Author Archives: agill2135

State of Exception: Japanese Canadian Internment

Japanese Canadian Internment refers to the detention camps that were set up all over Canada during World War II; British Columbia was home to the largest camp grounds for the reason that B.C. was the closet province to Japan (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). These camps confined all Japanese people beginning in January 1942 due to the attack on the American Naval base in Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). The government had allowed the confinement of the Japanese Canadians without any charge some were even deported  (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). The War Measures Act was enforced during this time in response to the attack and for the protection of the country; this act allows the government to gain powers deemed necessary in a state of war and evoke rights of those deemed a threat  (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). This act normally affected males ranging from 18 – 45 years of age; however, women and children were being affected as well  (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). Anyone of Japanese origin, who even owned land, had it confiscated from them. There was great fear that the coast lines were being monitored by Japanese for Japan’s Navy to make its way which resulted in restricting the presence of Japanese people near the coast line and if any had owned boats, they would be confiscated as well  (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). There were roughly 29,000 Canadians of Japanese descent living in Canada during the time of the war; they already had very limited rights such as no right to vote and the right to various professions but they were still required to pay tax (Rita Dhamoon, 2009).  Racism towards Japanese people was evident before the WWII; however with this attack at Pearl Harbour, the legitimization of enacting the War Measures Act only increased the racism  (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). Japanese Canadians were referred to as “enemy aliens” during this time.  Referring to the Japanese people as enemy aliens was a way to revoke any form of citizenship they had and were known as “a person of Japanese race” by the Federal government with the exception of a Japanese female who had married a Caucasian male  (Rita Dhamoon, 2009).

The living conditions on the camps were less than ideal but extremely harsh; some were placed in farm areas where people were living in barn yards and stables and others were living in poorly put together shacks made of thin planks and no insulation (McCallister, 2006). Families were crammed into shacks with little to no privacy at all and were expected to pay rent at times (McCallister, 2006). The locations of these camps were on mountains and areas where the weather during winter was extremely cold and with little form of protection from the heat (McCallister, 2006). The sanitization of the camps were also hazardous, there was not consideration whatsoever in providing any decent needs (McCallister, 2006). There was a communal tap for water in some camps and for those camps who were not provided with water, people had to go to nearby lakes or rivers for their supply (McCallister, 2006).

The actions of the Canadian government in 1942 to are a clear example of the government enacting sovereign power in the state of an exception; in this case it was a response to the attack on Pearl Harbour during World War II (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). The War Measures Act allows all the actions of the government towards the Japanese people found to be legal. After the attack it was found that the Japanese people residing in Canada may pose a potential threat during the war. There was fear of espionage and sabotage against the Canadian government which would make then the next target (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). Many Japanese people worked in fisheries and owned boats, an order was placed by the government that their boats be confiscated and banned from the coastal areas (Rita Dhamoon, 2009). There was fear that the Japanese Navy was making its way over and having Japanese people near the coast would pose a threat (Rita Dhamoon, 2009).  These were the main reasons for why such actions were taken against the Japanese people. Referring to the Japanese people as “enemy aliens” directly links to Agamben’s term homo sacar (Pavlich, 2011). This was the government’s way of riding the Japanese people of any status and placing them in a separate category of their own where they had no rights and were wanted out of sight by the Canadian government (Pavlich, 2011). The camps that the Japanese people were forced to reside on depicted the image of bare life; they were just there with very little (Pavlich, 2011). The necessities they received were of bare minimum, they were forced in the labour, and forced to pay for certain amenities while making little to no income. The poor conditions of the camps were the least of the governments concern, it is a normalized exceptionality as referred by Agamben; these camps allow for sovereign power to be exercised (Pavlich, 2011).

Various quotes retrieved from

Roy Ito, We Went to War. The Story of Japanese Canadians Who Served During the First and Second World Wars. 1984.

“The deep rooted fear and hatred of the Japanese that went back for half a century had climaxed in a manner that was perhaps inevitable. The animosity had been nurtured by many men, twisting facts and playing upon racial prejudice until the people of British Columbia perceived the distortions as the truth.” 

Angus MacInnes, Member of Parliament from British Columbia, 1943.

“I see no reason why we should deal with the population of Japanese origin among us any differently from the way in which we deal with those of German and Italian extraction. If we deal with them differently – and we have done so – we do it an account of racial prejudice.”

Prime Minister Mackenzie King, House of Commons, 1944.

“The sound policy and the best policy for the Japanese Canadians themselves is to distribute widely as possible throughout the country where they will not create feelings of racial hostility.” 

Kitagawa, Muriel. Letter to the Custodian of Enemy Property, 1943

“You, who deal in lifeless figures, files, and statistics, could never measure the depth of hurt and outrage dealt out to those of us who love this land. It is because we are Canadians that we protest the violation of our birthright.”

Kogawa, Joy. Naomi’s Road, 1986

“Every morning I wake up in a narrow bunk bed by the stove. I wish and wish we could go home. I don’t want to be in this house of the bears with newspaper walls. I want to be with Mommy and Daddy and my doll in our real house. I want to be in my own room where the picture bird sings above my head….But no matter how hard I wish, we don’t go home.”

Thomas Reid, Member of Parliament for New Westminster, January 15, 1942

“Take them back to Japan. They do not belong here, and here, and there is only one solution to the problem. They cannot be assimilated as Canadians for no matter how long the Japanese remain in Canada they will always be Japanese.”

Takashima, Shizuye. A Child in a Prison Camp, 1971

“I have to pay taxes, but have never been allowed to vote. Even now, they took our land, our houses, our children, everything. We are their enemies.”

Japanese Canadian Centennial Project, 1978.

“Let us break this self-damaging silence and own our own history. If we do not, estrangement from our past will be absorbed and driven deeper, surfacing as a fragmentation in ourselves and coming generations.”


McCallister, K. (2006). Photographs of a Japanese Canadian internment camp:mourning loss and invoking a future. International Visual Sociology Association, 133-156.

(2011). Contested Sovereignties, Violence, and Law. In G. Pavlich, Law and Society: Redefined (pp. 152-166). Ontario: Oxford University Press.

Rita Dhamoon, Y. A.-L. (2009). Dangerous (Internal) Foreigners and Nation-Building: The Case of Canada. International Political Science Review, 163-183.


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Minimum Wage

Minimum wage first appeared in New Zealand in 1894 and in the state of Victorian in Australia in 1896 after a campaign that took place. It was later introduced in various European countries and in 1912 was introduced to North America in Massachusetts (LabourBranch, 2005). The minimum wage in Massachusetts only applied to women or minors working for certain industries and had many exceptions to it (LabourBranch, 2005). Afterwards, many states in the United States adapted the idea of the minimum wage (LabourBranch, 2005). In Canada, fair wages were introduced for people who worked with public works or on government contracts (LabourBranch, 2005). The next step was creating policies that protected those who were paid low wages and worked long hours in unhealthy conditions (LabourBranch, 2005). The first provinces to enact minimum wage legislation were British Columbia and Manitoba, in 1918 (LabourBranch, 2005). Other provinces in 1920 and after began to adapt the minimum wage policy as well, however this applied only to women in some work places (LabourBranch, 2005).

The argument that Brook and Watkins’ put forth against the minimum wage stems from the idea of the employer and employee relations (Watkins, 2013). The government with their minimum wage is the one who decides what rate of pay that person gets (Watkins, 2013). There is no negotiating ability between the employer and employee in accordance to what that person is actually capable of or what kind of labour the job entails (Watkins, 2013). In some instances the labour required for the job maybe quite extensive, however, with the minimum wage that person would not make what they actually deserve (Watkins, 2013). The idea behind the minimum wage is to ensure that all of those who are working can earn a living with a set minimum wage (Watkins, 2013). The issue with this is that it is not true, the minimum wage is not enough to allow for someone to actually make a living (Watkins, 2013). It would take a long time to save up an adequate amount of money to make any large purchases or to achieve certain goals that require money.

The school of thought that best fits the argument Brook and Watkins’ present is the Unitarian perspective – this school of thought promotes the employer and employee relationship in order to increase individual liberty and wealth (Tucker, 2006). By sharing this common goal, fairness between employer and the employee is increased. The overall goal of this perspective is to create a social environment that meets the needs of both the employer and employee (Tucker, 2006). The Unitarian perspective sees the current labour law amongst the capital labour market, to be extremely flawed (Tucker, 2006). It allows the government in a sense to be an interfering body between the employer and employee by setting barriers such as the minimum wage to deprive the employer and employee from making their own decisions by negotiations (Tucker, 2006).. Various factors should be considered when determining a person’s wage that should be based on the person’s value of the labour provided (Tucker, 2006). It would be unfair to pay someone less while their job entails working in possibly harsh conditions or unsafe environments. (Tucker, 2006).

The counter school of thought to Brooke and Watkins’ argument would be Liberal Pluralists, who believe the complete opposite of the Unitarians in that the current ways of the labour law are fine the way they are (Tucker, 2006).. The Liberal Pluralists recognize the imbalance between employers and employees and feel that there is an unfair division between the two (Tucker, 2006).Also, concerns addressed by employees may not be taken seriously (Tucker, 2006). Therefore, the need for labour laws is important to provide rights for both employers and employees as a whole. Having these issues looked at require protective legislation’s, such as the collective bargaining which is an agreement between both employers and employees on manners for which issues maybe be addressed and what rules or regulations should be in place (Tucker, 2006).. The minimum wage is favoured under this school of thought because it ensures that the employee is not being paid far below a decent set amount (Tucker, 2006). By having the minimum wage, it allows for fairness as believed under this perspective (Tucker, 2006).

My opinion on the argument presented by Brook and Watkins’ for arguing against the minimum wage is in disagreement with their views. I do understand where their point for the argument that they are making, however it does not seem realistic. Not all jobs could allow for employers and employees to sit down and negotiate what a proper rate of pay would be. This could possibly lead to conflicts before the employee has even started work. Certain jobs, possibly jobs that require a certain amount of education or particular knowledge, could allow for negotiation in order to ensure a fair rate of pay is set for that person’s knowledge and competencies. The minimum wage provides safety for those who are looking for a job; they do not have to fear that they would be paid a ridiculously small amount. The minimum wage, even though it may not provide enough to maintain a standard of living, it allows for some income to be present that is guaranteed. I do believe that the minimum wage should be determined in relation to what the cost of living would be and should not be too low.


LabourBranch. (2005, May 01). Minimum Wage Database Introduction. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from Labour Program.

Tucker, E. (2006). Locating Labour Law: The Regulation of Occupational Health and Safety. In E. Comack, Locating Law (pp. 152-178). Black Point: Fernwood Publishing.

Watkins, Y. B. (2013, March 27). Forbes. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from To Protect The Defenseless, We Must Abolish The Minimum Wage:

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