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The Evolution of A Canadian 'Enemy Alien' - The Frank Maikawa Story - Part 11 of 12

Read Part 10 >> 

Arriving in Toronto 

When we got to Toronto, we finally felt released and free from jail to restart our lives. We felt really unsettled moving from here to there so many times to temporary places during so many years we were relieved and happy to find a permanent home at last. Thank you Ontario! I recall, after 1949 when we were finally allowed to vote, sometime later they lifted the ban as they had no other choice and JCs were allowed to return to the coast. It was too late for us and I didn’t even feel like going back anyway even for a visit and blocked my mind that B.C. didn’t even exist anymore. They sure did a very good job on me to say the least.

Father & Mr. Hayashi in the late 1920s

When Tomekichi Maikawa first came over from Japan, before getting into fishing, he started as a houseboy in Vancouver initially. And, when Mr. Hayashi came to live with us in Toronto in the early ‘50s—at 690 Woodbine Avenue in the east end just below Gerrard Street—he told us that they put up Tomekichi-san in Hotel Vancouver initially and encountered embarrassing situations because of his “cultural differences”.

Unlike today, the hotel had a shared common bathroom on each floor and Tomekichi-san would walk out from his room in the nude along the hallway and into the bathroom, would wash up outside the bathtub before soaking inside the bathtub like in Japan. There wasn’t any drainage outside the tub for the floor so the place was always flooded and other guests would complain. When Mr. Hayashi visited him at the hotel, he had to apologize to management and explain how baths are taken over here to Tomekichi-san. Mr. Hayashi was normally a very serious person but the way he told us this, it was hilarious and we had a good laugh.

After the war, in the early ‘50s Tomekichi-san wasn’t done yet! He decided to start an export-import business from Japan. My father was already well established working for a housing construction company, so again Tomekichi-san relied on Mr. Hayashi to help him start up the Toronto import side of the business while Tokio-san made all the exporting side arrangements in Japan. That’s how come Mr. Hayashi came all the way from Oyama, B.C. to live with us in Toronto.

Once that was done, Tokio-san moved to Toronto to take over Maiko Trading Company which handled mainly photography equipment and other goods to be distributed to the retail stores in Ontario. I won’t say any more about this as my father was not involved with this venture. What amazed me was Tomekichi-san’s business drive and Mr. Hayashi’s loyalty to his longtime friend. Hayashi-san eventually went back home to Kelowna to help out his son operate his apple orchard after accomplishing what he was asked to do which took several years.

You know, many of the later generations were angry and thought lowly of their Issei forefathers (they drifted away from being (“oya ko ko”—honour your parents) just because they thought their educational achievements were lower than theirs. But that was so generally in Canada at that time and actually, they were quite well educated, brought talent over from their old country, had good common sense, and were self-taught through experience. They didn’t take a back seat to anybody when it came to smarts.

Also, the Issei weren’t quiet and meek as they have typically been portrayed, either. The later generations were the ones that showed inferiority complex and just weren’t in tune and in touch with them due to language difficulties.

The trouble in fact was that the Issei had to work and picking up the English language was difficult and was not done in a structured school way but just by pick up through daily living. The older Nisei learned Japanese in school and were able to talk fluently with the Issei but due to the internment the younger Nisei and the Sansei onward missed out on Japanese language schooling and they in turn had to learn Japanese in a pick-up fashion too: a complete reverse situation to the Issei, or even much worse as some (younger Nisei and the Sansei) didn’t even want to learn for negative reasons (they thought that they were a hated race and everything about them were NG—brainwashed). Therefore, they couldn’t communicate with the Issei elders properly nor in depth and the obvious happened when there’s no communication.

Ever since I graduated from Ryerson in 1956, I’ve had to have my government Security Clearance renewed continuously as my first job was with De Havilland in the Guided Missile Division for one and a half years. Next was a one and a half year contract with Western Electric to work up in the Distant Early Warning Line, the first line of defence for North America. Then, 38 years at Nortel, Belleville (formerly called Northern Electric, then Northern Telecom).

I had to have the security clearance because all the projects that I worked on were the latest communication equipment used by governments and even NATO. The RCMP and CSIS checked out my past and found out that I wasn’t an ENEMY ALIEN as the B.C. government indicated me as, but a loyal Canadian so I guess they proved to the B.C. government again that I was “no threat”. They must have given them the third degree questioning this time around. Thanks to them and my birth certificate I had jobs for 41 years until I retired.

DEW Line surveillance site above Arctic Circle where I was in Canada, 1957-58

The B.C. government sure made it tough for us even to get jobs by calling us Enemy Aliens! Come to think of all this, I was even protecting B.C. all that while but they haven’t even said thanks like they never said sorry for ethnic cleansing me out of British Columbia. Sorry B.C., I don’t need a thanks. I was just kidding.

Frank in Arctic clothing. Down to -20 degrees F sometimes

There is a comical part to this story. I was on the FBI most wanted list as they couldn’t find any record that I left the U.S.A. after finishing my DEW Line course and they couldn’t find me for a long time.

Initially we had to fill out a questionnaire for our ID badges and I came across a section whereby we had to check off what colour we were but there were only two boxes for white or black so I asked the HR person whether I should add another box for yellow as I had yellow skin. He stood up and came beside me and compared his arm against mine and he was darker, so he checked me off as white!

So, until the FBI found me, I was a “white man” for a while but after, I was classified back as a “yellow man” again in Canada. That one check mark really confused the FBI—ha, ha, ha! Really, while I was a white man, I didn’t feel any different at all.

Redress and the Healing Process

For myself, to keep my sanity I forgave the Canadian government years later after the war ended when I, a Canadian born was literally booted out from B.C. and went to live in Ontario where I finally didn’t feel discriminated anymore.

In 1990, about 48 years later, when I personally received an apology letter and an acknowledgement certificate from Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government, I was able to forgive them the right way (sorry and forgiveness done formally) and was finally freed from any more bitterness. The healing process then began between the feds and us. The truth is still hidden in our history books, however.

Today, when you think about what happened to the Jewish people during WW2 and why Canada went to war to save us from what the Nazis were doing and to punish them, in our backyard the exact same things were being done to us Canadian citizens really when you compare the parallel things that were happening in B.C.

In modern day language, it was “ethnic cleansing”. The only difference is, our Caucasian friends tell us is—they didn’t shoot us, gas us, or throw us into the furnace. (I tell them, which is really better—to get shot and end it or having to live as a NOTHING like us? As for getting shot, it only hurts for a little while but when you are bullied and made into a NOTHING, it hurts for a long, long time. It’s not as simple as erasing the memory in a computer. It just doesn’t go away! Canada said the Nazis were criminals and jailed or hung them so what were the B.C. and the Canadian Federal governments?)

The Aboriginals are doing the proper thing by taking their stories to the UN. Man always has double standards and if you are on the “domineering side“ or “bullying side” you have the power and can say anything you want and get away with it until it catches up to you eventually.

As for our treatment, the Issei were smart and abided by the word “shikataganai,” (It can’t be helped. Say your piece once but keep your mouth closed after as they aren’t listening anyway as they have the power. Open up again when you see an opening), and that was the smartest thing to do. There was no other better way to go. However, the later JC generations never did understand the real in depth meaning of this word (even today) and some were even belittling the older generations for not speaking up to defend themselves. Just look at some of the Nisei who spoke up against the injustices: they ended up in a POW camp at Petawawa or Angler, Ontario (769 of them)!

Yes, the government was responsible for preventing some of our family values to be passed on for certain!

In some family gatherings I’ve seen the Issei elders were just sitting by themselves isolated from the main gathering of young ones. The transition of generations affected the JCs very much due to the internment and didn’t take place smoothly as it could have been if it took its natural course. Now some of the Yonsei want to know more about their past heritage and are even learning Japanese. It’s strange how things go. Yes, as one of the younger Nisei at that time I was hurt and angry about what took place going through it first hand and the Sansei and Yonsei were angry at Canada too but also at their parents for not revealing their past history much and found out stories of the internment from history class in high school (even if it was always biased, mellowed down, save face type stories). No wonder they grew up with inferiority complex. Isn’t it about time truth is written in history books? Regardless, the ones that suffered the most were the Issei and older Nisei due to internment and dispersal all over the country or exiled to Japan later (the younger ones just didn’t fit in over there so many came back eventually. It was so sad for them).

My brother-in-law, Vic Hinatsu at age 18 and his older brother, Bob at 20 also were thrown into the POW camp too just for speaking up against the injustice against the JCs. My sister, Mary, didn’t even know that Sumi’s husband, Vic was a POW at Angler, ONLY until she read my draft story! On my wife’s side, her brother-in-law, Dick Abe at 22 and his older brother, Kinji at 25 received the same treatment.

Nowadays, whenever I bring up the war years and what the B.C. government and the Canadian federal government did to us, it ends without too much discussion at all with Mary, my oldest sister, just saying, “They stole everything from us. End of story.”

I guess it can’t be put simpler than that! I took it as, not only did they take away all our roots and material positions; they also took all our dignity and pride away too. In her case, she had to take high school correspondence courses all during the war years as there weren’t any teachers provided by the government nor was there anybody around qualified to teach. Then, later she had to work.

Part 12 >>

© 2013 Frank Maikawa

british columbia business Canada enemy alien identity internment issei japantowns language Maiko Trading Company nisei ontario redress resettlement Toronto vancouver World War II