Efforts to commemorate a dark moment in Canadian history are spreading through the Columbia-Shuswap.
On the heels of a similar project in Revelstoke, a committee is coming together in hopes of making signs commemorating the internment of Japanese Canadians a common sight along the highway corridor between Sicamous and Three Valley Gap.
Terry Sinton, who is chairing the project committee on behalf of the Sicamous and District Museum, said there were five internment camps between Sicamous and the western end of Three Valley Gap.
One camp was located at Solsqua, about halfway between Sicamous and what is now Cambie Solsqua Road’s intersection with Highway 1. Another camp was at Yard Creek near what is now a provincial campsite. The others were near the north fork of the Perry River, at Griffin Lake, at Taft, and at Three Valley Gap itself.
Sinton said the committee is currently seeking members who can help with the project and those who have information on the camps or physical artifacts from that time. Sinton said committee members already include people whose family members were interned and locals who lived near the camps and got to know the people who lived there.
She said Yard Creek is the committee’s preferred location for the first sign as it is already a provincial campsite and so the sign, which will feature historical facts and details of daily life in the camps, will be clearly visible.
As some of the camp locations are off the Trans-Canada Highway, Sinton said the committee hopes signs can be placed telling highway travellers where they can stop for more information on the internment camps.
Through her involvement in the project, Sinton said she has already grown to admire the spirit of the Japanese Canadians who were forcibly relocated to the Shuswap during the Second World War.
“One of the biggest things that has impressed me, is how they lost everything but still made the camps as beautiful as they could,” Sinton said of stories she has been told of internees planting trees, lining pathways with painted stones and making other improvements to the barren camps.
In the spirit of beautification, Sinton said she is consulting with experts to see if Japanese cherry or maple trees could be planted near the signs without damaging the local ecosystem.
Sinton said once the project gets underway, the committee plans to seek meetings with local and provincial governments to secure funding.
Sinton hopes Tourism BC will get involved by providing information on the area’s internment camps in the form of a pamphlet that will draw attention to the locations of the camps.
“It’s not our proudest moment but it’s an important part of our history,” Sinton said.