The Long-Overdue Welcome
When the Japanese air force attacked Pearl Harbor, the aerial onslaught not only destroyed American warships and officially propelled the United States into the Second World War, it sank Henry Sugiyama’s hopes for being admitted into the University of British Columbia.
As one of thousands of ‘suspect’ Japanese-Canadians singled out after the attack on Pearl Harbor during the Second World War, Henry Sugiyama and his family were forced to leave their homes on the West Coast for the interment camps in the BC Interior.
Later, as a promising high-school student in Kamloops and despite successfully writing the entrance exam for a UBC scholarship, the university wrongly rejected him.
Now, as an 87-year-old doctor residing in Toronto and almost 70 years on, Henry Sugiyama receives an offer of admission from UBC, the first to be admitted under the new minor program Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies meant to acknowledge the Japanese Canadians “whose studies were impeded, cut short or prevented by the discriminatory policies of the 1940s”.
On September 23, Sugiyama symbolically attended the first day at UBC and graciously acknowledged the “broad reconciliation policy” within the university and nationally, the ongoing effort to recognize the injustices other loyal Canadian citizens suffered for ‘crimes’ they did not commit.