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Japanese-Canadians detained during WW2 subject of Hastings Park exhibit

05/06/2015 06:44 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT
On your next visit to Hastings Park, you might see some bright green signs revealing a darker side of the park's history.

It's a new outdoor exhibit called Hastings Park 1942, and it focuses on the 8,000 Japanese-Canadians detained at the park during the Second World War.

"Now you have people that come through Hastings Park, they think the PNE, they think of fun and food and games and rides," said Lorene Oikawa, who is a member of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens' Association.

"But at that time, if you can imagine scared families not knowing where they are going to go, for how long they will be away, torn away from their friends, their homes and their belongings," said Oikawa.

The signs feature pictures and quotes that convey what life was like for Japanese-Canadians during their internment. The four sign panels are located near the Forum, the Garden auditorium and the livestock barns.

This part of Vancouver's history remains relatively unknown, because it's uncommon for Japanese-Canadian families to talk about this difficult part of their past, according to Oikawa. In fact, Oikawa didn't know her family had been detained in an internment camp until the topic was raised by her fourth grade teacher.

"She was mentioning — in a language that young children could understand — about human rights abuses and then said 'And it happened to Japanese-Canadians in our own country,'" said Oikawa. "My mom did reveal at that point, she said 'Grandma, grandpa, six children, and we had two suitcases and didn't know where we were going.'"

Oikawa hopes that this exhibit will spur discussion, and her group is currently developing a website that will share more of these stories.

"Mainly, it's so important we know our history. It's the respect for our elders and their story and making sure they are not forgotten," said Oikawa. "Know the stories, don't repeat the mistakes."

To hear the full story, listen to the audio labelled Hastings Park exhibit highlights WW2 Japanese Canadian internment

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