“I am genuinely interested in these people, know a great many, have many friends among them – and can get along without any friction or restraint. Furthermore, I can command assistance in interpretation or other service if needed”
– Captain V.C. Best, 9 January, 1941
Starting in 1941, the Canadian government passed a series of increasingly impactful restrictions on people of Japanese descent in Canada, including naturalized Canadians and those born in Canada. Framed in the context of World War II and the war against Japan, the restrictive legislation culminated in the internment and dispossession of nearly all Japanese Canadians living on BC’s coast.
There is increasing literature on the period, but little is known about how ‘everyday’ British Columbians, who we might think of as bystanders or witnesses, understood and responded to the uprooting and dispossession of Japanese Canadians.
Working with a set of letters written by Captain V.C. Best, a Salt Spring Island resident, between January 1941–February 1943, this website explores his letters and how he responded to the complicated history around him. Best wrote as a private citizen, though one with military connections, and he wrote as it happened. During the peak of his writing, Best sent letters nearly twice a week from December 1941 to February 1942 covering a wide range of topics, including anti-Japanese rhetoric in the press, Japanese-Canadian military service, and the internment of Japanese Canadians.