Tad Oyagi remembers the Sunday morning, 74 years ago, when his life changed. “I was having a Coke with my friends,” he said. “I even remember the song they were playing on the radio, ‘The Smoke Went up the Chimney Just the Same.’” On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese Imperial aircraft attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Canada was already at war as an ally of Great Britain against Nazi Germany. Fearing sympathy for the Japanese cause inside Canada, the federal government declared all Japanese Canadians enemy aliens. Almost 22,000 Japanese, most of them Canadian citizens, had their belongings confiscated and were forcibly removed from their homes.
John Thornton was nearly six years old and the noise of war seemed all around them, he and his mother sought shelter beneath the stairs of their home in a small town north of London, England. “There was a lot of activity at night time with the convoys coming through, particularly the tanks that came through the main street where we lived,” he said, “like a minor earthquake that would shake and rumble the houses.”