Title: Letter from Captain V.C. Best to Hugh Keenleyside.

Subject: Japanese reprisals in Hong Kong; mass meetings; internment; Japanese-Canadian reactions.

Creator: Captain V.C. Best; unknown newspapers.

Date: January 13, 1942.

Citation: Library and Archives Canada, RG25, vol. 3037, file 4166-40, Captain V.C. Best to Hugh Keenleyside, 13 January, 1942.

Resource cited in:

Transcription:

Personal and confidential

Ganges, B.C.

Jan 13/’42

Dear Dr. Keenleyside,

In reply to yours of Jan 5th.

Appended find two very interesting clippings.

  1. Wilson’s secret meeting.
  2. Mass meetings suggested.

You will see at once the remarkable similarity to the initial stages of the Hitler pogrom. The next steps will probably be riots. He disclaims having made a suggestion that if the gov’t did not get rid of the Japanese, a riot would.

Dr. Perry, a very level-headed man and somewhat anti-Japanese, holds a very low opinion of Wilson and considers him a menace. He has just come back from Vancouver and says that politics are of the bottom of the trouble. There are several British families here on the Island, whose husbands, relations and friends are in the hands of the Japanese. They are holding their breath in dread that a riot in Vancouver will break out, and that reprisals of the most horrible type will be visited upon the captives.

I am of their opinion – and if the gov’t does not stop these mass meetings on any pretext, I think a riot is assured.

—–

Reaction of Japanese.

—–

  1. Fear – anxiety.
  2. Fishermen.

These have been thrown out of work and many are seeking relief among their friends and from the Salvation Army. No Gov’t relief is attainable unless resident for six months. I have two children here, age 12 and 13, ostensibly working for us – actually to keep from starvation.

One fisherman knows no other work. He is newly married. I am trying to get him a job, but cannot hold out hopes for others in the face of anti-racial [fomentation?].

The Japanese fisherman were ordered to report for registration. In all good faith they went – and had their boats confiscated, tied up in twenties, and they were taken with them. Many boats were wrecked and others damaged.

The fishermen were placed under guard – and many were unable to notify their relatives of their whereabouts or their safety for days on end.

Their relatives came to me, crazy with anxiety.

No receipts for the boats were given and no receipts for the fishing gear.

Much of the gear has been looted, I hear, and they can prove no claim for compensation. The entire action was carried out by the Fishers Patrol, composed of the economic rivals of the Japanese.

Col. Salt – R.C.M.P. showed all the consideration that he could – and is spoken of in terms of respect by the Japanese. The food was same as [?] to the troops.

Their anxieties were quieted by the news that licences would be renewed. Now they are in despair. The suggested agency for arranging the sale of boats is expected to be as honestly carried out as the care of the boats and the loss of gear.

Farmers: Greenhouses: Poultrymen:

The fear of losing their property, the hardship to their families, the impossibility of security in knowledge of what crops to put in – the possible losses are all contribute to make their lives a very vivid misery. They expect to be moved like slaves at any moment with confiscation of their hard-earned land or property.

They still pin their faith on justice from the Federal Gov’t – and in spite of all that has happened, their light of loyalty is struggling hard to burn.

One very fine young Japanese, who has done his military service in Japan, thinks that all Japanese and Canadian-born 18-50 should serve in our fighting forces. He tells me that his family is having a hard time to live, and that when Japan gets a real set back, the Agricultural population will rise against the military. He wants to see Democracy applied to Japan, and with it the higher standards of living that the people are working to get. All the Japanese, if in Japan, would belong to Kagawa Co-operative or the Revolutionary Party.

The Canadian-born want to serve in the Forces and cannot see sense in being refused because of politicians. They claim to be Canadians – they say that if they were sure of a square deal, they would not need conscription. They would volunteer. They could be used to advantage Overseas and seem to think the “Eyties” (Italians) would be their mark as being free from association with Japan in the past.

Every Can-Japanese and several Japanese have asked me to [help?] them enlist.

Last night – the Rev Nakayama from Vancouver came to visit the Saltspring Island Japanese. (Anglican Japanese young people).

He gave an address – the gist of which is as follows:

“You Japanese and Canadian Japanese owe all you have to Canada. Your fathers, even as I, came here without money, without property, and many without even a change of clothes.

To-day – you have your homes, your lands, your families, all owing to your life in Canada and the protection of the British flag. Therefore it is your Duty to serve Canada, and to place unreservedly as the disposal of Canada your lives, your money, your all!

Come then! Answer the Call! Bring your lives, your money and your service v. Canada. If Canada wants your boats – give them! If Canada wishes to move you East of the Rockies – go! If Canada wishes to intern you – Go!”

{Would to God we had such ideals and such faith!}

The Japanese here are considering turning in their radios, cameras etc as they state that they have been so well treated by the residents that as a gesture of their appreciation they wish to removal all cause of fear to the public.

—–

And now, Sir, as I await a visit of Rev. Nakayama, I outline a scheme to save the captives of Hong Kong – women, children and wounded.

23.000 Japanese origin in BC

138.000 “                “        “    U.S.A.

In the past, they have dovetailed in many aspects of their lives.

Now – they could, 262.000, be a voice to appeal to the Emperor of Japan to return to us the British and American civilian captives.

Such an action brought into being would put to rest the fears of our public – as well as demonstrating the fact that the Continental Japanese are not in favor of the indiscriminate torture or slaughter of civilians.

This can be organized very swiftly if the Powers That Be sanction such a move. Surely, the lives of hundreds of our kinfolk are worth a [?] to save them from horrors that I prefer not to think about.

May I, please, take this in hand? It can be done – but of necessity the hand of politics must be withheld. There is no time to lose lest the worst happen if the Government cannot prevent the killing of even on Japanese in a riot in B.C. I am afraid of Wilson in Vancouver lest he be the spark to ignite the magazine. He is out for mischief and he is a very dangerous man.

Let me remind you that Nomura, when [Zonei?] was in power, tried these same tactics of welding the American and Canadian Japanese to bring pressure to bear on the Rt. Hon Mackenzie King, through the Press. His tactics were sound, and these tactics should be used to-day to save our people from the enemy.

I can get all the help I need from the Japanese themselves and some missionaries. Would it be too much to ask that the opinion of the President of the U.S.A. should be consulted? His is a wise man.

——

——

I have just interviewed Rev. Nakayama. He states definitely that if a riot occurs – and one Japanese is killed – there will be no survivors of Hong Kong.

—–

Dr. Nakayama remembers how Nomura tried to co-ordinate the Japanese in detail.

He tells me that he can voice 2000 Christians. The Buddhists understand less of our ideals – but would follow the lead. Other religions can successfully be approached. Swift organization may be checked by the fact of meetings of all denominations and character (Can.Jap.[?] etc etc) and permission of the Gov’t would be necessary to hold Delegate meetings.

—–

To the one question:

Would you believe that the Emperor would list to the Voice of American and Canadian Japanese?

The answer is: “Emphatically YES”

—–

American.Japanese will move faster.

And so, Sir, I have done by best to give you an accurate cross-section of the Japanese reaction.

And now – I would beg you to take action on a chance of saving our women and children and casualties of Hong Kong.

—–

God be with you in your consideration of, and action upon, the question. Move speedily – there is little time to lose with such firebrands at work with the rabble – as Wilson and men of his ilk. Better than Hong Kong come first.

V.C. Best

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