catholics at Greenwood; 978
individuals at Kaslo, mostly United Church people; and 931 at Sandon,
Awmack identifies Slocan as predominantly Anglican; New Denver, United; and
Sandon, Buddhist; but, because Sandon was small, the overflow to Tashme
created a large number of Buddhists there, 24.
The variations indicate the difficulty of keeping consistent records, given
the movement of detainees among sites, the different dates when counts were
made, and the accuracy of census takers.
44. LaViolette's description of the period captures the confusion and
anxiety of the impending removal, particularly as citizenship and social
status divided the Japanese; but he has no specific reference to
determining the destination of individuals or families by religious
45. See Note 56 below, comparing 1941 and 1951 census figures.
46. NAOC, British Columbia Security Commission Papers (hereafter BCSC
Papers), RG36/27/27, Letter, T. Ito to George Collins, June 11, 1943.
Concerning Buddhists in Kaslo, Mitsui describes the disappointment of Rev.
K. Shimizu, a United Church minister who had been sent to Kasio in advance
of the evacuation, when those who were moved to Kaslo "were mostly
Buddhists from Steveston who were very antagonistic toward Christianity
because of the treatment they had received from the Canadian government."
47. NAOC, BCSC Papers, RG36/27/27, Letter, E.L. Boultbee to Collins, June
48. Ibid., Letter, H.P. Lougheed to Collins, June 28, 1943.
49. Ibid., Letter, Lougheed to Collins, July 2, 1943. Lougheed wrote: "It
appears that this priest [Asaka] was to have been transferred to New Denver
some time ago but to date has heard nothing." Archival material did not
show whether Rev. Asaka eventually was sent to Kaslo, but Ikuta, 94, lists
Rev. Asaka in New Denver.
50. NAOC, RCMP Papers, RG18/3564/C-11-19-2-19, RCMP Division "E", Kaslo
Detachment, June 2, 1944. NAOC, DEA Papers, RG25/3006/3464-AN-40C[Pt.21945,
Report of an inspection tour, from Ernest Maag, the Red Cross Delegate in
Canada, to the Special Division, DEA, Dec. 17, 1945, p. 19.
51. It should be added that the support among members of the main religions
was not unanimous by any means, although formally most of the organizations
provided generous backing. A.W. Neill, the Independent MP who was a member
of a United Church congregation in Port Alberni, was adamant in his
criticism of the British Columbia Conference for opposing deportation of
the Japanese and the sale of their land without their consent. See Harold
T. Allen, The Dobson Papers: A Chronicle and Guide to the Dobson Papers
Concerning the Liquor Question and the Settlement of Oriental Peoples and
Some Other Minority Groups in British Columbia, Master of Theology Thesis,
April, 1974 (Vancouver: Vancouver School of Theology, 1975) 210-11.
52. Rev. Y. Kawamura recorded receiving a note of condolence from the Nishi
Hongwanji in Kyoto on Feb. 13, 1944, probably via the Spanish Embassy or
the International Red Cross, and wondered what may have initiated it, 37.
He added later that his diary entry for that day showed nothing more than
having received the message. Interview, July 17, 1991. Occasional messages
from Nishi Hongwanji were received by Jodo Shinshu ministers incarcerated
in the United States, with most being terse inquiries about individuals'
health or assurances that family members and relatives in Japan were faring
Rev. Tsuji reported there was no national Buddhist Churches of Canada at
the time. Letter, Sept. 17, 1990. A "network" that existed did so
informally through an exchange of letters or via members who may have
travelled from one site to another.
53. Letter, Collins to A. McNamara, Mar. 15, 1944.
54. NAOC, BCSC Papers, RG36/27/23, Letter from Collins to M. Moscrop,
general supervisor, maintenance-welfare, Vancouver, Apr. 6, 1943, re Sandon
material. In an earlier letter from D. MacTavish, supervisor at Sandon, to
Moscrop, Apr. 1, 1943, the request from the ministers about limiting
themselves to "missionary work" was made. In that letter, MacTavish
erroneously stated that Jodo Shinshu ministers were paid from the home
office in Japan. Re the restriction on travel, it apparently was not
enforced given the photographs above and accounts in The New Canadian
describing travel among the centres to perform weddings, funerals and other
55. NAOC, BCSC Papers, RG36/27/27/1005, BCSC Monthly Report/Maintenance and
Welfare Department for Lemon Creek, June, 1943 through December, 1945.
56. Mullins' account, based upon interviews with various Nisei members of
the Japanese United Church, indicates that many attended one of the major
Christian churches after having attended church-sponsored educational
centres, 26. As evidence that the 194151 decade witnessed the decline of
Buddhism and an increase from 30.5 per cent to 56.7 per cent among Japanese
Canadians identifying with one of the major Christian denominations,
Mullins cites comparative census figures, 27, as follow:
Denomination Number Pct. Number Pct.
Buddhist 14,759 63.75 8,792 40.58
United Church 4,965 21.44 8,448 38.99
Anglican 1,653 7.14 2,933 13.50
Roman Catholic 450 1.94 921 4.25
[Sub-Totals 21,827 94.27 21,094 97.32]
[Unaccounted 1,322 5.71 569 2.60]
Total s 23,149 21,663
(N.B.: Italicized lines are added and not in Mullins' original table;
because of rounding, percentages do not add up to 100.)
Census data are different from membership, and the numbers given for
membership of pre-war Buddhists and the United Church elsewhere in Mullins,
even with extrapolation, are nowhere near the 1941 figures, 49, 80.
57. LaViolette, 197.
58. "Benign neglect," of US coinage, refers to the practice of conveniently
ignoring deteriorating conditions in American black communities. Despite
its 1970s origin, three decades after World War II, the idea is highly
serviceable a historically.
59. NAOC, Ian Mackenzie Papers, MG27IIIB5/24/67-25 (4), "Japanese Movement
Pacific Coast (Period ending October 31, 1942)", 2.
60. Y. Kawamura, 34.
61. NAOC, BCSC Papers, RG36/27/30/F1613, Letter, J.D. Bird, Superintendent,
"K" Division, Edmonton, to A.H.L. Mellor, executive assistant, BCSC,
Vancouver, Aug. 4, 1942.
62. The membership is based upon the number of those who made pledges for a
building. Mullins, 49. Data on Rev. Y. Kawamura is from L. Kawamura in L.
Kawamura and Coward, eds., 44.
63. NAOC, DEA Papers, RG25/2978/3464-B-40 Pt. 1, contains the earliest
dispatch found, dated Jan. 10, 1941; NAOC, BCSC Papers, RG36/27/30/F1613,
dates the latest on Sept. 20, 1947. NAOC, DEA Papers, RG25/3004/3464-J-40,
Pt.1, RCMP report, May 19, 1942, Division "K", Alberta, Lethbridge
Sub-Division contains reference to Rev. Kawamura.
64. NAOC, BCSC Papers, RG36/27/30/F1613, RCMP, Alberta, Division "K",
Lethbridge Sub-Division, Division File 945-67, Sept. 9, 1946, 4-5.
65. Ibid., June 21, 1946, 3-4.
66. The figure is in Adachi, 318. His account of the repatriation issue,
308-19, describes the nightmare facing families whose members held opposing
opinions, the intense political debate in Ottawa, the reasoning behind
judicial decisions regarding its legality, and the growing public
opposition to the policy.
67. Other temples were established during or after the war at Kamloops
(1947), Vernon (1948), and Fraser Valley , British Columbia; Calgary
(1971), and a second in Lethbridge, known as the Lethbridge Honpa Buddhist
Church (1966), Alberta; and Thunder Bay, Ontario (1992). A Jodo Shinshu
fellowship in Edmonton, begun in 1972, grew out of an ecumenical Buddhist
organization which was started in 1966. Fellowships continue in New Denver,
Greenwood and Midway, all evacuation sites during the Second World War.
68. "Five Buddhist Priests Repatriated to Japan," The New Canadian, Oct. 5,
1946. The headline and the article miscounted the number, which is four
instead of five: Revs. Asaka, Hirahara, Katatsu and Tachibana. The article
also named those left in Canada--Revs. Tsuji, Ikuta, Kawamura and
Mitsubayashi--and accounting for the eight described in this paper.
69. NAOC, DEA Papers, RG25/3004/3416-B40-Pt. 3, "Government Policy Relating
to Persons of Japanese Race Residing in Canada," Aug. 15, 1944. Evidence
that "Canada would keep more or less in step with United States policy" is
documented in this report.
The National Archives of the United States, Military Intelligence Papers,
RG319/387/291.2, Letter, Lt. Col. W.B. Wedd, the military attache at the
Canadian Legation in Washington, D.C., to the Foreign Liaison Officer of
the U.S. War Department, June 10, 1943. While actions between the two
countries toward their respective citizens and residents of Japanese
extraction were neither identical nor harmonized, there was close official
scrutiny of each other's decisions. E.g., the foregoing involves the
subject of the enlistment of Canadians of Japanese origin, at a time when
the United States was recruiting an all-Nisei infantry.
70. Y. Kawamura, 43-45.
PHOTO(BLACK & WHITE): UBC Library, Special Collection YOUNG UNIDENTIFIED
WOMAN in an interior B.C. camp, 1943. She carries a seiten (hymnal) and a
nenju (similar to a rosary) and wears a kesa around her neck.
PHOTO(BLACK & WHITE): UBC Library, Special Collection DHARMA (SUNDAY)
SCHOOL Teacher-Apprentices, Lemon Creek, B.C., camp, Dec. 5, 1943.
Ministers in front, from left, are Rev. K.T. Tsuji, R. Hirahara, D. Katatsu
and S. Asaka. National Archives of Canada, Jack Long Photo, National Film
PHOTO(BLACK & WHITE): REV. D. KATATSU, Lemon Creek, B.C., temple, 1942,
stands next to a Jodo Shinshu butsudan (shrine) which houses an image of
the Amida Buddha. Services in camp were held in Japanese.