On July 31, the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver, BC, was officially given National Historic Site status, a process that was several years in the making.
A public ceremony, hosted by the Kyowakai Society and partly funded by Columbia Basin Trust through the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, was held outside the Centre and was attended by representatives from Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada along with the Kyowakai Society, representatives from various levels of government and community organizations, and members of the public.
Two plaques were unveiled, one acknowledging the work of the Kyowakai Society, and the other designating the Centre as a National Historic Site.
“The dreams and accomplishments of the Kyowakai Society in creating this lasting memorial and interpretational centre in honour of Japanese Canadians interned during the Second World War is a huge feat accomplished by dedicated volunteers,” said Carol Gordon, Administrator, Village of New Denver, who helped organize the event. “The centre forms an integral part of the social and cultural history of the area, and its designation as a National Historic Site speaks to the selfless hours contributed by the organization to ensure that this part of our history will always be remembered.”
Following the ceremony a number of performers entertained the crowd including Takeo Tamashiro, Tsuneko Kokubo and Mariko Kage. Later in the evening, Vancouver-based Chibi Taiko, Canada’s first youth taiko ensemble, gave a public performance.
During World War II, the Government of Canada ordered the internment of “enemy aliens,” and Canadians of Japanese descent were moved to camps for the duration of the war. One such camp was located in New Denver, and housed roughly 1,500 people. While other camps were demolished after the war, some of the buildings in New Denver still exist or have been reconstructed, making it one of the few sites that still contain resources directly associated with this episode in Canadian history.