In September and early October 2020, Team Timid Turtle (Paul and Diana) took an epic four-week road trip through the Kootenay region of British Columbia. This is one in a series of illustrated updates on the trip.
One of our first stops in the Kootenays was the Village of New Denver. Once a bustling mining town, today New Denver is quiet and pretty, straddling Carpenter Creek on the northeast shore of Slocan Lake. It is the ideal place for a quiet canoe ride on a warm evening in late summer.
As the site of an internment camp for Canadians of Japanese descent during and after the Second World War, New Denver’s past fired my imagination more than its present.
Visiting New Denver’s Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, a National Historical Site of Canada, we learned that in 1942, more than 22,000 Japanese-Canadians from British Columbia’s West Coast were labelled enemy aliens, forced to surrender all property and belongings to the government and relocated to camps in BC’s Interior.
Even after the war ended those interned were not allowed to return to BC’s coast for several years; some were further displaced to eastern Canada while others were deported to Japan (though most had been born in Canada and many did not speak Japanese). None of their property — homes, businesses, fishing boats, vehicles and more — was returned. The government sold it cheaply, saying it was done to pay for the cost of the internment camps.
Walking beside the lake in the still-warm light, following the gentle rhythm of the paddles below, we pondered the beauty of the New Denver before us and the sobering reality of what happened there and in other Slocan Valley communities nearly 80 years before.