Japanese-Canadian artist Marlene Howell stands with her piece “Under new ownership” at The Lost Fleet exhibit, opening Saturday at the Maritime Museum of BC. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Exhibit explores history of 1,200 Japanese-Canadian fishing boats confiscated during internment

A look at racism, WWII and Japanese-Canadian fishermen in B.C.

The bombing of Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941, sent shock waves around the world and had major repercussions right here in B.C. While the bombing is widely cemented in history books, less known is the fallout to Japanese-Canadians living on Canada’s West Coast.

The Lost Fleet exhibit, opening at the Maritime Museum of BC Saturday, explores the world of the Japanese-Canadian fishermen in B.C. before the bombing of Pearl Harbour and how deep-seated racism played a major role in the internment of an entire people and the seizure and sale of Japanese-Canadian property.

Nearly 1,200 Japanese-Canadian-owned fishing boats were confiscation by Canadian officials in B.C., eventually to be sold off to canneries and non-Japanese fishermen.

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The exhibit will also feature a new art show titled “A Series for Contemplation” from local Japanese-Canadian Artist-in-Residence, Marlene Howell.

Using various techniques, and experimenting with medium choices, Howell created four artworks based on old photographs of confiscated fishing boats.

“I went through hundreds of old photos of fishing boats that were confiscated and these were the ones that struck me. It was really emotional going through all those photos because each boat had a story,” said Howell. “These fishermen had to work to earn these boats and then they were just taken away. They had to start all over again.”

ALSO READ: Maritime Museum marks 100th anniversary of the ‘Unknown Titanic of the West Coast’

Through video interviews, information boards and art, the exhibit looks at the legacy of these tragic events by considering the lessons that have been learned and how Canadian society has changed because of this experience.

“Visitors will be encouraged to consider whether the present political and economic climate is very different today; current legislation, policies and public sentiment about immigration invites the question of whether this type of injustice could be carried out against other groups,” reads the Maritime Museum of BC’s exhibit announcement.

The exhibit is on loan from the Vancouver Maritime Museum and will run until March 31.

“This exhibition provided a context to present a discussion of prejudice against minorities in a modern Canadian context,” stated Duncan MacLeod, the curator at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

The exhibit runs at the Maritime Museum of BC from Jan. 12 to March 31 at 634 Humboldt St. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Howell will be onsite painting on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The Museum will host a launch event on Jan. 24, featuring three speakers: Jordan Stanger Ross, Michael Abe, and David Suzuki.


 

keri.coles@blackpress.ca

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