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L.A. Beat

Galt Museum welcomes powerful travelling exhibition about Japanese displacement in Second World War

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A new  travelling exhibit at the Galt Museum puts a human face on one of the more lamentable moments of Canadian history — the displacement of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Tyler Stewart examines  the Broken Promises exhibit at the Galt Museum. Photo by Richard Amery


 The travelling exhibit Broken Promises, co-curated by the Nikkei National Museum and the Royal British Columbia Museum in partnership with Landscapes of Injustice, is at the Galt Museum until Sept. 3.

“ It’s been at some of the major museums in Canada over the past three years so it’s very cool we get to have it here,” said curator Tyler Stewart.


 The exhibit complements The Galt Museum’s existing permanent exhibit about the displacement, with artifacts and interactive displays featuring first hand accounts and old correspondence from some of the displaced and their families.

“ It’s a very powerful exhibit. It’s very detailed and well researched so it has allowed a deep dive into  some  of the individual stories of the people involved rather than an abstract concept,” Stewart said, adding Japanese Canadians  made a long standing contributions to the country before the Second World War.


“ Japanese Canadians are an important part of Southern Alberta history,” he continued, noting their property was confiscated  and either sent back to Japan or sent west, where many of them were driving force in agriculture production, particularly on sugar beet farms.

“These interactive exhibits tell the stories and experiences of the Japanese people,” he said.

“ There are a lot of different ways to engage with this exhibit,” he continued.

“ Their possessions were stolen and sold,” said Stewart, noting the stories are very educational.


“What I learned is that  The Canadian government made promises that their possessions, homes, businesses, boats that were taken, but would be located and returned to them, but those were lies. This exhibit shows exactly how they were lied to,” Stewart said.

“ It’s pretty powerful. It’s very important that we don't forget this part of Canadian history. It affects and determines what we do today,” he said.


There are copies of letters written to  the government from some of the people trying to get their property returned to them, though  it was sold. On the other side, there are comments from  people who inherited the items, trying to return them to their original owners.

Broken Promises sheds light on the forced displacement and dispossession of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s through seven unique stories representing the thousands of family histories impacted for generations. While the common narrative of the Second World War focuses on the Allies defeating the Nazis, the experience of Japanese Canadians during the same event was one of injustice and broken promises.


“The forced relocation of Japanese Canadians to southern Alberta during World War II, with 75 per cent of them being Canadian-born or naturalized Canadians, is an unjust legacy that we must not forget,”  said Stewart in a press release.


“Despite this terrible mistreatment, Japanese culture has flourished here and remains an important part of the local community in many ways.”


The immersive experience includes the Offices of Loss, which showcases the administration of lives and the events that unfolded, a map table illustrating the locations involved and an Oral History Theatre that presents first-person accounts from both descendants and bystanders.

The traveling exhibition began its journey at the Museum of Surrey in early 2022 and was hosted at the Canadian Immigration Museum Pier 21 in Halifax in early 2023. It will go to Nanaimo in early 2024.

Broken Promises runs at the Galt Museum until Sept. 3.

—By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

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