Unit 3 Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination

Overview How Did We Get There?

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Ask yourself:

  • Why do we have “blind spots” when it comes to judging people?
  • How do these harden into stereotypes that often turn into prejudices?
  • Why do prejudices turn into discrimination?
Black Canadian Youth Group Discussion
Choose Your Voice
Please select one of the four videos below. They were created by FAST for the first educational program, Choose Your Voice, launched in 2005.

The password for all videos is "fast".

Bursting the Voices of Stereotyping
Voices from the Past
Voices from the Present
Choose Your Voice

Action 1 


What do you see?
Do you see a vase, or two faces looking at each other, both, or neither?

Do you see a vase, or two faces looking at each other, both, or neither?

What does the following mean?

“There are none so blind as those who will not see?”

What is the lesson of this parable?
“A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies, no, that he lost them in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk replies, "this is where the light is.”

Source: David H. Freedman(2010). Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us. London: Little, Brown and Company.

The three tasks above illustrate some of the challenges we have when we try to make meaning of our world. Learn the negative consequences of treating people inhumanely.

For many people throughout human history the process has looked something like this:

Segregation Expulsion Extermination

In the case of antisemitism the philosopher Emil Fackenheim has outlined three stages of antisemitism: “You cannot live among us as Jews,” leading to forced conversions; “You cannot live among us,” leading to mass deportations; and “You cannot live.” How do these stages match the chart above?

Get ready to explore some of the psychological, sociological, and anthropological underpinnings of these horrendous acts. These underpinnings are actually the negative consequences of a natural process that begins with perceptions and moves from thoughts to actions.

Perception Judgment Action

Developing Perceptions about Our World

We usually make sense of things by organizing ideas and information we get through our senses into concepts: mental constructs or categories humans represent through words or phrases that give the grouped information a “label”. Concepts are abstractions and represent reality, but individual examples of concepts do exist. Organizing our experiences into concept groupings makes it easier to deal with them. Imagine the confusion if we could not make sense of our world?

For example there may be as many as 7.5 million distinguishable colours, but we can manage them when we group them into a dozen or so categories (Bruner, J.S. (1973) Going Beyond the Information Given, New York: Norton,). Thus concepts provide the intellectual categories or lenses through which we organize and make sense of the world. The processes of organizing our realities into concepts involve thinking and communicating on many levels.

The ability to organize people, ideas, objects, and events into concepts is important in learning. Memory of the meaning of an idea or event lasts longer than the memory of the specific event itself. Organizing knowledge into categories or concepts makes it easier to store such knowledge in long-term memory. More importantly for teachers and students, conceptual understanding makes it easier to retrieve knowledge we need: a mental filing system.

While concepts are a natural part of how we search for meaning and can be helpful in the case of organizing colors (or smells or sounds) they can get us into trouble when they are not based on facts or clear evidence. If our perceptions are not based on reality and if they are harmful to others or to ourselves, then we need to find ways to change them as should the drunk if he is to find his keys. But too often perceptions harden into judgments.

Making Judgments

We normally collect information and make a quick judgment and then seek information that supports this belief. It is more comforting to find ideas that support your belief than to grapple with those that do not. Judgments are more easily made than changed once our minds have been “made up”. This has been a survival tool throughout history. For example, if a child touches a flame and gets a burn, he or she will be very careful before doing it again.

But what if the information or stimulus is not so clear, as in the image that began this overview?

In these cases we usually make judgments based on prior knowledge and experience. And in our global world different people may make different judgments based on a similar initial perception. The following example (as well as the two charts above) comes from Morton and McBride (1977).

A farmer sees in the distance a large furry animal with four feet and a long tail in the early dawn light. The animal is eating something on the ground.

  • If the farmer is in Saskatchewan, he or she might think it is a cow or a horse.
  • If the farmer is in Tanzania in Eastern Africa, he or she might think it is a lion or a zebra.

How do you account for the different judgments?

When our judgments harden despite evidence to the contrary, they create “cognitive dissonance”. It is easier to ignore ideas that challenge our prior thinking than to struggle to change our beliefs. Researchers call this the “confirmation bias”.

Imagine if in fact a lion was in the Saskatchewan field.
How might the confirmation bias result in something bad happening if the farmer went out to milk the “cow”?

From Judgment to Stereotype


  • A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
  • A person or thing that conforms to a widely held but oversimplified image of the class or type to which they belong: don’t treat anyone as a stereotype.

    Source: Oxford Dictionary

When judgments are based on misinformation, stereotypes can develop. When we unfairly apply our stereotypes to ACTIONS against groups regardless of individual differences in every group, we are “discriminating”.

Brad Galloway, former White Supremacist

From Judgment to Action

Three of the cases in this unit show how this process happens to groups of people. The cyber bullying case shows how it plays out with individuals.

Action 2 


What Have You Learned?

As you study the cases, record “blind spots”.


  • Who committed them?
  • What stereotypes are revealed?
  • What actions are taken that represent discrimination?
  • Which actions move from discrimination to segregation and beyond?

Be honest with yourself and record your own blind spots and unfair biases that you hold towards various groups—we ALL have them.

Action 3 


In a group develop a thesis (arguable statement) on current issues relating to prejudice and/or discrimination as reported in the media, focusing on Canada, the United States, or globally.

Unit 3 Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination

Chapter 1 The Righteous Among Nations: The Actions of Heroes

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Ask yourself:

  • What factors motivate some people to perform heroic acts to save lives while the majority of people choose to remain bystanders?
  • Why is it important that the actions of Rescuers are both studied and publicly honoured?

This really happened

More than any other event of modern times, the Holocaust has fundamentally changed our view of human nature. The Nazi plan of purposeful extermination of about 1,000,000 Roma, 6,000,000 Jews, thousands of disabled children and adults and thousands Gays and political dissenters in the years 1933 to 1945, demonstrates the evil of which so called 'civilized' persons are capable. At the same time, it is important to consider that during this same period in history, an estimated 50,000 ordinary people from across many countries risked their own lives to save those who were being persecuted under Nazi rule.

Source: The Righteous: Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust. (Gilbert, Sir Martin, Holt Paperbacks: 2004)

Stories of Rescuers

To date about 24,000 people have been honoured as Holocaust Rescuers. In most cases the Rescuers began as bystanders and then for some reason felt compelled to help. The following stories describe three heroes of the Holocaust – Miep Gies, Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler. Each acted in a different way to save the persecuted Jews.

Generally, Rescuers' actions fall into one of the following categories:

  • Hiding victims so they could not be found and sent to concentrations camps
  • Providing false identities so victims could flee to a safe country
  • Smuggling victims out of the country
Survivor rescued by Raoul Wallenberg


Artifact One › Miep Gies
An elderly woman, Miep looks down at the paper she is writing on. enlarge image
Miep Gies

1909 - 2010

Credit: Yad Vashem

Although born in Austria, Miep was raised as a foster child by a large and generous family in Amsterdam, Holland. When the Nazis invaded Holland in 1940, Miep was employed in a company owned by a Jew, Otto Frank. The Frank Family soon received deportation orders and knew they would be sent to concentration camps, so Otto Frank asked Miep if she would be willing to keep his family hidden from the Nazis in the attic of their company building. The family consisted of Otto Frank, his wife, and two daughters: Margot, 16 and Anne, 13. Miep agreed.

For two years she provided the Frank Family and another family who had joined them, with food clothing and books. She also provided news from the outside and emotional comfort.

After two years of hiding there, the building was raided by the Nazis and the members of the two families were sent to a concentration camp. With the exception of Otto Frank, the entire family perished in the concentration camp.

In the attic there remained the diary, which young Anne Frank kept for the two years of hiding.  When the Franks were taken, Miep rescued the diary and when Otto Frank returned at the end of the war, she presented it to him. After the war, this diary was published as a book called, The Diary of a Young Girl. Anne’s diary has been translated into many languages and has since been read by millions of people.

Artifact Two › Raoul Wallenberg
An old black and white photo a young Raoul Wallenberg, staring off into the distance. enlarge image
Raoul Wallenberg

1912 - 1947

Credit: Yad Vashem

Raoul Wallenberg was born into a wealthy Swedish banking family. Sweden remained a neutral country during the war but through his work in banking, Wallenberg became aware of the Nazi plan to exterminate millions of people. When the Nazis invaded in 1944, the Swedish legation in Hungary was given permission to issue a limited number of special security passes to Jews who had a special connection with Sweden. Of course the Swedish legation was overwhelmed with requests for special passes and Raoul Wallenberg was added to the Swedish legation.

Wallenberg was committed in his efforts to save those persecuted in the Holocaust. He created special protective passes, which would allow those about to be sent to the camps to leave Hungary for a safer place. He made sure that the passes looked really professional and appeared to be issued by government agencies. His goal was to ensure that those carrying the passes would not be stopped and questioned.

Wallenberg also acquired several houses in Hungary, which he declared to be Swedish government property. He used these houses to hide Holocaust victims while they waited for their passes. It is estimated that Wallenberg, himself, saved about 100,000 people.

Artifact Three › Oskar Schindler
A black and white photo of Oskar Schindler peering off into the distance, dressed in a suit and tie. enlarge image
Oskar Schindler

1908 - 1974

Credit: Yad Vashem

When the war began in 1939, Oskar Schindler, the son of a wealthy German Family followed the Nazis into Poland hoping to make some easy money. There, as a member of the Nazi Party he managed to acquire a factory for little money. To make the largest possible profit Oskar hired Jews who were not allowed to work elsewhere as cheap labour.

As Jews began to be herded into ghettoes in Poland, Oskar managed to protect a number of them by having them designated as "essential labour" in working toward a Nazi victory in the War. The workers in his factory were fed, clothed and most important, safe from being sent to the concentration camp.

When the Nazis began to ship trainloads of Jews from the ghettos to the concentration camps, Shindler said, "Beyond this day, no thinking person could fail to see what would happen. I was now resolved to do everything in my power to defeat the system."

Early on, Schindler had protected victims for his own interest but he was now determined to save their lives. He converted his factory to a bullet manufacturer and took over 1000 Jews to work there. In this way he saved their lives.

After the war, those whom Schindler had saved, supported him financially for the rest of his life and he is buried in Israel where his survivors or their children tend his grave.

Action 1 


The Righteous Among the Nations

The Holocaust Memorial in Israel considers it a moral obligation to locate and honour those who rescued Jews from death during the Nazi persecution. By 2010, about 24,000 heroes from forty-four different countries had been honoured there. Those honoured are called, The Righteous Among the Nations. Although almost 70 years have passed since the end of the Holocaust, the museum continues to honour about 800 additional Rescuers each year.

Research tells us that the vast majority of the populations of the Nazi occupied countries chose to remain bystanders to the persecutions and deaths of the Holocaust. In fact, historians have estimated that the number of Rescuers represent only 0.5% of 1% of the populations of Nazi occupied countries.

Why is it that some people made the transition from Bystander to Rescuer?  Historians have begun to study this question hoping that understanding this question will prepare future generations to act morally even when it is dangerous and challenging for them to do so. Historians began by studying the profiles of many who had already been honoured as The Righteous Among the Nations. These profiles are archived at the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Studies reveal that in most cases the Rescuers began as Bystanders and only later became Rescuers. Often Rescuers themselves could not explain why they had made the decision to help when they clearly understood the risk to their own lives.

We know from the testimony of those who survived the Holocaust that the majority of Rescuers were not motivated by a desire for financial rewards. Why, then, did they choose to risk their own lives to save others? Accounts provided by Holocaust survivors form a vast ORAL HISTORY, which allows us to study this question in more depth.

Action 2 


Testing your assumptions

Beliefs about the motivation of Rescuers

A. In pairs, discuss which statements you assume to be true. Why have you made these assumptions?

Statement Reason
Young people are more likely to become Rescuers than older people.  
Women are more compassionate and are more likely to become Rescuers.  
Religious people are more likely to become Rescuers.  
People with more education are more likely to become Rescuers than people with less education.  
People who are rich or powerful are less likely to become Rescuers than people with less wealth and power.  
People who are politically involved are more likely to become Rescuers than those who are not involved in politics.  
Testing your assumptions

B. Working in groups you will now have the opportunity to test your suppositions using the information in the profiles of the following Rescuers:
Raoul Wallenberg
Pierre Marie-Benoit
Selahattin Ulkume

Each member of the group selects one of the names above.


Go to the WEBSITE: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/righteous.html

Under the heading Rescuers, find the profile of the person you have chosen to research. As you read the profile, refer to the assumptions you completed earlier and determine the veracity of your assumptions.

Share your findings with the group and explain why some people changed from bystanders to Rescuers. Post your sentences on chart paper and share your thoughts with the class.

C. Using the same website, read four or five more profiles of Rescuers. Refer to the statements that your group posted earlier. After reading the additional profiles, discuss and change or amend your group statement if necessary. Use a different colour to make the changes to your original statement.

Unexpected findings

From the archives of profiles and from the words of Rescuers, we know that Rescuers came from all classes, all levels of education, all social classes and all nationalities. Some historians argue that the Rescuers acted from a political desire to act against the Nazis. Others felt the Rescuers were by nature independent thinkers. Still others believe that Rescuers had strong family ties and the ability to empathize with other people. Rescuers, of all profiles, were people who recognized that the persecuted were fellow human beings and because of this perception felt obliged to act.

The Two Faces of Poland

Action 3 


Report Bullying!

Read the following facts about an incident in a Canadian School. How do these facts support your research about Rescuers?

Eight Girls Charged in Bullying Case

Eight teenage girls at a high school in London, Ontario, have been arrested in connection with a bullying incident involving another student, police say.

Const. Dennis Rivest of the London Police Service said the eight girls were arrested Thursday. Police said an investigation revealed that the victim had been the target of physical and emotional bullying, and cyber bullying.

The arrested girls face charges of criminal harassment.

Police said information about the bullying came from individuals who came forward in person and through an anonymous reporting web portal, called "South Cares," which is on the London South Collegiate website.

Photograph of a very large Jewish family gathered in the Yad Vashem gardens in Israel. The men are dressed in black suits and the women are dressed in skirts and dresses. enlarge image
Honouring the Rescuers

Yad Vashem held an event posthumously honoring Ludwika & Zygmunt Szostak as Righteous Among the Nations from Poland. The memorial ceremony took place in the Hall of Remembrance Monday, May 13, 2013

Credit: Yad Vashem

Here are the facts

On Monday, May 13, 2013 Yad Vashem held an event posthumously honoring Ludwika & Zygmunt Szostak as Righteous Among the Nations from Poland. The memorial ceremony took place in the Hall of Remembrance, followed by the unveiling of the name of the Righteous in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, in the presence of His Excellency Polish Ambassador to Israel Jacek Hodorowicz. Elzbieta Stradowska, great-niece of the late Righteous Ludwika, and Zygmunt Szostak received the medal and certificate of honor on their behalf. Also in attendance were Holocaust survivor Karolina Eisen, Members of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations, Holocaust survivors, family members and friends.

About 24,000 people from 44 different countries have been honoured in this way and each year the Memorial continues to recognize about 800 additional Rescuers. It has been almost seven decades since the end of the Holocaust and many Rescuers and Survivors have passed on. Still the Memorial continues to accept documentation from survivors or from their children.

In addition to a ceremonial celebration, Rescuers receive a specially designed medal and a Certificate of Honour. Their names are inscribed on the Wall of Honour in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem.

This medal, made of silver, is the Yad Vashem “Medal of the Righteous”, inscribed with French and Hebrew writing. enlarge image
The Medal of the Righteous of the Nations – Front and Back

Credit: Yad Vashem

There are also some exceptional ways in which Rescuers are honoured. The Israeli Government can decide to declare a Rescuer a citizen of Israel. Rescuers who have fallen on hard times are provided with monthly support from the Government of Israel and they receive funds to pay for their medications if they become ill. For many years Oskar Schindler was supported by those whose lives he had saved. He became a citizen of Israel and chose to be buried there.

Wall of Honour with the names of “righteous” individuals who helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust. enlarge image
The Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous

Credit: Yad Vashem

Historica Canada at https://www.historicacanada.ca/ hired Angus Reid Pollsters to survey whether Canadians think we do enough to honour Canadian heroes. The results were published on June 30, 2013. Of those polled, 86% felt that too little is being done to recognize Canadian heroes.

Action 4 


In groups of four or five, your task is to design a meaningful way in which Canadians can honour those who take significant personal risks to save the lives of others.

The website below will provide you with an example of one way Canadians currently use 'ORDERS' to honour those among us who have made exceptional contributions to our country. http://www.gg.ca/document.aspx?id=72

Requirements of the Action:

  • Create a name for the Rescuers' Award.
  • Decide how the Rescuers who receive this Rescuer Award will be honoured.
  • Establish 4 or 5 Criteria for receiving the Rescuers' Award.
  • Create a Nomination Form that will allow Canadians to recommend Rescuers for the Award. Provide some examples of Canadians who you believe would be eligible for the Rescuers Award.
  • Design a concrete object that Rescuers will receive to take home. This could be a certificate, a statue, a picture, a poem, or any other object you feel would be suitable recognition.
  • Display your Rescuers' Award in your school or in your school newsletter.

The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, pays tribute to Rescuers, raises financial resources for Yad Vashem Jerusalem’s global initiatives and implements Yad Vashem’s vision of disseminating the facts and universal lessons of the Holocaust across Canada through significant educational and commemorative initiatives. http://www.yadvashem.ca/

A documentary about Rescuers is coming in May (see the trailer): http://rescuersdoc.com/Home

Further reading

Blum, Jenna Those Who Save Us, 2005
Trudy, a history professor collects oral histories of WW II survivors, including that of her aged German mother. Throughout the book are interviews with German immigrants, many of whom reveal unabashed antisemitism.

Klempner, Mark The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust rescuers and their stories of courage, 2006
The ten Dutch people profiled in this book provide an in-depth look into the hearts and minds of Holocaust Rescuers who saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

Korczak, Janusz Ghetto Diary, 2003
Korczak, a paediatrician and well-known author, gave up a brilliant medical career to devote himself to the orphans of Warsaw.

Lyson, Leon.The Boy on the Wooden Box. How the impossible became impossible,2013
As one of the youngest members of Schindler’s list, Leyson offers a perspective of the righteous hero in this memoir.
Rappaport, Doreen Beyond Courage: The untold story of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, 2012
The author presents 21 true stories of defiance and heroism in Nazi-occupied Europe. The book is divided into five chapters: The Realization, Saving the Future, In the Ghettos, In the Camps, Partisan Warfare.

Unit 3 Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination

Chapter 2 Entry Denied: The Komagata Maru Incident, 1914

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Ask yourself:

  • How do prejudice and discrimination prevent immigration for those who are seeking asylum?
  • What laws are in place to protect the rights of immigrants?

This really happened

The Komagata Maru was a Japanese steamship that sailed from Punjab, India to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1914, via China and Japan. Upon arrival to Canada, entry was denied for all the ship’s Indian passengers who were hoping to immigrate. A law stated that those hoping to immigrate, could only do so by a ‘continuous journey’ and through tickets purchased before leaving their country of nationality. Because of these exclusion laws designed to keep out immigrants of only Asian origin, the ship was forced to return to India. Upon arrival in India, a riot broke out, killing about 20 passengers who were thought to be lawbreakers and political agitators.

By investigating photographs, reading about voices connected to the incident, exploring a script and discussing whether apologizing is enough, you will consider how the media has an impact on historical events as well as investigate laws connected to immigration that might be discriminatory.

Sikh man talks about the Komagata Maru and discrimination against Sikhs


Images of the Komagata Maru

There are many existing archival photos of the Komagata Maru incident. Many photos featured in newspaper articles, give insight into the experiences of the people involved. The two pictures depict a moment on board the ship and on the pier in Burrard Inlet, Vancouver. Together these images convey two different perspectives providing insights into the thoughts and feelings of both groups of people on either side of this historical event.

This old photo is of a group of Sikh men wearing suits and turbans, and accompanied by one unhappy little boy. They are standing on a dock in front of the Komagata Maru steam liner. enlarge image

Indian immigrants on the Komagata Maru

Credit: City of Vancouver Archives

An old photo of a large group of male Vancouverites standing and sitting on the dock in 1914. enlarge image

Vancouver, British Columbia - dock

Credit: Vancouver Public Library

Action 1 


Response to images

A. Work in four large groups to examine these photos. To begin, two groups can examine Photo A, and two groups can work with Photo B. As a group, share your responses to this image by considering the following areas of inquiry. Use a T-chart format to organize your thoughts.

What do you see?What do you wonder about?
What do you see? What do you wonder about?

B. As a group, recreate the photo of some of the people in the scene. Each person will need to choose one character’s role to play. What physical position will you take? What gestures and facial expressions will you include?

C. Once each group has prepared the still image, Group A1 can stand opposite a partner Group A1 (i.e. both still images face each other on a count of three.)

The activity is then repeated, with one group being an audience for the other. Those who are watching the image are encouraged to walk around the image to examine it from a variety of angles and to look carefully at the gestures and facial expressions. On a piece of chart paper, with markers, record what comes to mind when you look at the picture: What did these people feel like? What might these people say? What words convey their emotions?

Each group should have the opportunity to present images to their partner group and complete the chart.


As a class, discuss the following:

  • What did you learn about the Komagata Maru incident from looking at the photos?
  • What stories do pictures tell?
  • Can one picture capture a ‘truth’?
  • Why were the people on the pier so fearful of approaching immigrants?
  • What other pictures might you expect to see?

Action 2 


The Komagata Maru Incident: The script

Sharon Pollock, Canadian playwright, wrote the play entitled The Komagata Maru Incident. It depicts historical events that invite readers and audiences to ask questions about the real story and the one depicted on stage. The following scene takes place early in the script. T.S., The Master of Ceremonies, who plays many roles, meets with Immigration inspector, William Hopkinson.

A. Reading and Responding to the script excerpt

Read the script independently, then work with a partner to discuss the following:

  • What are some facts you learn from this excerpt about the plight of the Sikhs aboard the ship?
  • Summarize the two points of view of these characters.
  • In the play, the character of T.S. plays the Master of Ceremonies (and other roles). What role do you think TS is playing here? How might you describe this character?
  • How do you imagine that this scene might be staged for a theatre presentation?

B. Interpreting the script

With a partner, choose a role to read out loud from this script. Repeat the activity, switching roles.

To rehearse this script, actors might play their roles in different ways. Once you have decided upon a role to practice, choose one of these ‘attitudes/emotions’ to interpret the lines (e.g., T.S. could be calm and Hopkinson could be angry; both characters could be angry, etc.).

  • calmly
  • with anger
  • with hesitation
  • with sadness
  • apathetic, uncaring

C. Rehearsing the script

As an actor rehearses, he or she explores a variety of emotions to inform how to best convey the meaning of the texts. Experiment with a few different ways to read these lines with your partner. Discuss which way seemed the most authentic theatre presentation (i.e., How would each character feel as they continue the conversation?). Once you have rehearsed the scene, present it to another pair and compare different interpretations.

Action 3 


Writing a new scene

A. As with any historical conflicts, there are many sides to the story. Choose one or more of the following roles to write a new scene that features two or three characters. Choose roles from any combination of the following:

  • An immigration official
  • A Sikh who has travelled aboard the ship
  • An Indo-Canadian who has been living in British Columbia for several years
  • The Prime Minister of Canada
  • A politician who demands that entry be denied
  • Other?

B. In pairs, or small groups, prepare a new scripted scene to convey other viewpoints connected to this event. For this scene consider:

  • Which characters might appear in the scene?
  • What is the setting?
  • How will the particular conflict be conveyed?
  • What information and feelings will your scene represent about the injustice done to immigrants?

C. Once completed, rehearse the scene with your group to present to others who have worked on a different scene.

Note: The complete Sharon Pollock script of The Komagata Maru Incident is available through Playwrights Canada Press.

The Komagata Maru Incident: A script by Sharon Pollock
(Permission granted, Playwrights Canada Press)

T. S.:   Master of Ceremonies
William Hopkinson:  Department of Immigration Inspector

The Komagata Maru Incident: A script by Sharon Pollock
(Permission granted, Playwrights Canada Press)

T. S.:   Master of Ceremonies
William Hopkinson:  Department of Immigration Inspector
T.S. The Komagata Maru’s in port with three hundred and seventy-six potential immigrants.
Hopkinson: Yes, sir.
T.S. So? What do you know about them?
Hopkinson: I’ve spoken to my man, Bella Singh, sir. He tells me they’re Sikhs from India, British subjects, and as such they do have a right of entry to Canada, sir.
T.S. The word is no entry.
Hopkinson: I realize that, but we may have a problem.
T.S. A what?
Hopkinson: Many are veterans of The British Army, sir: they’re sure to plead consideration for military service.
T.S. You can put it this way—we don’t mind them dying for us, we just don’t want them living with us.  (laughing.) Get the point.
Hopkinson: (laughing) Yes sir… but if they should go to the courts–
T.S. They won’t go to the courts. He hasn’t done his homework. Have you forgotten our two orders-in-council? If an immigrant wishes to enter the country through a western port, he must make a continuous voyage from his own country. Have they done so?
Hopkinson: No sir, they haven’t.
T.S. And that’s no surprise. There’s not a steamship line in existence with a direct India-to-China route and for our second ace-in-the-hole – a tax, two hundred dollars per head, to be paid before entry. Do they have it?
Hopkinson: Bella Singh says they do not, however–
T.S. Again, not surprising. In the land of his birth, the average Indian’s wage is nine dollars per year. There—you see how we operate, Hopkinson? Never a mention of race, colour, or creed – and yet, we allow British subjects; we don’t allow them to enter.
Hopkinson: Thank you, sir; However, I must inform you that Herman Singh says–
T.S. Sh, sh.
Hopkinson: (lowering his voice) Hermann Singh says that the local Sikhs have raised the money for the head tax.
T.S. That’s not good.
Hopkinson: It’s possible that a launch–
T.S. It is possible? Do you pay for information like that?
Hopkinson: Bella Singh says a launch will deliver the head tax to those on ship late tonight.
T.S. The word is no entry, Hopkinson.
Hopkinson: Yes, sir!

*Note: B. Singh was an active member of the Shore Committee members, an Indian community in British Columbia

A photo of a postage stamp commemorating the Komagata Maru incident. A group of Sikh men wearing different coloured turbans stand above a picture of the ship in the water. enlarge image
May 6, 2014 - Komagata Maru Commemorative Postage Stamp for Canada Post

Credit: The Toronto Star

Action 4 


Voices of the Komagata Maru Incident: Entry Denied

Imagine the ship docked in the Vancouver Harbour in the warm summer months of June and July. 376 passengers were ready to disembark; ready to begin a new life in Canada only to be told their entry was denied. They would not be able to leave the ship: no food, no water, and no communication with the outside world. Their hopes and dreams of working in Canada, beginning a new life, sending for their loved ones were lost.

On the other side of the dock were government officials, lawmakers, citizens who faced their own struggles. Would these workers take their jobs? Would many more follow? Were they different because they were brown? Would they change their way of life?

For two months, the South Asian Community and some members of the white community rallied to give entry to the passengers in the media, in the public eye and in the courts. They fought racist thinking and values and they fought racist laws designed to keep Asians, the “other” out of the country.

And the community on land fought to preserve what they thought their borders guaranteed them. They thought they were fighting for their jobs and a way of life.


  • Do you think the government or the immigrants had a stronger argument?
  • How do you think the media might have captured the event?
  • How does the Komagata Maru incident serve as a profound understanding of prejudice and discrimination?
  • Research how the Canadian immigration policy has changed since 1914 and make a list of the changes that might serve to prevent an incident like this from happening again.
  • Even though the law has changed, do you know of any situations today that might echo the sentiments of the above quotations and perspectives?

Action 5 


Is Apologizing Enough?

A. With a partner, discuss what apologizing means to you. Remember and share a significant experience where you (or someone you know) apologized to someone or when you received an apology. Consider:

  • How did you feel after giving/receiving an apology?
  • Do you think the apology was sincere?
  • Did the apology change your relationship with that person?
  • What might have happened had you not apologized?
  • Did your apology include more than words?

B. In a class discussion, consider the criteria for a strong and meaningful apology. You may volunteer to share personal stories about apologies.

A Country Apologizes

Considering the criteria you generated for a personal apology, does this criteria apply to a country apologizing for an injustice to a group of people?

  • In 2008, the British Columbia government brought forth a motion of apology in the Legislative Assembly. Read the motion and discuss if this apology is meaningful and meets your criteria for an apology. Why do you think it took so long for this apology to be granted?

    Debates of the Legislative Assembly
    2008 Legislative Session:
    4th Session, 38th Parliament, Friday, May 23, 2008
    B.C. Government, Motion No. 62 – Motion of Apology
    Komagata Maru: Motion Unanimously Approved
    “Be it resolved that this Legislature apologizes for the events of May 23, 1914, when 376 passengers of the Komagata Maru, stationed off Vancouver harbour, were denied entry by Canada. The House deeply regrets that the passengers who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted.”
  • In August, 2008, at the Bear Creek Park in Surrey, British Columbia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke in front of 8,000 people at an East Indian Canadian community event to offer a federal apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident. Read the apology and consider the strength of Harper’s words:
    • Would this be enough to a community that had felt this injustice from the past?
    • What message might Harper have added to his speech to convince others of the government’s sincerity?
  • Members of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society immediately following the speech rushed to the podium denouncing the apology.
    • Why might they have responded this way?
    • What else could the Canadian government have offered by way of apology?

In May 2016 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a formal apology for the Komagata Maru at the House of Commons: "No words can fully erase the suffering of the Komagata Maru victims. Today we apologize and commit to doing better." Canadian Sikhs have become a significant political force with Jagmeet Singh being elected the first Sikh and first South Asian leader of a national party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), in October 2017.

Action 6 


Apologies have been made to other groups who have faced injustices in both immigrating and settling in this country, (e.g., the Chinese Head Tax, the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II and others.)

  • Are there groups of people today emigrating or settling in Canada who continue to face injustices?
  • How could we or the government support these groups?
A photo of the metal memorial plaque commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident. The plaque is plain and has a written message on it. enlarge image
The Memorial to the Komagata Maru in Portal Park, Vancouver (Sally Gray)

Credit: Sally E. Gray, Grayhound Information Services

Further reading:

Understandables: White Canada and The Komagata Maru, an illustrated history. Edited by Ali Kazimi, published by Douglas and McIntyre, 2012 is a recent publication that documents the incident using archival photos, personal stories and historical references of the immigration of the Indo-Canadian community.

Unit 3 Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination

Chapter 3 Islamophobia

Back to top

Ask yourself:

  • Was there a time in your life that you encountered something or someone new or unusual, and you took on a closed view? Be as honest as you can when describing the event. Explain what you have learned, and then share it with a partner.
  • If you identify as a Muslim, have you experienced any prejudice or discrimination? If so, share with non-Muslims.

In recent years there has been increasing immigration by persons identifying as Muslims to the West, including to countries in Western Europe and North America. Given the unfamiliarity of some people in the West with the religion of Islam and with Muslims, and because of recent events such as 9/11, the Iraq War and other isolated incidents of terrorism, some people openly or privately confess to not understanding, fearing, or even hating Islam and Muslims. The broad term for this fear or hatred is Islamophobia.


Islamophobia (IP)

Islamophobia is defined as a “dread or hatred of Islam and therefore, fear and dislike of all Muslims”

Source: Runnymede Report, 1996

Islamophobia Group Discussion


Islam is a monotheistic (worshipping one God) religion that is practiced by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, or roughly one in four people. Practitioners of Islam are called Muslims. The two major sects, or denominations of Islam are Sunni (80%) and Shia (20%). Some things that Islam shares in common with Judaism and Christianity include the belief in one God. The three religions also share recognition of some prophets such as Moses and Abraham. Together, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are called the Abrahamic religions, after the prophet Abraham.

Open or Closed views on Islam

Islam and Muslims can be approached with either open or closed views, and closed views are the ones that are more associated with Islamophobia. Here are eight closed views of Islam as identified by the Runnymede Report (1996):

Islam is seen as:

  • A monolithic bloc, static, and unresponsive to change.
  • Separate and “other”. It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
  • Inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
  • Violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.
  • A political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
  • Criticisms made of "the West" by Muslims are rejected out of hand.
  • Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
  • Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal. (Wikipedia, 2013)

Action 1  

Do >

Seeing the Other

Was there a time in your life that you encountered something or someone new or unusual, and you took on a closed view? Be as honest as you can, describe the event, what you learned, and share it with a partner.

With a partner, create a list of eight open views of Islam and Muslims that contrast with the closed views above.

A young Kenyan girl wearing a hijab sits at her wooden desk in class reading the Quran, surrounded by other girls doing the same. enlarge image
A Kenyan child reads verses from the Quran on the fifth day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in a Madrassa in Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Sayyid Azim

Criticizing the Term

Some people have criticized the use of the term Islamophobia, claiming that terming critics of Islam as Islamophobic prevents honest discussion and criticisms of the religion. Others have criticized the term Islamophobia in that Muslims are more often the "target of hostility" than the religion itself, and hence a better term is Anti-Muslimism.

Some basic facts about Islam
  • There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.
  • The Holy Book of Islam is called the Qu'ran. Although it is most often found in the original Arabic, it has been translated into many languages over the years.
  • Islam was established about 1400 years ago by the Prophet Muhammad, who is considered the last Prophet in the line of Abraham by Muslims.
  • Muslims are forbidden from eating pork or drinking alcohol.
A picture of thousands of Muslims in the midst of the hajj, encircled around Kaaba, a black box at the center of the Al-Masjid al-Haram Mosque of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. enlarge image
Muslims performing Haij, or pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudia Arabia

Credit: iStock

Five pillars, or tenets of Islam:

  • Testimony: Where a Muslim accepts that there is no God but God alone and that Muhammad is his prophet.
  • Prayer: Ritual prayer that all Muslims are required to perform five times a day.
  • Alms giving: All Muslims are required to give 1/40th (2.5%) of their annual income to the needy or poor annually.
  • Fasting: Muslims are required to fast (no eating or drinking) from sunup to sundown during the holy month of Ramadan.
  • Pilgrimage: All Muslims who can physically and financially afford to are required to perform pilgrimage (a journey to holy land) at least once in their lifetime.

According to Canada's 2011 National Household Survey, there were 1,053,945 Muslims in Canada or about 3.2% of the population, making them the second largest religion after Christianity. In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 7.7% of the population is Muslim, and in Greater Montreal, Muslims are 6% of the total population.

Young Muslim Woman


Action 2  

Think >

Understanding Islam and Muslim Life

What is your knowledge of Islam and/or Muslims? Unless you are one yourself, do you know any Muslims in real-life? How many of the above facts did you already know? Share with a partner.

Consider how Muslim women in Canada might feel unsafe and targeted simply because they are wearing a hijab. Canada has taken in Syrian refugees - approximately 25,000 in 2015 and 33,000 in 2016. Can you imagine being a teenage girl who experienced atrocities in her home country and has come to Canada, a supposedly safe and welcoming country, only to find herself being targeted? Read this article and think about how you might speak out and take action against this kind of injustice.

Action 3  

iSearch >

When The Media Reacts

Read the following article by University of California-Davis Professor Karima Bennoune, written in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. In the article, find and highlight as many unfamiliar words, phrases or concepts as you can. Research online for their definitions or for more information.

Once you finish reading, role-play with a partner as Karima Bennoune being interviewed by a journalist for the article. Ask and answer at least three questions this way. Feel free to research online to help you determine both the questions and the potential answers.

People scatter and police rush to the scene as a second bomb explodes during the 2013 Boston Marathon. Smoke rises down the street just as the bomb is going off. enlarge image
The Boston Marathon bombing poses searching questions for counter-terrorism agencies across the world.

Photo credit: David L Ryan/AP (The Guardian, UK)

40 days after Boston bombing: We must stop radical jihad

"We must stop trying to make excuses for the Tsarnaev brothers or jihad. It is wrong. Let's support peaceful Muslims around world."

By Karima Bennoune

In many Muslim societies, the 40th day after a death is a time to gather and grieve again with loved ones. So, in honor of this the 40th day after the atrocities in Boston, I find myself thinking again about the 264 injured people, some of whom are learning to live without their legs, and about the dead victims: 23-year-old Chinese graduate student Lingzi Lu, who had just passed her exams, friendly 29-year-old waitress Krystle Campbell, and eight year-old Martin Richard who famously carried a sign that said "No more hurting people. Peace."

Bearing such losses in mind, I would ask anyone who wants to support the rights of people of Muslim heritage in the United States in the wake of the Boston bombings, please do not do so by explaining that jihadist terrorism is simply a response to US foreign policy, or a consequence of the alleged difficulties faced by Muslim youth in integrating into American culture, or the result of Russian bombing of Chechnya.

Many of us have criticisms of US foreign policy and that of other countries; integrating may indeed be challenging for those from immigrant backgrounds in many contexts; and Chechens did suffer through the intolerable flattening of their country by the Russian military between 1992 and 2009. (As far as I know the United States never bombed the province.) However, most Muslims, immigrants and Chechens have not become terrorists as a result. These things are no excuse for – or even explanation of – the choice to deliberately murder children and young people at a sporting event. Such a grave international crime has nothing to do with legitimate grievances and everything to do with extremist ideology and movements that indoctrinate and instrumentalize young people. We must defeat those movements which have killed so many civilians, especially in Muslim majority countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq and Pakistan.

I have just wrapped up three years of interviewing hundreds of people of Muslim heritage working against fundamentalism and terrorism around the world, and I learned many lessons from them that are helpful today. For example, Cherifa Kheddar, president of Algeria's Association of Victims of Islamist Terrorism, or Djazairouna, who wrote right after 15 April to say how terrible the Boston bombings were. She told me that:

"We cannot defeat terrorism by an anti-terrorist battle without doing the anti-fundamentalist battle."

In other words, it is not just the violence of radical jihadis, but the underlying ideology of Islamism that we must confront. That ideology discriminates between Muslims and non-Muslims (as evidenced by Tamerlan Tsarnaev's reported indignation that his Imam mentioned Martin Luther King, a non-Muslim, during a sermon), and between "good" and "bad" Muslims. It justifies egregious violence against women and civilians, or at least creates an environment conducive to them.

Of course, being an Islamist or a jihadist is not the same thing as being a devout Muslim, and it is unhelpful when the US media simply describes radicalization as becoming "more religious". This process is rather the adoption of a dangerous political stance that deploys religion in the service of an extreme agenda. The best way then to take a pro-human rights stance in the face of recent events is to support those people of Muslim heritage who are risking their lives to denounce and defy these movements. Many have raised their voices around the world in places like Afghanistan, but have rarely been heard in the west.

Discrimination against Muslims in the wake of an atrocity like the Boston bombings is wrong and unhelpful, but so too is a politically correct response, which fosters justification and denial. A young Iranian-American scholar reported that at a recent conference at UC Berkeley on Islamophobia, she was bullied by older US academics for daring to raise the issue of Muslim fundamentalism, along with anti-racism, and, in the same week as the Boston bombings, was told that there was no such thing as what she called "the Muslim right". We must face the reality of extremism.

Many people in Muslim contexts have spoken out against terror even while facing it themselves. I think of Diep Saeeda, a peace activist I met who organized rallies against Taliban violence in Pakistan, or against the blasphemy laws despite the threat that suicide bombers would take down the protestors. Or the Women's Action Forum in Pakistan that regularly denounces terrorism in print. After a March 2013 attack on Shia residents of Karachi, they wrote:

"[o]nce again we share unspeakable horror at the carnage…Once again we express our condemnation and outrage. Once again we wonder how many more times we will do this before there is resolve to deal with religious militancy."

I think of the Libyans who took to the streets of Benghazi in 2012 after the murder of US ambassador Chris Stevens. Or of Somali American activist Abdirizak Bihi who campaigned against Al Shabaab recruitment in the Somali-American community in Minneapolis, after his own teenage nephew's recruitment and death at the hands of the militants. We have to support these people and listen to their voices.

In light of the national origin of the alleged Boston bombers, I have been thinking a lot about a wonderful Chechen journalist I interviewed in Moscow in December 2010. A devout Muslim, Said Bitsoev, then-deputy editor of Novye Izvestia – an independent newspaper – was terribly concerned about what such movements were doing to his home province. "There [a]re a lot of radical people who are really bad for Chechnya. They want to put the country back in the Dark Ages."

Before the Chechen wars, most followed a spiritual Sufi Islam, in contrast to the harsh dogma of the extremists. Said himself loathed the radicals, their new restrictions on women, and new forms of violence. He especially hated the thousands of foreign jihadis who came to Chechnya during the second war. "They brought a lot of fear. I was not able to sleep without a gun under my pillow." These foreign fighters left behind a new breed of Chechen "radical-thinking Islamists" in Bitsoev's view. "The worst thing," Said tells me, is that they were "hunting for those Muslims who were representatives of tolerant Islam, and killed these people". He gives the example of Umar Idrissov, 80, a mufti from Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny, who was assassinated in 2000 by the Wahhabi group "Wolves of Islam". In fact, across the Caucasus liberal Muslim clergy have been regularly targeted in recent years by extremists.

Said Bitsoev was all too aware that Chechens like those murdered clerics, or like him, are relatively inconspicuous internationally. "Radicals are interesting for the public because they are loud. We normal people are boring," he said. We must support the daily struggles of people like Said, who are too often invisible, against those who twist the religion of their birth into a totalitarian terror manifesto.

Unit 3 Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination

Chapter 4 The Nazis' View of Homosexuality, plus Homophobia Today

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Ask yourself:

  • The Nazis rejected any form of homosexuality. Was taking action against this position a danger for homosexuals?
  • Why might some people become hateful to those who are homosexual? What action might be taken to combat homophobia?

This page provides you with opportunities to consider Nazi views of homosexual men who were sent to concentration camps because they were considered inferior. The pink triangle, sewn onto the left breast of prison uniforms, became the symbol of persecution for gay men in Nazi Germany and today is recognized as a symbol of both remembrance and celebration. The actions in this chapter invite you to discuss issues connected to homophobia and prejudice and also explore facts connected to those who were “branded” by the pink triangle.

This really happened

Up until the middle of the 1930’s, Germany was considered to be one of the most sexually liberal and accepting countries in the world. When the Nazis took power in Europe, gay men were harassed and labeled as “inferior”.

The Nazi Party did not need to create new laws to prohibit homosexual behaviour. Paragraph 175 was a law against homosexuality that prohibited sex between men. Since the law was already in existence, all the Nazis had to do was enforce it. Paragraph 175 dated back to 1871 when the King of Prussia united various kingdoms into one German state. A new constitution was established. Paragraph 175 stated: “a man who commits indecency with another man, or allows himself to be misused indecently, will be punished with prison.”

Pink became the color of persecution for gay men in Nazi Germany. Those who identified as homosexuals had a pink triangle sewn onto the left breast of their prison uniforms, just as the yellow Star of David was sewn onto those of the Jews. Though drawn from the terrifying period of gay history, the pink triangle today can be recognized as a symbol of remembrance and celebration.

Daniel speaks out against homophobia

Action 1  

Discuss >

Let’s talk about…Homosexuality, Prejudice and Discrimination

Form groups to discuss issues connected to homophobia and prejudice.

A. You will need a single die. Each player in turn will roll the die and whatever number appears, that is his or her assigned topic listed below to discuss. You will offer your opinion on one of the topics, by sharing your reactions, making connections, asking questions. Once completed, another person rolls the die and discusses the corresponding topic. Note: it is ok if two players discuss the same topic. If someone rolls a six they can choose a topic of choice.

B. The activity is repeated. This time, the group members contribute by having a conversation about the topic. There is no time limit. Alternatively, the group can choose one topic to focus attention on:

  1. There is nothing wrong with men who choose to wear pink clothing.
  2. Having a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) in the school is helpful.
  3. Every country should legalize gay marriage.
  4. I know a story about a homophobic incident.
  5. I have a strong reaction when I hear someone using the word ‘faggot’.
  6. Choose a topic.

Action 2  

Do >

The Nazis views of Homosexuality

The persecution of homosexuals was just a small part of Hitler’s plan to strengthen the Aryan race. The Aryan or ‘Nordic’ race was proclaimed biologically superior to all others according to Hitler’s regime. The Nazis believed that discipline must be exercised at all costs in order to maintain power. Homosexual relationships were considered vulgar, perverted crimes. The following outlines the Nazi position on homosexuality in response to Paragraph 175.

A black and white photo of homosexual prisoners, dressed in striped prisoner uniforms and berets, are gathered in a concentr
ation camp. enlarge image
Homosexual Prisoners at Buchenwald 

Permission: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

"It is not necessary that you and I live, but it is necessary that German people live. And it can only live if it can fight, life means fighting. And it can only fight if it maintains its masculinity. It can only maintain its masculinity if it exercises discipline, especially in matters of love. Free love and deviance are undisciplined. Therefore, we reject you, as we reject anything that hurts our nation. Anyone who thinks of homosexual love is our enemy. We reject anything which emasculates our people and makes it a plaything for our enemies, for we know that life is a fight, and it is madness to think that men will ever embrace fraternally. Natural history teaches us the opposite. Might makes right. The strong will always win over the weak. Let us see to it that we can once again become strong! But this we can achieve only in one way—the German people must once again learn how to exercise discipline. We therefore reject any form of lewdness, especially homosexuality, because it robs us of our last chance to free our people from the bondage which now enslaves it.”
~Richard Plant, The Pink Triangle, p. 50

A. What do you think homosexual men might have done in response to the Nazi position?

B. Was taking action a choice for them?

Answer these questions in writing by having a conversation on paper.

Having a conversation on paper

This activity works best with two or three people, each with a piece of paper. This activity invites you to respond to a topic or issue in writing. Done in silence, the goal of the activity is to write your thoughts in responses to a topic and then share it with another person. That person responds in writing to what you have written. The paper is passed back and forth as if you are having a conversation.

You are encouraged to remain silent as you reflect on the issue, raise questions, make connections, agree or argue the topic.

Upon completion, you and your partner can meet with another pair to share what you have written and discuss the issues in small groups.

Action 3  

Do >

Exploring facts about those who were “Branded” By The Pink Triangle

In his book Branded by the Pink Triangle, author Ken Setterington brings to life the under-told stories of bravery and perseverance of homosexual men who were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps.

Cover of a book, depicting an animated silhouette of a bald man with a triangle on his chest, behind lines of barbed wire. enlarge image
Branded by the Pink Triangle

Source: Permission granted by Second Story Press

Just the Facts

Ken Setterington, a storyteller, book reviewer, author and librarian did extensive research on the topic of the persecution of homosexuals during the Nazi regime. The following statements that appear in Setterington’s book provide some factual information about those who were branded by the pink triangle. With a partner, decide if each of these statements is TRUE or FALSE.

  1. Many homosexual men joined the German army, hoping that they would be safe from arrest.
  2. The Nazis believed that if homosexuality was legalized, there would be fewer German babies and hence a lower birth rate, which would lead to a weaker Germany.
  3. Lesbians who were arrested and sent to concentration camps wore the pink triangle.
  4. In many concentration camps, homosexuals were housed apart because the Nazis believed that homosexuality was a disease that could spread to other prisoners.
  5. Some gay bars remained open during the Olympics held in Berlin in 1936.
  6. The gay community was not allowed to participate in the memorial services held at concentration camps or at war memorials.
  7. Even SS Officers who were caught in homosexual acts were put in concentration camps.
  8. Rosa Winkel was the first lesbian to die in a Buchenwald concentration camp.
  9. German and other European governments provided the same compensation to homosexuals as was provided to other victims of the Nazi regime who suffered losses.
  10. There are less than ten known gay Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who suffered losses.

( Answers: Only #3, #8, #9 and #10 are FALSE )

Lesbians were not considered harmful to the regime and wore the black triangle as anti-social prisoners. There was no systematic persecution of lesbians that compared to the persecution of gay men.

Rosa Winkel is the German translation of ‘pink triangle’.

Homosexuals were considered to be criminals and were denied compensation. It wasn’t until 2001, that the German government recognized gays as victims of the Nazi regime. By that time, most of the men were very elderly or dead.

Gad Beck, the last known gay Jewish survivor, died on June 14, 2012.

Getting Better: The Pink Triangle Today


In the 1970s, the pink triangle was chosen as a pro-gay symbol by activists in the United States. In Nazi Germany, the pink triangle badges identified homosexuals who were considered at the bottom of the camp social system and subjected to degradation and harsh maltreatment. To transform a symbol of humiliation into one of solidarity and resistance, the pink triangle was turned upright (i.e., point at the top) rather than inverted. In the onset of the AIDS epidemic it was considered a symbol of gay pride and liberation.

The Silence=Death Project drew parallels between the Nazi period and the AIDS crisis. The project concerned those who chose not to discuss safer sex and the unwillingness of those to resist government indifference to the cause. The men who created the project declared that “silence about the oppression and annihilation of gay people, then and now, must be broken as a matter of our survival.” The six men who created the Silence=Death Project offered the logo to the protest group ACT UP.


1985 - a pink triangle plaque was displayed in Dachau. A memorial sculpture made up of triangles of many different colours had been previously created in the camp. The pink triangle had been excluded.

1987 - the Homomonument was opened in Amsterdam, close to the Anne Frank house. Comprised of pink granite triangle ‘steps’, the monument is one of the largest in the world honouring gay men and women. The Homomonument is meant to "inspire and support gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination.”

Picture of a memorial slab dedicated to the homosexual victims of the Holocaust, at the side of a river in Amsterdam. The words Homomonument are chiseled in it. enlarge image
Memorial in Amsterdam commemorating all gay men and lesbians who were killed by the Nazis due to their homosexuality. It consists of three large triangles of pink granite.

Credit: P.H. Davies Homomonument Amsterdam

1989 - in Berlin, a pink granite plaque in the shape of triangle was placed outside a subway station in the area of the city where gay culture was celebrated in the years before the rise of the Nazi regime. The plaque states: “Killed and forgotten, the homosexual victims of National Socialism”.

2008 - the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism was unveiled in Berlin across the street from Murdered Jews of Europe. Visitors to the monument look inside a small window to watch two alternating videos: either two young men kissing or two women kissing.

According to Ken Setterington, the video and the monument “act as strong reminder that these two young men would certainly have been arrested and probably would have died if they had lived during the Nazi period” (p. 101). The wording on a nearby plaque concludes:

Because of its history, Germany has a special responsibility to actively oppose the violation of gay men’s and lesbians’ human rights. In many parts of the world, people continue to be persecuted for their sexuality: homosexual love remains illegal and a kiss can be dangerous.

With this memorial, the Federal Republic of Germany intends to honor the victims of persecution and murder, to keep alive the memory of injustice, and to create a lasting symbol of opposition to enmity, intolerance, and the exclusion of gay men and lesbians.

LGBT Youth Group Discussion

Thank you to the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (Jer’s Vision) for their help and participation in the group discussion.

LGBT Awareness and Understanding

Everyone has the right to live freely with all human rights, regardless of their sex and sexual preference. People are born as heterosexuals or homosexuals, and many are bisexual. While a person might be born as one sex they may identify as the other sex. Young people who don’t fit into the standard heterosexual mold often experience painful exclusion and bullying. Some of them even take their own lives because their lives are too difficult and painful. In order to be compassionate and understanding, we must educate ourselves about the different types of people in our world and everyone’s personal challenges.

LGBTQ Terminology

The true north LGBT: New poll reveals landscape of gay Canada

The Forum Research poll in 2012, commissioned by the National Post and taken twice … to confirm its accuracy, found that 5% of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. And contrary to the popular wisdom that the same-sex marriage rate is surprisingly low, the poll found that a third of LGBT people say they are in a same-sex marriage.

Milestones in the evolution of gay rights

  • Homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada in 1969. Before that, individuals who engaged in sexual activity with others of the same sex risked long prison sentences.

  • Rights and freedoms in the provinces: In 1977, Quebec became the first province to amend its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the years that followed, all provinces and territories eventually followed suit, Alberta being the last, in 2009.

  • Canadian Armed Forces: Sexual orientation was removed as a barrier to enrolment and promotion for military personnel in 1992.

  • Hate crimes: Since 1996, the Criminal Code has provided stricter penalties for crimes motivated by hate based on certain personal characteristics, including sexual orientation.

  • Spousal recognition: In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision in M. v. H. recognized same-sex couples as common-law partners. This was followed by provincial and federal legislation granting same-sex couples benefits and obligations similar to those that apply to other common-law couples.

  • Same-sex Marriage: In 2005, Canada legalized same-sex marriage by enacting the Civil Marriage Act. This led to amendments to other statutes granting same-sex couples equal access not only to the civil effects of marriage, but also to those of divorce.

Source: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2013-90-e.htm

The Sad Truth:

From: http://egale.ca/all/backgrounder-lgbtq-youth-suicide/

  • 33% of LGB youth have attempted suicide in comparison to 7% of youth in general (Saewyc 2007).
  • Over half of GLB students (47% of GB males and 73% of LB females) have thought about suicide (Eisenberg & Resnick, 2006).
  • In 2010, 47% of trans youth in Ontario had thought about suicide and 19% had attempted suicide in the preceding year (Scanlon, Travers, Coleman, Bauer, & Boyce, 2010).
  • LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Massachusetts Department of Education, 2009).

Action 4  

Do >

Designing a poster

Following a number of tragic suicides by LGBT students who were bullied in school, columnist and author Dan Savage, along with his partner uploaded a video to YouTube to inspire hope for LGBT youth who were facing harassment. The couple spoke openly about the suffering they suffered as teenagers and shared the story how they both came to lead rewarding adult lives. Their video launched the “It Gets Better Project” and initiated a worldwide phenomenon with thousands of videos posted. The campaign provides an opportunity for personal heartfelt support for LGBT youth everywhere.

Design a poster that features the Pink Triangle for an It Gets Better campaign. It Gets Better

Your posters can be displayed in the classroom, school or in the community to help others understand the significance of the pink triangle as a symbol of remembrance and celebration, liberation and gay pride.

  • How will you feature one or more pink triangles in your design?
  • Who is your audience?
  • How will your poster draw an attention to your audience? What message do you hope your poster will convey to others?
  • What words (if any, will your poster have)?

Action 5  

Discuss >

Engaged Response: Taking action against Homophobia

A. Why do people hate?

It is hard to understand why someone might hate someone else because of his or her differences. Those who identify as LGBQT often get grief from others because of their sexual preferences.

Examine the list of reasons below and rank them in order from #1 (strongest) to #6 (lowest).Once completed, share your list in groups of three or four. Are there any other reasons why you feel someone might be homophobic?

People might be cruel to others who identify themselves as queer because:

___ They are afraid of what they don’t know. Someone might feel intimidated.

___ They might never have had any close interactions with someone who identifies as queer.

___ Religious or cultural beliefs do not condone homosexual lifestyles.

___ Some people are taught to hate or distrust what they don’t know or understand.

___ People go along with awful things because they need to feel accepted. Peer pressure can influence how we treat others.

___ Bigots are often insecure. Insecure people often take out their own anxieties about themselves on others – especially those who are a minority. Being hateful to others gives them power.

B. Triumphing over Haters

Examine the list of strategies below that outline actions someone might take if they are being harassed. Rank the list in order from #1 (strongest) to #6 (lowest).

Then, in small groups, discuss the pros and cons of each strategy.

If someone is being tormented by others because of their sexual identity, they should:

___ Ignore the situation

___ Talk to a trusted adult

___ Confront the issue by fighting back

___ Seek professional counseling

___ Stick with your friends to approach the tormentor

___ Other

Action 6  

Discuss >


Organizing a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) / Respecting Difference Clubs

Dedicated to making schools more inclusive for all students, thousands of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) have been established in schools throughout North America. A GSA is a student-initiated and student–run club that provides a safe supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning (LGBTQ) and straight ally youth to meet and discuss sexual orientation and gender issues. Many GSAs function as support groups that provide safety and confidentiality for students struggling with their identity. Some GSAs have a mandate to educate themselves and their broader school community about gender and sexual identity issues.

This activity applies to both schools that have or don’t yet have a GSA*. In groups, discuss the following:

  • How familiar are you with GSAs?
  • Why are GSAs important?
  • What are the benefits of having a GSA in your school?
  • What might be some challenges of having a GSA in the school?
  • How can straight youth become involved in GSAs.
  • What are some significant activities for a GSA to become involved in?
  • How might teachers, administrators, families, experts get involved in GSA initiatives?
  • What are the ground rules that need to be established to ensure that discussions are safe, confidential and respectful?
  • What action plan (projects?) might be developed to make the GSA successful?
  • Would you consider being involved in a GSA in your school /community?

Jer's Vision: Canada's Youth Diversity Initiative is Canada's LGBTQ youth organization. They offer free workshops, youth forums and educator training across Canada. They also present the Day of Pink (DayOfPink.org) the day we wear pink to stop bullying, discrimination, homophobia & transphobia. They are always happy to help you start a GSA, organize programming and make spaces safer. Find out more: www.JersVision.org

*For more information see GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian 7 Straight Education Network.

Action 7  

Think >

Responding to a Hungarian Demonstration

Read the article below and respond to the following questions:

  • How successful was Craig Cowan at capturing the events of this clash?
  • What messages was he attempting to convey?


Artifact › A Hungarian Demonstration

By Craig Cowan

June 18, 2011 – Budapest, Hungary

We chose the left side of the intersection simply because a larger crowd was gathered on the left. It seemed intelligent to assume that the local Hungarians would know the best vantage point, so we followed their lead. Prior in the day I had continuously questioned our Hungarian history professor guide regarding the discrepancy between the Gay Pride committee in Budapest and the Hungarian government. The committee avowed that the Pride Parade would take place whereas I had read that the Hungarian government had refused to grant parade permission. After noticeably avoiding my questioning, I was told by the accompanying University of Toronto history professor, “Don’t go looking for trouble, Craig.” How could asking about the Gay Pride parade and wanting to attend it mean trouble? This confused me even further.

Upon arriving on the thoroughfare on which the parade was supposed to take place that day, two things became palpably obvious. First, something frightfully different than what I had expected was about to take place and second, the parade was seemingly going to occur. The mood on the street was very tense; few people wandered about. One person from our group hurriedly left, advising us that this was not a good place to find ourselves. Hundreds upon hundreds if not thousands of Hungarian riot police, wearing full gas mask protective gear, were filing onto the street and readying themselves. They began positioning themselves on each of the adjoining side streets, blocked and shut down intersections, rushed forcefully up and down sidewalks while continuously paying attention to those of us who still remained on the street. They then commenced clearing all people off of the entire parade route. The street was emptied from side to side.

My remaining friend and I were not sure what to do. As I wanted to stay (the photographer in me wanted pictures), we began to walk the emptying street. The police were systematically ordering people off as they moved along. Those businesses that were not already closed began to close up quickly. Every civilian was forced to make a choice. Either leave the street and the area entirely, or choose to stand on either side of one single designated intersection and watch the pride parade from there. As few spoke English, my understanding came from observation and from interpreting hand gestures. My decision to stay was made definite when a black leather gloved hand with extended finger pointed directly at my friend and I and indicated our two choices. One hand gesture indicated the far off distance, the other pointed to the intersection. We chose the left side.

Had I been more astute and not so overwhelmed by the huge numbers of riot police, I would have noticed more closely that hundreds of riot police stood in front of where I now waited (along what I believed would be the parade route) but also directly behind. The scene directly behind us seemed odd but I did not foresee what it might mean. That quite a few males in the crowd were wearing black bandanas over their faces and still others had actual gas masks around their necks (some actually wearing them already) still did not alert me.

Riot police and metal fences separated the crowd from the parade route. Officers were video taping the crowd. The overall mood seemed calm and peaceful, yet there was a tense anticipation of something. Then, loud music was heard. This triggered an assumption that the parade had begun, off in the distance, up the street, beyond sight. The music set off mayhem. Fists went up into the air and angry rioter chanting began. It was scary: the protestors became angry and violent in appearance. There were lots of them. The music grew louder, the parade got closer. The shouts and fists grew more heated and incensed. My friend and I moved back from the metal barricades, away from where the danger seemed most evident.

There was going to be trouble. It had started. I fully understood it now. The riot police shoved forcefully against the barricade fences and held the line as united protestors tried to push into the parade route. The hollering escalated. Fists thrust higher and more passionately into the air and then, more fences. Suddenly we were caged in on all sides by huge numbers of riot police, their facemasks down now, standing behind interlocking barricade fences. We were kettled! The police were rows deep behind each fence. The protestors went ballistic, threw bottles at the police and jammed up against the fences in every direction. Tear gas was fired in at us. The crowd went frantic, dispersed, and ran wildly as one large group, swarming towards my friend and I. We dodged behind a tree, the crowd parting and racing around it. The police pulled open barricade entry points and stormed in after the rioting protestors.

Things escalated further. The protestors, now kettled (all of us would remain kettled for the next four hours) suddenly realized that the pride parade had been re-routed. It had turned off on a side street two blocks north of us. Rioters now knew that they had been duped into standing at this intersection. Minutes later, the parade passed parallel to our prison, two full city blocks to our west and far out of range of any potential harm. As the world’s media looked in at those kettled, recording the event with cameras, four young men with faces fully visible, proudly displayed large placards that had the Nazi pink triangle symbol and rope nooses displayed on them. Death to homosexuals was the clear message.

Neo-Nazis as well as others had threatened to attack and do bodily harm to the parade’s marchers. Hungarian riot police had prepared for such an attack. The use of the pink triangle made apparent the protestors’ agenda towards homosexuals, their violent actions proved their intent. That neo-Nazis presented themselves at this specific parade doesn’t limit the need for our awareness to the potential full scope of their hatred towards all of those groups historically targeted by Hitler and the Nazis, not only homosexuals.

Riot police standing guard at a demonstration in Budapest, Hungary. enlarge image
Riot Police at a demonstration against the Gay Pride Parade in Budapest, Hungary - June 2011

Source: Photo permission by author

Homosexuality Map

Unit 3 Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination

Chapter 5 Cyberbullying

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Ask yourself:

  • How do you use technology to communicate, socialize, collaborate and research topics while developing your knowledge, critical and creative thinking strategies and ethical social skills?
  • How can you become a responsible digital citizen who respects the legal rights and privacy of others?

When surfing the Internet you need to be aware of your safety and security. You probably know how to make optimal use of your computer, mobile phone and tablet. You also need to distinguish between responsible online behavior and the legal, psychological and emotional consequences of irresponsible, hurtful online behavior. Cyberbullying, a harmful online behavior, is a growing international phenomenon.

Imagine coming home from school, grabbing a snack, turning on your computer only to discover numerous hurtful comments and several pictures of you at awkward moments during the last few days. You feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the hurtful messages and pictures. You are crushed, sad and angry because you thought you had lots of friends. Why would they do this to me? What's wrong with me? You feel vulnerable and exposed in your own room, your safe haven from the world. And you don't know who sent this mean, hurtful, nasty junk. How can you react when your attackers are unknown? How can you return to school when you are sure that everyone has seen or heard about what happened? How can you be interested in hanging out with friends at the mall, the park or Cineplex? Who can you really trust? Should you tell anyone? Who? How do you complete your schoolwork when a knot in your stomach makes it impossible to concentrate? Your nights are restless with the cruel words and images racing through your mind. How do you deal with your already busy life with this additional burden of anxiety and stress?

Sergeant Brian Trainor – retired police officer talks about cyberbullying

Here are the facts

In the twenty-first century rapidly changing technologies are transforming many aspects of our daily lives. These new technologies, software and innovative applications are an integral, important, ubiquitous part of your world. Cyberspace is a hectic, busy place:

  • In Canada 83% of teenagers own or share a computer compared to 93% in the United States and 70% in the United Kingdom
  • Mobile phones have become a popular device for communication and connecting to the Internet with at least 70% of Canadian teenagers and 78% of United States teenagers owning cell phones
  • Young people 8-18 report talking on a cell phone for an average of 33 minutes on a typical day
  • Teens also receive and send text messages, or "texts". Girls report sending and receiving about 132 texts per day, whereas boys receive and send about 94 text messages
  • Boys spend more time per day on the computer playing games while girls spend more time visiting social network sites. But all teens equally like to visit social networking sites
  • Teenagers report on average spending 2.9 hours doing schoolwork online compared with 3.4 hours offline
  • The number of teens using Twitter is growing significantly
  • Ownership of different brands of tablets is also increasing
  • Canadians now spend more time online (18 hours per week) than watching television (16.9 hours per week)

Think about how you use technology:

  • To communicate and socialize with close friends or online friends around the world
  • Accumulate data and research information to complete school assignments
  • Research and purchase products, new or used
  • Find jobs
  • Use mobile technology to take and exchange pictures and videos, and text others
  • Play online video games, watch television shows and films, YouTube clips, listen and purchase music and music videos
  • Collaborate, create and post online content. Blogs, Wikis, podcasts, YouTube clips, websites and short films enable them to share ideas, images and information with a wider audience and receive responses about your creative endeavors
  • Connect in groups with others of the same age who have similar interests such as: musical groups, sports teams, clothing designers, celebrities, gamers or fellow gear heads
  • Multi-task on a range of platforms, e.g. game consoles, computers, tablets or smart phones

Exploring and embracing the many positive benefits of modern technology is great. But participating in online activities and communities also comes with responsibilities and consequences.

An Analogy

For example, for most of you, the day you pass the driver's test is a monumental occasion. Driving provides a sense of freedom, not having to rely on others and the key to new occupational and recreational experiences. But drivers are also expected to drive safely, know and obey the motor vehicle laws for their province or state. Hopefully they will also adhere to many courteous and thoughtful driving behaviours. Failure to follow these laws can result in citations, fines and suspended licenses. Reckless and dangerous driving behaviour too often results in death.

Be smart and be safe!

When surfing the Internet you also have to be aware of your safety and security. You need to distinguish between responsible online behavior and the legal, psychological and emotional consequences of irresponsible, hurtful online behaviour.

Cyberbullying, a harmful online behaviour is a growing international phenomenon among people your age. There are numerous definitions of cyberbullying. Some are broad definitions that include almost every possible type of online harassment. Others are specific examples of hurtful behavior. A Google search for "cyberbullying definitions" located over 600,000 hits. The search included definitions for young people, parents, teachers, Wikipedia information, dictionary examples e.g. Oxford, Merriam-Webster online dictionary, and legal definitions.

Two teens snicker while holding their cell phones behind a visibly upset girl holding her phone. enlarge image
Cyberbullying victim

Source: Getty Images


Cyberbullying: Sending or posting harmful material or engaging in other forms of social aggression using the Internet or other digital technologies. These online communications can be vicious. Cyberbullying can be 24/7. Damaging text and images can be widely disseminated and impossible to fully remove. Teens are reluctant to tell adults for fear of overreaction, restriction from online activities, and possible retaliation by the cyberbully.
Source: Nancy Willard, 2007
Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly harasses, mistreats, or makes fun of another person online or while using cell phones or other electronic devices.
Source: Patchin & Hinduja, 2012

Key Concepts: Recognized Forms of Cyberbullying

Harassment: Harassment occurs when an individual or a large group repeatedly sends distasteful, hurtful messages to one targeted individual.

Denigration: Denigration is spreading gossip or making up rumors, posting or sending materials that are untrue or cruel. The intention is to disrupt friendships or harm the reputation of a person.

Impersonation: Impersonation occurs when a young person obtains or knows someone’s password to an Internet account. Masquerading as the owner of the password the impersonator has the means to say or post harmful words or materials that could ruin a reputation or disrupt friendships.

Outing and Trickery: Outing is sharing publically personal information or images to embarrass an individual. Trickery, a component of outing, occurs when the target believes the personal information or image in an email or text sent to one person or a select group of friends and will not be forwarded to others. 

Exclusion/Ostracism: Being a member of numerous social media sites or online games is common with many young people. For many reasons an individual can easily be excluded or dropped from a group. Not belonging or being an outcast from an online social group can have a devastating impact on a young adolescent or teenager.

Flaming: Flaming involves the exchange of cruel, rude, insulting, crude and sometimes threatening exchanges between two individuals or small groups. These arguments usually take place in a public domain such as discussion boards of games. Sometimes bystanders try to end or escalate the argument.

Happy Slapping: Happy slapping involves the recording, usually on a mobile phone, of an assault on an individual or a fight. The video is circulated so that anyone in a school or community can witness the physical altercation.

Cyber stalking: Cyber stalking occurs when an individual or small group repeatedly sends hurtful, threatening, intimidating or extremely distasteful messages to another person. The sender(s) wants to degrade the target, by damaging his or her reputation and current friendships. The intimidating messages are sent through personal communications although the stalker may try to hide his or her identity. Cyber stalking sometimes occurs after an angry breakup or the termination of a friendship.

The Victims:

Almost anyone can be cyberbullied, from the most popular outgoing teenager to quiet timid individuals who barely make an impression on their classmates. Shariff (2008) reports that teachers, administrators and school support staff have also been victimized by cyberbullying. Similar to traditional bullying, cyberbullying victims are often perceived as being different. Some do not or cannot adhere to any of the current trends in clothing. Others are not associated with a certain group e.g. a sports team, the skate boarders or a dance group. Students who struggle with learning or have behavioral issues are more likely to experience cyberbullying. (Hinduja and Patchin, 2012) Twice as many lesbian, gay, and transgendered (LGBT) students than heterosexual students experience cyberbullying.

Some Victims of Cyberbullying in Canada:

In Nova Scotia - Rehtaeh Parsons

In British Columbia - Amanda Todd

In Saskatchewan - Todd Loik


The Prevalence of Cyberbullying
  • In Canada 34% of students in grades 7-11 have been cyberbullied (Media Awareness Network);
  • In a review of 35 published papers between 5% and 72% (average 24.4%) of young people experienced cyberbullying;
  • Other studies estimated from 6% to 30% of teens have been victims of some form of cyberbullying;
  • In England 25% of young people aged 11-19 have been bullied on the Internet,
  • Hinduja and Patchin (2012) found about 17% of young people admit to cyberbullying others.
Sign saying No Cyberbullying
Results of surveys
  • Although anyone can be a victim of cyberbullying, this behaviour seems to be most prominent during the middle school years.
  • However, online harassment continues in secondary schools.
  • Both genders engage in cyberbullying and academic research suggests that it is more prevalent in females.
  • Gaming is the most popular activity for males online whereas communication is the most popular activity for females.
  • Flaming and exclusion are the more common types of male cyberbullying.
  • Denigration and outing/trickery types are more common among females. (Willard 2007 reports)
  • More males report being cyberbullied than females but more females are likely to inform adults about their online harassment experiences.
  • Young people from different racial backgrounds report taking part in cyberbullying at comparable rates (Hinduja and Patchin, 2008.)
  • Only 5% of middle school students reported cyberbullying to an adult or teacher.
The question is: WHY do some young people participate in cyberbullying?
Possible Motives
  1. Revenge - most common reported reason
  2. Jealousy – also common
  3. Anger, frustration and trying to right a wrong
  4. Victims themselves -Young people who have been targets of various forms of traditional bullying or cyberbullying by the “mean girls” or “tough guys” can stand up for themselves or others while remaining anonymous.
  5. To maintain powerful social standing
  6. Boredom - for entertainment and amusement without considering the hurtful consequences
  7. Enhance social status - A creative but degrading video clip may be considered cool by others and increase popularity
  8. Young people involved in cyberbullying may believe their actions are a common behaviour and socially acceptable.
Harmful effects
  • Negative emotional and psychological effects.
  • Feeling angry, sad, frustrated, depressed, and heightened social anxiety.
  • Lower self- esteem and report more suicidal thoughts (offenders and victims).
  • Higher rates of school absences, substance abuse, aggressive behavior, and physical ailments such as headaches or stomach aches (as reported by Kowalski and Limber - 2010).
Comparing traditional bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying and cyberbullying are both acts of aggression. Both often take place without the knowledge and supervision of adults. These acts of aggression can occur over a period of time. Cyberbullying and bullying are about relationships and individuals with unequal amounts of power.

Traditional bullyingCyberbullying
Traditional bullying Cyberbullying
Takes place when a more powerful person attacks a less powerful victim. Victim worries about parents, teachers and other adults overreacting and taking away or placing restrictions on their mobile phones, computers, tablets and Internet access. Not being able to communicate or socialize with their friends, would cause you to feel cut off from your world; is like sucking cyber oxygen out of your life.
The attack can be physical: hitting, kicking, pushing, wrestling, verbal: name calling, insulting, put-downs, or psychological: spreading rumors, social exclusion or extortion. A perpetrator of cyberbullying does not have to be physically or verbally intimidating and is typically anonymous.
The individual or group of bullies is known to the victim. The cyberbully does not observe the suffering or pain of the target and does not receive immediate feedback about his or her hurtful actions.
Takes place in and around schools with some bystanders observing the bullying. Perpetrators do not believe they will be identified and punished therefore they can act in more cruel ways online.
  Content can remain on the Internet for an extended period of time.
  Social media such as Facebook, YouTube, websites and smart phones are common venues and mediums.

Source:Willard (2008)

Canadian Bullying Statistics

Should I report cyberbullying?

Victims of bullying are often reluctant to talk about their experiences because they perceive the bullying might become worse. It is critical to learn and understand the consequences of cyberbullying and especially the local laws against it.

Action 1  

Do >

Online survey

Create an online survey dealing with cyberbullying within your school. Ask questions to find out what students know about the nature of cyberbullying, personal experiences with cyberbullying, and the many consequences of this online behavior. Include questions about their gender, age, and use of technology but have the students remain anonymous. Compare your findings with the other reports. How would you account for any significant differences?

Action 2  

Do >

Responsibility, Recognition

In a small group design a Venn diagram that illustrates the differences and similarities of traditional bullying and cyberbullying. Share your diagram with other groups.

On Becoming A Responsible Digital Citizen

In the 21st century with the pervasive nature of technology, cyberbullying is a challenge for you and your peers. This behavior that often takes place in non-school settings can have a negative influence on learning and a school's atmosphere. There is not a "silver bullet" solution for addressing this online behavior. Rather it requires a pro-active response that enables you to become a responsible digital citizen. Responsible digital citizens know about privacy and invading other people's privacy. They carefully guard their personal information such as their name, cell number, home and e-mail addresses. Personal information about relationships or problems shared online can leave you in a vulnerable position. Responsible digital citizens know how and with whom to discuss intimate information.

Action 3 

Do >

Identity and Theft

Work with a partner as an Internet Security Specialists. List a number of practical strategies for protecting your identity when working on the Internet. Design a pamphlet creatively outlining your ideas for other students.

Laws in Cyberspace

In democratic societies there are a number of laws to protect citizens. There are also protections for their freedoms and rights. What happens when you are in cyberspace? How are you protected? What are your rights? A responsible digital citizen has knowledge about the laws, freedoms and rights in virtual environments. There is a developing body of work taking place dealing with the legal issues addressing cyberbullying, its impact on young people and learning in schools.

Although the laws in many countries stem from British Common Law, emerging laws relating to cyberbullying vary in different countries. Young people and teachers have an opportunity to investigate together how the law in their country, province or state addresses cyberbullying. Shariff (2008) suggests that together they can develop a legal literacy. You can come to understand which forms of cyberbullying would be addressed by civil law (a private case between two parties) or a criminal law (crimes against the state).

  • In online environments, when is a person engaging in slander, a potential libel case or creating an unsafe environment?
  • How are harassment and defamatory libel defined under the Criminal Code or other laws?
  • How is the freedom of expression balanced with an individual’s right to be free from irresponsible, hurtful speech, the disclosure of personal information, psychological and emotional distress brought on by the intentional harmful actions of others?

Just saying, " I didn't know…." is not good enough for when someone is confronted with the legal consequences of his or her acts of cyberbullying. Responsible citizens know they are accountable for their actions in cyberspace.

Action 4 

Do >

Mock trial dramatic presentation

Learn about the laws and regulations regarding cyberbullying in your school district, province/state and the federal laws. Then create a dramatic presentation dealing with a trial of an individual accused of being a cyberbully. Your audience should be able to clearly understand:

  • Why the cyberbullying took place
  • The nature of the online harassment
  • The duration of the cyberbullying and
  • The psychological and emotional impact of this experience.

Different students play different roles e.g. the perpetrator, the target, lawyers, witnesses, the judge etc. The drama should clearly demonstrate to the audience how the laws apply to cyberbullying and the consequences for inappropriate online behavior.



Netiquette is a code of behavior people follow in online environments.
Young people abiding to these social guidelines respect other people’s rights and well-being.

Action 5  

Think >

Responsibility in a digital age

Read the following paragraphs and decide who is demonstrating responsible online behavior:

  • Sonia received an email that left her basking in a sea of emotions. She quickly wrote a response but decided to follow the “24 Hours Rule” before sending her reply. The next day after thinking about the email, she revised her response to avoid the possibility of regretting her initial reaction.
  • Some teenagers consider themselves to be the smartest, most knowledgeable person they know in a particular area. Rui adopted the persona of the “school’s technical genius,” therefore nobody could trace his hacking, or cyberbullying activities.
  • Many people send provocative emails or pictures to others. These images, videos or messages can quickly be circulated to a wider often unknown audience. And they can remain on the Internet for a long period of time.

A “technical genius” or hacker needs to keep in mind the numerous Internet security specialists around the world who have successfully developed sophisticated procedures for detecting the identity of online participants. Ultimately he or she will get caught and there will be consequences because cyberbullying is against the law.

An analogy of the consequences of impulsive behaviour is the case of Laura and James who decided to get matching tattoos. Two years later they both regretted their hasty decision. Tats can sometimes be removed but it is often an expensive painful experience.

Think long-term about what you post or say online! Some online images can become a source of shame and embarrassment, particularly when they cannot be removed.

Digitally responsible citizens develop and adhere to a netiquette that guides their online communication, and behaviors.

Action 6  

Discuss >

Ethical digital citizenship

Locate several netiquette Web resources online. In small groups develop your own code of online behaviour.

The Internet is a powerful tool to enhance learning, thinking, communicating and socializing. Responsible digital citizens know how to behave ethically while using technology to enhance their lives.


A. Cyberbullying 411
- Answers questions about cyberbullying.

B. Cyber Mentors
- Offers assistance for victims of bullying and cyberbullying.

C. Digizen.org
- Encourages teens to become responsible digital citizens.

D. MediaSmarts
- Strategies for fighting cyberbullying

Unit 3 Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination

Chapter 6 Japanese Internment Camps in World War II

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Ask yourself:

  • Was the Canadian government justified in removing thousands of Canadians of Japanese descent, from Canada’s west coast to the interior during World War II?
  • How would you feel if you were suddenly removed from your place of birth for no apparent reason?
  • Should we take responsibility for the “sins” of our ancestors?
Minoru Fukushima - Internment of Japanese Canadians


Internment – the imprisonment or confinement of people (considered ‘enemy aliens’), without trial, often connected to times of war or terrorism. This definition can be used to describe a "concentration camp".

Restitution – reparation made by giving an equivalent or compensation for loss or damage to property, or injury caused without justification.

War Measures Act – an undemocratic statute passed by the Canadian parliament on August 4th, 1914, giving the government broad power to take emergency measures during war or rebellion in order to maintain security and order. It also gave the government full authority to censor the media, arrest without charge, deport without trial and expropriate control and disposal of property. Implementation was not approved by the democratically elected Parliament but through an Order in Council. It was used three times: in WWI, WWII and in the October crisis of 1970 by Prime Minister Trudeau.

Issei – a Japanese term to describe a first generation person who settled in Canada or the United States.

Nisei a Japanese term to describe a person born to Japanese parents in Canada or the United States, also known as second generation.

This Really Happened

After a decade of military campaigns and victories in Asia (mostly Korea and China), the Japanese government wanted to cripple American efforts to contain its military expansion and on December 7th, 1941 made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the American naval base in Hawaii. This surprise attack which killed 2,500 Americans, was quickly followed by attacks on other parts of Asia including the British garrison (military post) in Hong Kong which had recently welcomed two battalions of Canadians. On December 25th, the Japanese forced the garrison’s surrender and took survivors as prisoners of war (POWs).

At the time, British Columbia had 22,000 Japanese Canadians living there—14,000 of whom were born in Canada. Many of these immigrants worked in the fishing industry. On February 24, 1942, an Order in Council passed under the Defence of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act gave the federal government the oppressive power to intern (confine) all "persons of Japanese racial origin.” A "protected" 100-mile (160 km) wide strip up the Pacific coast was created, and men of Japanese origin between the ages of 14 and 45 were removed from their homes and taken to road camps in BC’s interior or to camps beyond. Those who refused to leave their families were rounded up by the RCMP and deported to prisoner of war camps in Angler, Ontario. About 4,000 people were sent to the Prairies in Alberta where they endured difficult conditions.

Soon the remaining Japanese population of more than 20,000 men, women, and children were removed from the west coast and placed in internment camps in the interior. Families were torn apart, some who had been living in Canada for two generations. In addition, they had to pay for their own living and relocation costs, since the Geneva Convention did not protect them as they did prisoners of war of enemy nations. Their mail and written material was censored.

Map of Japanese-Canadian relocation sites.

Source: https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Japanese-Canadian-Relocation-Sites

Many able-bodied Japanese Canadian labourers were sent to camps near fields and orchards, such as the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. This quickly solved the area’s shortage of farm workers.

During the war the federal government passed legislation to confiscate the property of “enemy aliens”. For Japanese Canadians this meant losing farm property, fishing boats and equipment. These were sold for far below their value and the proceeds used to help operate the camps.

enlarge image
1,200 Japanese fishing boats seized and impounded – 1941 in New Westminster, BC

Source: opentextbc.ca

At war’s end in 1945 there were calls to deport Japanese Canadians to Japan. Some of those who had earlier signed this "repatriation agreement", tried to have it annulled. Beginning in May 1946 the journeys to Japan began for what would amount to nearly 4,000 people, many of whom had been born in Canada and knew no other home. A great number of the remaining Japanese returned to the west coast but others stayed near their internment locations or moved to cities like Toronto. In any case, they did not regain their property and only won the right to vote, along with Chinese Canadians, in 1949. At that time all other restrictions were lifted.


YearEvents in History
Year Events in History
1877 Manzo Nagano, a nineteen-year-old sailor, was the first Japanese person to officially immigrate to Canada, entering the salmon-exporting business.
1885 The Federal government passed a Head Tax to limit Chinese immigration. Such a tax was not extended to Japanese immigrants.
1899-1902 During the Boer War the British set up camps for South African Boer farmers, women, and children as well as Black South Africans, as part of a strategy to defeat Boer guerrilla fighters. These were referred to as “concentration camps”.
1907 The United States prohibited Japanese immigration using Hawaii as a stop over. Over 7,000 immigrants came to British Columbia as a result (compared to just over 2,000 in 1906). As a result of tensions over increased immigration of Asians to American and Canadian west coasts, an Asiatic Exclusion League was formed. The League held a rally in front of Vancouver’s City Hall but it soon turned into a riot in which shops in Chinatown were vandalized. The shops in the Japanese area of the city suffered less damage due to resistance by the local population.
1914 The War Measures Act was a federal statute adopted by Parliament in 1914, after the outbreak of the First World War, giving broad powers to the Canadian government to maintain security and order during war or insurrection. During the First World War, enemy aliens (nationals of Germany and of the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires) were subject to internment, but only if there were "reasonable grounds" to believe they were engaged in espionage or illegal activities. Many of these ‘aliens’ were Ukrainians, who at that time were not part of an independent country.
1916-1922 Japanese Canadians went to Alberta to volunteer to serve in the war. They fought in most of the major battles, winning 11 Canadian Military Medals for bravery and suffering 54 deaths.
1931 Japanese military invaded Manchuria.
1937 Japanese military launched a full-scale invasion of China. By 1941 it held the coastal areas of both China and Vietnam. A particularly infamous event occurred in December when the city of Nanking was captured (The Nanking Massacre aka the “Rape of Nanking”.)
27 September, 1940 Germany, Italy, and Japan formed a defensive alliance through the Tripartite Pact, sometimes called the Berlin Pact.
1941 Japanese attacked American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This was followed by more invasions of south Asian territories including Hong Kong and the surrender of thousands of British and Canadian troops.
1942 Over 20,000 Japanese Canadians were removed from the west coast to camps in the interior of BC, Alberta and beyond. Most of the camps were internment camps but some were road camps.
19 January, 1943 A federal government Order in Council liquidated all the Japanese property that had been under "protective custody."
2 May, 1947 The SS Marine Angel left Vancouver carrying 3,964 internees to a war-devastated Japan.
31 March, 1949 Japanese and Chinese Canadians were given the right to vote.

Action 1

Two terms— “internment camps” and “concentration camps” are used to describe camps in which civilians are held (which violates their basic human rights). Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. Should they be?


Research the use of these two terms as they have been used throughout history and conduct the following “test” using the “Venn Test”.

Venn diagrams prompt us to compare: a key ingredient for improving your understanding of concepts. Here is a “test” to enhance comparison and contrast. We can compare two ideas; e.g.
“prejudice” and “discrimination”

Or the experiences of two groups of immigrants; e.g.,
Chinese and Japanese Canadians from early settlement to 1949

Or experiences in Canada and the United States; e.g.,
the treatment of people of Japanese ancestry

A. Do the people, events, or ideas being compared have nothing in common?

B. Are any similarities overshadowed by their differences?

C. Are their similarities so strong that their differences don’t matter that much?

D. Are they synonymous: do they constitute the same thing, although they go by different names?

E. Is one idea a part of the other idea?

This “test” can be used in all subject areas when comparing, for example:

  • Two (or more) historians’ accounts of an event, idea, or person (artifacts).
  • Editorials from two newspapers on a current issue related to prejudice, discrimination, human rights or any other topic found in Voices into Action.

The Venn Test is more open-ended than a simple Venn diagram and promotes deeper analysis of patterns and relationships.


Using the Venn Test, discuss and debate these issues in pairs or larger groups. Some comparative relationships may be a matter of judgment in which there may more than one “right” answer.

Action 2


From the timeline and classroom work, including studying other Voices into Action chapters and units, you know that there was intense and unfair prejudice against many Canadians throughout our history involving many acts of discrimination by individuals, organizations, and even the government. Examine another group that suffered prejudice and discrimination throughout our history (and perhaps found within Voices into Action) and compare with the Japanese Canadian experience using the Venn Test.

Artifacts 1

The following documents, both primary and secondary sources, relate to the decision to remove Japanese Canadians from the west coast.

Document 1: › Parts of a resolution passed by the British Columbia Legislature in 1924
Whereas statistics show that there is a large increase in the number of Orientals {Chinese and Japanese} in British Columbia, multiplying each year to an alarming extent:

And whereas the Orientals have invaded many fields of industrial and commercial activities to the serious detriment of our white citizens:

And whereas many of our white merchants are being forced out of business by such commercial and industrial invasion:

Therefore be it resolved that the House go on record as being utterly opposed to the further immigration of Orientals….

Adapted from Ken Adachi, The Enemy That Never Was, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991, p. 141.

Document 2: › Statement about Japanese Canadians by British Columbia M.P. Thomas Reid, in a speech in January 1942
Take them back to Japan. They do not belong here … They cannot be assimilated as Canadians for no matter how long the Japanese remain in Canada they will always be Japanese.

Adapted from Roy Miki and Cassandra Kobayashi, Justice in Our Time. The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement. Vancouver: Talon books, 1991, p.24.

Document 3: ›
On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the American naval base in Hawaii. This attack brought the war close to North America and created near panic in British Columbia and on the California coast.

The first victims of this growing fear were the Japanese Canadians. About 23,000 of them, not all Canadian born, but almost all citizens, lived in British Columbia. Racism in Canada had existed for a long time, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had raised it to a fever pitch. The federal government in Ottawa was repeatedly told by its officials, the RCMP and by military officers that the Japanese Canadians posed no threat. But the political pressure grew, especially from British Columbia’s representatives in federal cabinet. The government felt obliged to act. The Japanese Canadians were rounded up, deprived of their jobs and property and sent to the interior of BC or to other parts of the country. It was the most shocking violation of basic human rights in Canada during the war.

Adapted from J. L. Granatstein et al, Twentieth Century Canada, 2nd ed., Toronto McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1986

Document 4: ›
There were many reports – both real and imagined - of enemy submarine activity off the coast of California in late December 1941. A few American freighters were shelled and one sunk. Although there were no further attacks after December, many coastal residents felt they were under threat from a whole fleet of enemy submarines.

The same panic was evident on the west coast of British Columbia in December 1941. One rumour was that Japan’s main fleet was exactly 154 miles west of San Francisco and heading northeast towards B.C.

The closest thing to an attack on British Columbia’s coast however was the shelling by a Japanese submarine of a radio station and lighthouse on Estaven Point on Vancouver Island in June 1942. The shelling caused virtually no damage. There was no invasion of Canadian soil, no landings from the sea or aircraft bombings. There was no evidence that the Japanese ever seriously considered such steps.

Adapted from Ken Adachi, The Enemy That Never Was, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991, p. 206-208.

Document 5: ›
It would be possible to make the whole of British Columbia a battleground, and even to bomb the prairie cities such as Edmonton and Calgary. We should be protected from treachery, from a stab in the back. … There have been treachery elsewhere from Japanese in this war, and we have no reason to believe that there will be none in British Columbia... the only complete protection we can have from this danger is to remove the Japanese population from the province.

British Columbia M.P. Howard Green in a House of Commons speech, January 29, 1942.

Document 6: ›
For six weeks, from the middle of January 1942 to the announcement of mass evacuation, many community groups in B.C. feared that the Japanese Canadians would betray Canada. Municipal councils, most notably those of Vancouver and Victoria, urged Ottawa to remove all Japanese. The Citizens’ Defense Committee made up of 20 prominent B.C. citizens supported the mass evacuation of the Japanese Canadians. This committee caused a “deep impression” in Ottawa.

“It is a fact that no person of Japanese race born in Canada has been charged with any form of sabotage or disloyalty during the war years,” said Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1944. He also could have added that no Japanese Canadian, wherever born, had ever been found guilty of such crimes.

Adapted from Ken Adachi, The Enemy That Never Was, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991, p. 206 and 276.

Document 7: ›
An important factor guiding federal policy at this time was the fall of Hong Kong in late December 1941, and the capture of Canadian soldiers there. As well, reports of Japanese treatment of prisoners in Hong Kong greatly increased the hostility towards the Japanese residents on the west coast.

On February 19, 1942, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King recorded in his diary that he was fearful of riots on the west coast. He thought those riots might be caused by reports of mistreatment of Canadian prisoners. King wrote, “Once that {rioting} occurs there will be repercussions in the far east against our own prisoners.” It was partly in fear of such reprisals that King decided that all Japanese must be evacuated.

The mass removal of the Japanese Canadians also would remove a widespread fear among the white population which might lead to riots.

Adapted from Ken Adachi, The Enemy That Never Was, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991, p. 211.

Document 8: ›
During the sixty-five years since the first settler from Japan came to Canada in 1877, legal restrictions in British Columbia denied them the right to vote or be elected to public office. In addition, they were prevented from entering professions such as law, pharmacy, teaching and accounting.

The uprooting of Japanese Canadians in 1942 was not an isolated act of racism, but the end result of discrimination which had build up from the first days of their settlement. Indeed, for many decades, Japanese and Chinese immigrants had been harassed by racists. Older Japanese Canadians remembered well the Vancouver Riot of 1907. A crowd at an anti-Asian rally suddenly turned into a mob, stormed through Chinatown, breaking store windows and were finally beaten back by a group of Japanese Canadians.

Adapted from Roy Miki and Cassandra Kobayashi, Justice in Our Time. The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement. Vancouver: Talon books, 1991, pp. 17-18.

Document 9: ›
In 1942 a special committee in B.C. reported that unless anti-Japanese sentiments were reduced, there would be riots. Such an incident had already occurred in the Japanese Canadian district on Halloween night in 1939 when a mob of 300 white youths smashed plate glass windows and looted stores.

Adapted from Ken Adachi, The Enemy That Never Was, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991, p. 191.

Action 3


The Spectrum Line

This organizational structure helps those who are visual or kinesthetic learners demonstrate what they know by “placing” views along a spectrum. Apply it to your learning by discussing a question that can have many possible answers.

  1. In pairs use a spectrum worksheet in which you examine a number of significant events related to a question in a social studies area. Number each event.

  2. The line or scale at the top of the page represents a wide spectrum of views about the question or issue. Opposing criteria are placed at each end of the spectrum line. Work in pairs to reach consensus as to where each event belongs, according to the criteria. If you are looking at reasons Japanese Canadians were removed from the west coast during World War II, you might locate the historical interpretations offered in the previous 9 documents along the spectrum, based on the identified or implied cause for removal as follows:
    A spectrum line with 'racial fears' at one end and 'security fears' at the other
  3. With your partner, position the number of the document on the spectrum line according to its relevance to the issue or question being discussed. For this particular example, you might expect document 2 to be near the “racial fears” spectrum line.

  4. Write a sentence beside or after each document justifying its position on the line based on your summarized and paraphrased interpretation of the source.

  5. Team up with another pair to exchange views and attempt to reach a consensus by merging both teams’ spectrum lines.

Another kind of spectrum line is a scaled spectrum that can be used throughout your research of the topics within Voices into Action. When comparisons are required you may wish to include a Scaled Spectrum (rather than one with just two opposing criteria) with criteria being identified as:

A spectrum line with 'Unimportant' at one end, 'Somewhat Important' in the middle and 'Very Important' at the other end.

Spectrum Construction - Find statements, events, ideas, quotes, etc. to fall on each end and in the middle of the spectrum.

The range of perspectives along the spectrum line can include criteria such as:

  • unimportant - very important
  • good example - poor example
  • good leadership - poor leadership
  • strongest influence - weakest influence.


Artifacts 2

The following diary entries and memoirs capture some of the experiences of the internment detainees: https://www.lib.washington.edu/subject/Canada/internment/excerpts/oiwa.html.

First independently, then in pairs, then in groups of pairs, share your reactions (feelings) as you read the entries. Some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • What emotions come to you when you read each entry?
  • Which adjectives come to mind as you read?
  • Can you identify or relate with an experience or a character from a reading? What in particular do you feel/see? How does this connection influence your understanding of the character or event?

A. From the foreword, by Joy Kogawa (author of Obasan):

I devoured these stories in one hungry afternoon of reading. Some of it was painfully familiar. Some of the flavouring tasted strange and felt unsettling. Here were some Issei, professing in their diaries, an identity with a country that was the enemy country of my youth. As a passionately Canadian Nisei, I never did want to believe that Japanese Canadians were anything but totally Canadian in their identity. This was unreasonable. How could I expect people to feel no connection to the land of their birth? As I read, I ranged through discomfort, old sadness, nostalgia, admiration, tenderness, pride, and anger as I was taken back to look again with the help of these additional perspectives, into the secrets and intimacies of my childhood.

B. From the diaries of Koichiro Miyazaki

April 15, 1942
Rain. I haven't seen rain for a long time. As I look into the birch forest it is shrouded with a gentle spring rain. It is all very dream-like. My diaries, which were confiscated, were returned cut up and censored. It is just an internee's diary. Do they have the right to do such things? At least they should give some reasons. They can confiscate my diaries but the facts of my life will not disappear... (Oiwa, 52)

July 19, 1942
This is the last day of our life at Petawawa internment camp. I remember the day we arrived here when the camp was still surrounded by the harsh, bleak winter. The lake was frozen white. The biting wind was blowing. The ground was hard and icy. The birch forest gave a bleak impression of white skeletons and made us shiver. The whiteness of the landscape is still clearly imprinted in the back of my mind. It so happens that we are leaving here in the middle of summer. Tomorrow morning we are leaving this place for good. The camp is now surrounded by lush green ... Many people have cleared the barren land and sowed various vegetables and flowers which our eyes and stomachs have begun to enjoy. Well, I'd better stop being sentimental. Tomorrow a new struggle begins in a new camp ... (Oiwa, 61)

C. From the letters of Kensuke Kitagawa (written while interned at Angler Prison Camp):

May 28, 1943 (from a letter to his wife)
I still look at the wisteria branch that you sent me which is on the wall. As I slept in the lower bunk, a haiku came to me:
Wisteria flowers:
But double-decker bed
Is in my way

I wonder how you interpret this poem. Guess where my mind is? (Oiwa, 112)

D. From the diary of Kaoru Ikeda:

... We have seen Canada's true nature through our recent experiences. What is democracy? Who can talk about it? Who has the right to accuse Japan of invading other countries? Isn't Britain the champion invader? The last several centuries of British history is full of invasion after invasion. Since they can be neither Japanese nor Canadian, I wonder what the future of the Nisei youth will be? Deprived of civil rights these young people are in a sad situation. I just hope that their efforts will lead to a positive solution. (Oiwa, 146)

E. A tanka poem, written while at Slocan:

I thought
It would only be temporary
In this Mountain country
Accumulate another year
As snow deepens
(Oiwa, 119)

F. In the words of Genshichi Takahashi:

The government promised us that until the end of the war the Custodians would take care of our properties. We trusted the words of the government and left all our belongings behind. These were all very important things to us. They then confiscated and sold for next-to-nothing, our farmland, fishing boats, and cars, by means of the unjust law called the War Measures Act. From the beginning the government intended to deceive us. (Oiwa, 192)

Camp Conditions

Action 4


Writing is one way to express the emotion of a situation. Haiku is a Japanese poetic style that uses sensory language to capture a feeling or image. They are often inspired by an element of nature. The traditional format is three-lines with 17 syllables arranged in a 5–7–5 pattern.

Here is an example that may depict what the Japanese went through:

Prejudice is a dark cloud
Bad for all of us.

Write a Haiku to represent the feelings of a child in an internment camp.

Artifacts 3

The following are photos from the internment period:

enlarge image
A family of Japanese Canadians being relocated in British Columbia, 1942.

Credit: Library and Archives Canada/C-046355.

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An internment camp for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia, 1945.

Photo Credit: Jack Long / National Film Board of Canada/Library and Archives Canada/PA-142853. LAC

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The Lemon Creek Internment Camp, 1944-1945, constructed specifically to intern Japanese Canadian families.

Source: http://www.michaelkluckner.com/bciw4slocan.html
Photos courtesy of Diana Domai.

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The Lemon Creek Internment Camp, 1944-1945, constructed specifically to intern Japanese Canadian families. The school in the centre held classes for kindergarten to grade 12.

Source: http://www.michaelkluckner.com/bciw4slocan.html
Photos courtesy of Diana Domai.

Action 5


This website has many photos from the internment period. As part of the Japanese Canadian Legacy Project, SEDAI is dedicated to collecting and preserving the stories of earlier generations of Canadians of Japanese ancestry for all future generations to witness.

First on your own, then in pairs, examine the photos above and those on the website. Pick out the photos that have the most emotional impact to you and explain why you feel this way.

Action 6


“Minoru”, a film by Michael Fukishima portrays the story of his father’s family’s internment during the war.

After viewing, compare your feelings about the film with other sources about the time, such as photos, memoirs, daily entries, textbook accounts and more.


  • How historical context enriches the study of literature and media portrayals
  • How literature and media can enhance our understanding of an event in history

Action 7


On September 22, 1988, the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement was signed. In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney acknowledged the government's wrongful actions, pledged to ensure that the events would never recur and recognized the loyalty of the Japanese Canadians to Canada. As a symbolic redress for those injustices the government offered individual and community compensation to the Japanese Canadians. To the Canadian people, and on behalf of Japanese Canadians, the federal government also promised, under the terms of the agreement, to create a Canadian Race Relations Foundation, which would "foster racial harmony and cross-cultural understanding and help to eliminate racism." The federal government proclaimed the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Act into law on October 28, 1996. The Foundation officially opened its doors in November 1997. http://www.crr.ca

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s remarks to the House of Commons, Sept. 22, 1988

I know that I speak for Members on all sides of the House today in offering to Japanese Canadians the formal and sincere apology of this Parliament for those past injustices against them, against their families, and against their heritage, and our solemn commitment and undertaking to Canadians of every origin that such violations will never again in this country be countenanced or repeated.

CBC News story about the event (4 ½ minutes)

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The Redress Agreement of 1988

Front, L-R: Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Art Miki, President of the National Association of Japanese Canadians signing the Redress Agreement on September 22, 1988. Back, L-R: Don Rosenbloom, Roger Obata, Lucien Bouchard, Audrey Kobayashi, Gerry Weiner, Maryka Omatsu, Roy Miki, Cassandra Kobayashi.

As a class, respond to questions such as:

  1. What criteria should we use to offer redress or compensation for past wrongs?

  2. What other issues in the news today should be the subject of redress or compensation?

Further Resources:

1. Ten short films about the Nikkei by students at Lucerne Secondary School, New Denver BC

2. Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre, New Denver BC