Japanese visitors honour Doukhobor community for past kindness
Pastor Dr George Takashima from Lethbridge, Alberta, has been bringing tour groups to Castlegar to take in the history of the Doukhobors at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre for a number of years now. This year he came with a request to make a presentation to the Doukhobor people so a somewhat impromptu event was pulled together.
In 1942, when the Canadian government was placing Japanese Canadians into internment camps throughout the West Kootenay, the Doukhobor people rallied to assist them. Realizing the plight of the internees, who were being placed in hastily built camps, the Doukhobors provided produce to help with preparation for the first winter the internees had to face. Scattered all over from Greenwood, Grand Forks, Slocan Valley, New Denver, Sandon, and Kaslo, abandoned, or hastily build shacks were used to accommodate the internees.
Pastor Dr George Takashima recalled traveling to Castlegar with his father who was a paramedic sent to check up on people with medical issues.
“Albeit 74 years late,” said Takashima, “this plaque is just a little token to say, Thank you!”
The plaque reads: NIKKEI CULTURAL SOCIETY of LETHBRIDGE and AREA – IN APPRECIATION – for the kindness and support shown by the Doukhobors of Castlegar and surrounding areas to the Japanese Canadians who were uprooted from the west coast and sent to Internment camps in West Kootenay in 1942. ~ Presented September 2016.
Accepting the plaque on behalf of the Doukhobors was JJ Verigin, direct descendant of Peter V. Verigin – Lordly, the leader who brought the Doukhboors to Canada in 1899. Mr Verigin spoke of the Doukhobors sympathizing with the Japanese Canadians, having themselves gone through trials and tribulations at the hands of governments for generations. He in turn presented Takashima with a hand-carved Doukhobor soup ladle – a token of peace and friendship.
Mayor Lawrence Chernoff said a few words of greetings followed by the Sounds of the Heart Doukhobor ladies choir. Presenting stories of recollection of the time were Doukhobor elder Pete Stoopnikoff, and Peter Relkoff. As well, Japanese Canadian author Diana Cole read from her book Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit, and words were shared by local author, Rita Moir before she presented Dr Takashima with her book, The Third Crop, an account of early life in the Slocan Valley which includes the Doukhobors, as well as the Japanese Internees.
Afterwards, a potluck lunch was shared while visitors and locals mingled and got to know each other.