Diversity in Adversity: Health Care Provisions by and for the Nikkei in Canada during World War II

  • Author / Creator
    Johnson, Letitia B
  • My research aims to add diversity to our understanding of the forcible relocation of Nikkei, or people of Japanese descent, in Canada during World War II. Previous historical examinations presented a seemingly monolithic experience of Canadian Nikkei during the community's forcible relocation. This study, however, uses health care as a tool with which to complicate this history and highlight the theme of diversity among this group. It serves as an example of how the inclusion of health care in a historical analysis can reveal many struggles and adaptations made by a group. Moreover, this study shows the importance of source diversity in an effort to complicate and establish a better understanding of the Nikkei forcible relocation of World War II in Canada, which should no longer be understood as a monolithic experience. In order to answer the question of how health care was provided to the Nikkei during the war, I draw on a range of primary sources from the Canadian government and the Nikkei. I use expense reports, periodic reports, and visitor reports to show how the official government discourse asserted that sufficient health care was being provided to the Nikkei. I then use the memoir of a Japanese Canadian physician, Dr. Masajiro Miyazaki, as an example of how this rhetoric about sufficient health care is discredited by Nikkei records which document a more complex assessment of health care services. When these different perspectives on health care are considered together, we gain a better understanding of the diverse provisions provided to, and by, the Nikkei during the war. These sources illustrate that health care was as diverse as the Nikkei communities within which it was being provided. Therefore, I argue that the Nikkei relocated to a wide variety of locales and that these multiple types of relocation sites shaped the health care that people received. I outline the four types of relocation communities, which were: government-relocated self-supported communities within British Columbia; government-relocated, government-supported communities which were commonly called 'interior settlement centres' in British Columbia; the Alberta and Manitoba Farm Plan centres; and the Prisoner of War Camps throughout the nation. I conclude that because of diverse relocation sites, this familiar event in Canadian history did not produce a monolithic experience for the Nikkei. Furthermore, this study illustrates both the limitations in the health care provided to the Japanese Canadian community during relocation and the struggle for Japanese Canadian medical professionals to continue their practice during the war.

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    Master of Arts
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