University makes historic decision to acknowledge, apologize for dark chapter in its history

The University of British Columbia has decided to award posthumous and honorary degrees to the Japanese-Canadian students who the university denied in 1941, the first Canadian university to make such a decision.

The decision was prompted in part by a letter from retired Vancouver teacher Mary Kitagawa. Kitagawa wrote to UBC in 2008 to suggest the school grant honorary degrees to students affected by the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War.

Unlike post-secondary institutions in the United States who objected to or actively resisted the internment of Japanese-American students, UBC’s administration voted to strip Japanese-Canadian enrolled in the Canadian Officers Training Corps of their commissions. Few faculty members spoke out at the time. In 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney officially apologized in the House of Commons for the mistreatment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War.

The university will award the degrees to a handful of surviving former students and internees, and to the descendants of deceased former students.

—With files from the Globe and Mail.

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