This article analyzes the legal treatment of Japanese Canadian interracial families beginning during the Second World War.Footnote 1 The racial project known as the internmentFootnote 2 was an expansive administrative regime, authorized by federal laws, that forcibly relocated, detained, and exiled citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry. Many interracial families were exempted from these overlapping racial initiatives. Instead, they received permission to live on the Pacific coast within zones from which all Japanese were to be expelled.Footnote 3 The permission came in the form of a permit.Footnote 4 This permit, then, demarcated distinct racial categories amongst citizens of Japanese ancestry. Individuals belonging to the same racialized community were classed as “persons of the Japanese race,”Footnote 5 and yet a select group of individuals were also “Canadians in the full sense.”Footnote 6 The difference marked by the permit stands as a historic instance of how law participated in the construction of race.
The interracial exemptions acted upon ideas of race in ways new and old. The policy, made for Japanese Canadians married to white subjects as well as their mixed race children, marked a shift from the existing laws that discriminated against Asians. At the same time, the new regulatory distinction applied patriarchal doctrines concerning marriage to interracial families. As such, this regulation of interracial intimacies allows us to examine how patriarchal investments in marriage intersected with the racial construction of alienage and citizenship. Jurists and administrators would fall back on the logic of coverture to fashion the conditions of interracial intimacies. Coverture, which had historically incapacitated married women by transferring their legal interests to their husbands,Footnote 7 meant in this case that the exemption policy applied differently to married Japanese Canadian men and women. Japanese Canadian women married to non-Japanese men were assured a permit, whereas intermarried Japanese Canadian men were not. These permits were not the only ones administered based on outmoded legal principles. The exemptions for mixed race individuals were not available to all children of white and Japanese subjects.Footnote 8 Ambivalence towards mixed race children in this regard aligned with historic notions of illegitimacy and reinforced the entitlement of white fathers to choose their rightful heirs.
This article offers a history of the exemption permits, relying on state records of correspondence and memoranda between men administering the permits within the Departments of Labour and Justice, as well as the contemporaneous letters written by impacted individuals.Footnote 9 The letters bring to light that, alongside the state produced materials, subjects themselves contradicted the policy’s gendered and raced image of the mixed family. I draw on a body of critical race and postcolonial feminist scholarship to amplify the archive’s own contradictions and to inform the lessons I take from this history of interracial regulation. I part ways with the portrayal of the permits as a “magic elixir”Footnote 10 that deracinatedFootnote 11 Japanese women married to white men. State marriage laws have not ever been magic for women within patriarchal societies. Consequently, how marriage was understood in the enforcement of the exemptions warrants scrutiny. The literature on past state interventions concerning interracial relationships has persuasively illustrated that such exercises of state power reveal law’s role in structuring the forces of race, gender, sexuality, and nation.Footnote 12 This was no less the case during the incarceration of Japanese Canadians. Law shaped the contours of racial classifications,Footnote 13 bringing ostensibly reasoned principles to legitimize the policies of exclusion and inclusion. The distinction made between the permit holder and the incarcerated contributed to race-making and was not simply the by-product of prejudiced statesmen.
As the majority of those incarcerated were British subjects, racializing Japanese Canadians as enemy aliens became complicated—to put it mildly. The citizen alien was a dizzying contradiction.Footnote 14 Lawmakers and state administrators turned to race to sustain the impossible construct. The regulatory framework would help to bring coherence to the figure of the enemy alien by exempting interracial subjects from its definitional bounds. The exemptions for Japanese Canadians with ties to white forbearers and spousesFootnote 15 aimed to resolve the tensions within the racial category of the enemy alien. In this way, the interracial exemptions were tied to the wider legal framework of the internment. State law, entangled within the intimate space of family life, would align the boundaries of race onto a fictional distinction between citizen and alien. Interracial subjects were ambiguously positioned on the margins of established racial categories, and it was their very marginality that served as a productive site from which racial understandings were consolidated.Footnote 16
In the first part of this article, I ground my engagement with the interracial exemptions in the legal history of the internment.Footnote 17 I revisit the racial transformation of citizens into enemy aliens as state executive orders multiplied. In the second part, I analyze the exceptional path crafted for interracial Japanese Canadian families, which sought to take them out of the internment’s carceral spaces. I document the policy for mixed marriages, in which administrators applied the law unevenly to exogamous Japanese Canadian men and women. I argue that the practices surrounding Japanese Canadian wives must be viewed through a racial analysis of coverture. I then discuss the variable ways that Eurasians navigated the permit scheme and the contradictory racial practices of the state. As interracial Japanese Canadians tested their “margins of eligibility,”Footnote 18 the exemption’s criteria shifted. I explore the interactive process between racialized subjects and the state by considering the outlier cases of Japanese Canadian husbands of white women who managed to obtain permits. Their cases exemplified how state efforts to regulate race, and racial categories themselves, adapted when faced with the unexpected. I conclude by moving from the site of the family to return once more to the site of the stranger. I argue that the production of the enemy alien was connected to the regulation of interracial families, and that by drawing this connection we can understand the permits as part of the history of the internment.
I. Legal History
1. The Internment
In 1942, the federal government expelled 21,460 people of “the Japanese race” from Canada’s Pacific coast.Footnote 19 Japanese Canadians were sent to carceral sites,Footnote 20 such as interior settlements, road construction camps, sugar beet farms, and prisoner of war camps. By 1949, the restrictions imposed under the War Measures Act had come to an end, leaving only 6,110 Japanese Canadians in British Columbia.Footnote 21 The rest resettled east of the Rockies or were exiled to post-war Japan.Footnote 22 It is undisputed that the legal structure of the internment was race-based. The words “persons of the Japanese race” were cited and recited by jurists deferring to the government’s orders-in-council and bureaucrats tasked with administering those orders.Footnote 23 The official category, “Japanese race,” was deployed alongside and interchangeably with “enemy alien.”Footnote 24 Volumes of interlocking orders hinged upon enemy alien as a racial construct. A wide-reaching designation, the enemy alien was not only a person possessing Japanese nationality but also a person with an enemy character or a person required to register as an enemy alien.Footnote 25 The Defence Regulations first authorized the removal of enemy aliens from the defence zonesFootnote 26 and later expanded to apply to all people of Japanese origin. This process rendered Japanese Canadians as if they were enemy aliens. Their legal metamorphosis culminated in the 1946 decision Co-operative Committee on Japanese Canadians v Canada. Footnote 27 The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council upheld the government’s exile program, stripping the deportees of citizenship.Footnote 28 The remarks of Justice Hudson at the Supreme Court of Canada clarified how the law could overcome the rights of citizens against expatriation. Setting aside the conditions of duress, the bench thought it significant that many Japanese Canadians had opted for government-sponsored resettlement in Japan, rather than the alternative of forced dispersal east of British Columbia.Footnote 29 Hudson reasoned that this choice made by the deportees proved that their “ties of race” were “stronger than the obligations of nationality.”Footnote 30 In this way, citizens of Japanese ancestry had betrayed their “natural allegiance” to the Crown, which in turn extinguished their sovereign’s reciprocal obligation to protect his citizens against exile.Footnote 31 This case is indicative of how perceptions of choice, and not merely genealogy, were central to the racialization of citizens as aliens. In other words, one could be a citizen on paper, but perhaps not at heart.
The state’s program of race-based expulsions from the Pacific coast began with the creation of a state registry that tracked the legal status of every individual of Japanese racial origin.Footnote 32 The registry allowed state actors to sort individuals according to nationality and status, which enabled the government to structure the internment’s registration rules, identification cards, and permits according to racialized notions of citizenship and alienage. Registered Japanese Canadians received an identification card for one of three categories: Canadian born, naturalized, or Japanese national. They were required to carry the cards with them at all times. An unnamed Japanese Canadian writer in 1941 described the card as being evocative of racial classes of citizenship, for the cards “came in three delicious colours: yellow for alien Japanese, salmon pink for naturalized British subjects, and white for the Canadian born.”Footnote 33 Having registered as a Canadian born Japanese, he sardonically commented on the racial hierarchy of the scheme: “it makes me feel proud, for it’s the first white card I’ve ever received.”Footnote 34 This white card, issued to those with birthright citizenship, signified the closest one could get to being recognized as a full Canadian. The use of identity cards and a Japanese registry thus enabled the Department to categorize the community along a spectrum of national affiliation as it monitored the population within an increasingly securitized environment.
Under the orders of the War Measures Act, Japanese Canadians were banned from the Pacific coast. Any Japanese Canadians discovered in the coastal defence zone without a permit committed an offence under the Defence Regulations. Footnote 35 The permits, as with the identity cards that preceded them, concretized the racialized conditions of residency and mobility within the securitized space of the coast. Permits for travel, occupancy, and work were administered by the British Columbia Security Commission and later the Commissioner of Japanese Placement (collectively, the “Commission”). This federal agency existed within the Japanese Division of the Department of Labour to oversee the “care” of incarcerated Japanese Canadians and to coordinate their relocation.Footnote 36 The commissioners were also tasked with categorizing interracial Japanese Canadians for the purposes of granting or withholding exemption permits. Eurasians and Japanese Canadians married to non-Japanese spouses were exempted from the sweeping reach of the Exclusion Order. They were authorized to live on the coast, so long as they possessed a permit, which they were to receive based on their genealogical or marital ties to non-Japanese citizens.
The orders that authorized the exemptions were in fact silent on both marriage and interracial intimacies.Footnote 37 From this silence emerged a policy for Eurasians and Japanese Canadian women with non-Japanese spouses. State authorities reported that the policy was a humane measure for the mixed families of white men.Footnote 38 As such, their policy choices would mimic Europe’s past colonial practices in Asia regarding interracial families.Footnote 39 However, alongside their reports are the letters from interracial couples, which disrupt the orientalist narrative fashioned by these government men.Footnote 40 A diverse group of couples sought permits. Along with Japanese Canadian women married to white men, the wives of Chinese Canadian men applied for permits. Japanese Canadian men married to white women also requested permits, and a small number received them. The records further indicate that Eurasians with Japanese fathers and white mothers were not precluded from receiving permits.
By the spring of 1944, approximately seventy permits had been issued to mixed race individuals and Japanese Canadian spouses in mixed marriages. Nineteen of these went to the Japanese wives of white men; seven to the Japanese Canadian husbands of white women; five to the Japanese Canadian wives of Chinese men; and forty to Eurasians.Footnote 41 Additionally, fifty-two mixed race minor children were included within the exemptions issued to their parents.Footnote 42 The demographic breakdown of the permits suggests that even if the policy was intended for the families of white husbands and fathers, its application would evolve as interracial applicants caught the government’s attention. In the following section, I sift through the administration’s convoluted practices to articulate how the intersection of racialized citizenship and patriarchal views of marriage animated the exemption policy.
II. Interracial Intimacies
1. Mixed Marriages
The internment era policy concerning interracial marriages provided that carceral exemptions were available to the Japanese Canadian wives of non-Japanese men, but not to the Japanese Canadian husbands of non-Japanese women. The policy’s different regard for intermarried women and men drew from the principle of coverture. The common law doctrine of marital unity posited that a married woman was covered by her husband’s legal person and thus lacked a singular personhood.Footnote 43 Wives were legally incapacitated in significant ways: they were unable to own personal property, enter into contracts, or act for themselves in legal proceedings, including against their husbands. Although legislative change in Canada would gradually render the doctrine of marital unity obsolete,Footnote 44 a number of laws perpetuated the underlying principle that women’s legal interests were subordinated to, and dependent on, their husbands’ during marriage. A particularly egregious example can be seen in the Co-Operative Committee case, in which the Judicial Committee for the Privy Council upheld the government order that the wives and children of Japanese Canadian men facing deportation would also be deported.Footnote 45 In such cases, the legal recourse against expatriation for married Japanese Canadian women would be divorce.
Thinking through the histories of coverture and race together brings into focus the power of marriage to constrain Japanese Canadian women’s experiences of citizenship.Footnote 46 Below, I set out a racial analysis of coverture by examining how administrators understood marriage in relation to the orders of the War Measures Act. Relevant to this analysis is the statutory entrenchment of dependent nationality for married women under the Naturalization Act of 1914.Footnote 47 This statute followed the concept of marital unity in that it linked women’s citizenship to marriage. It stipulated that a married woman retained her status by marrying a British subject and lost it by marrying an alien.Footnote 48 To be clear, the Naturalization Act itself did not apply to interracial marriages involving two citizens. Yet, the Act is relevant because it deemed that women belonged to the same nation as their husbands. In so doing, it sustained the belief that members of a family should hold the same national status and that this would follow the husband as head of the household.Footnote 49 The internment exemption policy shared in this belief. It extended the life of patriarchal principles to regulate interracial intimacies.
In the summer of 1945, Commissioner Tom Pickersgill and Deputy Minister of Labour Arthur MacNamara discussed why Japanese Canadian men were not eligible for permits. Their exchange articulated the ways that race, marriage, and citizenship came together to inform their policy choices. Pickersgill wrote to MacNamara with his understanding of the rules at play:
We can quite clearly see the logic of having the regulations lifted in the case of a Japanese woman marrying someone of non-Japanese origin as she would presumably assume the national status of her husband. Is it not different in the case of a Japanese man marrying someone of non-Japanese origin, where he would still retain the status of a person of Japanese origin?Footnote 50
The Commissioner reasoned that a Japanese Canadian woman’s “national status” would follow her husband’s, and on this basis, she would qualify for a permit. MacNamara’s assistant, A. H. Brown, responded in agreement: “in a case where a man of the Japanese race marries a woman of another race, it would be inconsistent to allow the Japanese to return to the Protected area at the coast on that account.”Footnote 51 The men decided that the permits should only be conferred to women married to non-Japanese men. As for the marriages between Japanese men and women of “another race,” Brown implied that in such cases exemptions would be “inconsistent” with the principle that a woman’s status was subsumed within her husband’s nationality.
“National status” as used by Pickersgill could not possibly have meant the formal status of citizenship. State administrators were fully aware that many Asians had attained citizenship by birthright or naturalization.Footnote 52 Even so, in this example, they failed to differentiate race from citizenship. In this context, “nationality” fused together racial origin and citizenship to racialize British subjects by emphasizing their foreign ties.Footnote 53 Pickersgill already had at his disposal legislative provisions to designate individuals as “of the Japanese race,”Footnote 54 but this was not the language on which he relied. Instead, he emphasized the “national status” of spouses. This focus on status allows us to look behind the signifier of “Japanese race.” Importantly, we see that the rules about the transfer of legal status from husband to wife were imported into the Department’s racial policy. As the administrators discussed how to carry out their duties, their reasoning mirrored the existing citizenship rules on marriages between alien husbands and citizen wives (even when the marriages they dealt with concerned two British subjects). Carceral regulations were “lifted” in the case of Japanese Canadian women married to non-Japanese men, but not in the case of Japanese Canadian men married to non-Japanese women. The policy’s double standard hitched racial knowledge to the legal rule that husbands transferred their nationality to their wives. The gendered racialization of these relationships can be seen from the letters of Doris Fujikawa and Roy Codd, to which I turn next.
In August of 1945, Doris Fujikawa, a white woman, wrote to the Minister of Justice on behalf of her husband Thomas, who was Japanese Canadian. She described the composition of her multiracial family and asked for help reuniting with Thomas, who had been forcibly uprooted in 1942 from their home in the Fraser Valley:
Now that the war is over, I would like my case taken up […] I have three children with my husband. You could not say they are Japanese as I am of Swedish parents and Canadian born and they are in the third generation so I see no reason why my husband can’t remain here in Canada and return to our home in B.C. He has been loyal since evacuation from B.C., with one brother in the army.Footnote 55
In highlighting one woman’s separation from her husband, this letter makes clear that just as Japanese women and men experienced the government’s discretion unevenly, so too, white wives and husbands fared differently under the policy. It also provides a glimpse into the rhetorical strategies deployed by mixed families in their dealings with the state. Doris Fujikawa described her own racial heritage as Swedish Canadian and attributed the same racial identification to her three children with Thomas. She described her mixed race children as belonging to a “third generation” of Canadians. In doing so, Doris positioned herself as a mother of citizens,Footnote 56 implying both that whiteness would transfer through matrilineal lines and that Canada was a nation capable of assimilating its racial subjects over time. By embedding her husband within this image of Canada, his race remained visible but muted. In addition to downplaying Thomas’s Japaneseness, Doris refuted the trope of the fallen white woman by claiming that a mother’s whiteness would pass to the next generation.Footnote 57 Far from transgressing her place as a white woman, her words conveyed a view of whiteness that would not degenerate but endure through hybridization.Footnote 58
I doubt the men who received this letter shared my reading of it. MacNamara advised the government’s lawyers that he was against granting a permit to Thomas because “the person of Japanese ancestry seeking a permit is in this case a man.”Footnote 59 The couple’s circumstances did not warrant deviating from the Department’s policy on interracial marriages, which required a white spouse to be male. In a marriage between two British subjects in which the husband was Japanese and the wife was white, the husband was ineligible for a permit and could not return to the Pacific coast. This couple’s experience of separation is illustrative of how coverture functioned along racial lines to discourage relationships between white women and Asian men.
As for intermarried Japanese Canadian women, their ability to reside in coastal British Columbia was contingent on their relationships with non-Japanese men. In 1942, the Commissioners reported that Japanese wives of “Occidental” men would have their race “disregarded,” as they were “Canadian in the full sense.”Footnote 60 The report articulated that one aim of the exemption policy was to protect the Japanese wives of white men from the carceral dimensions of the internment. These claims must be regarded skeptically. For the permit holder, the ability to remain in the defence zone was contingent on the discretion of state administrators.Footnote 61 More than this, the permit was premised upon one’s marital status and not one’s status as a British subject. The privileges attached to the permits were fundamentally different from the legal rights of a white male British subject.Footnote 62 The legal basis for the relationship between the permit holder and the state was one of exemption. In effect, the wives became guests within the defence zone at the pleasure of the Department. To be sure, many interracial subjects, in contrast to the majority of Japanese Canadians, had not been permanently displaced nor were they uprooted or confined.Footnote 63 The contingent status for racialized spouses, nonetheless, warrants attention. This racialized contrivance was created for Asian women to make their non-incarceration dependent on their role as wives and on their white husbands.
For the Japanese Canadian wives who received an exemption, their permits were a marker of spousal dependencyFootnote 64 and a racial expression of coverture. The uncertainty created by this dynamic was described by Roy Codd, a white Canadian, who wrote to the federal government from a military hospital:
[M]y wife is Canadian born Japanese, what has happened to her family in the last three years leaves much to be decried, to put it mildly. In fairness and justice, an end must soon be put to the present situation, this is not what I visualized when I volunteered for the Army. The U.S. Government has allowed these people to return to their former homes. The war is now over, what possible reason can this Government have to continue to ban my wifes parents from this area. […] I am afraid there would never be any security here for my wife and children, particularly if I were not living. Footnote 65
Roy questioned what would happen to his family if he were to die. He perceived that they would be vulnerable to the state violence of removal without his whiteness. His letter captured the contingency of familial entanglements of race within multiracial intimacies. It turns out that Roy’s concern for his mixed race children was well placed. Eurasians without white fathers were not assured permits—an issue I discuss in the next section. As for Toshiko Codd, Roy’s “Canadian born Japanese” wife, the letter gestured towards a future in which she became a widowed single mother and was forced to leave Vancouver. This scenario draws our attention to the normative and heteronormative requirements of the Department’s policy. That only specific family forms were sanctioned by the exemptions provides another indication that the administrators were not in the business of delivering humane relief. Instead, they were careful to restrict the reach of the exemptions.
In the words of the Deputy Minister of Justice, the permit functioned to “exclude the person whose exclusion is recommended” from the Defence Regulations. Footnote 66 His inelegant framing—that the permits excluded interracial persons from exclusion—is instructive. In this formula, the first exclusion preserved the second. This is, of course, the structure of an exemption. In this specific historical context, the exemption granted a person leave from detention while simultaneously holding onto the authority to exclude them. This framework ensured that the race-based banFootnote 67 under the Exclusion Order remained undisturbed. Without their permits, Japanese Canadian spouses of non-Japanese subjects would be expelled from the coastal defence zone.Footnote 68 The permit scheme, then, continued to racialize its recipients as they were conditionally admitted to the coastal defence area.
In the next section, I address the Eurasian exemptions. Already foreshadowed by Roy Codd’s letter, it will be seen that patrilineal genealogies figured centrally in the regulation of mixed race subjects. Notions of illegitimacy and inheritance played a prominent role in the Commission’s efforts to contain multiracial subjects.
2. Mixed Race
As a general matter, the history of racial taxonomies contains no mixed race.Footnote 69 The census, for instance, prescribed that “the children begotten” of white and “yellow races” would be classed as “Mongolian.”Footnote 70 In 1942, however, state records categorized individuals of white and Japanese forbearers not as Mongolian, but as Eurasian.Footnote 71 This term, in these records, seemed to depart from the orthodox racialization of Asians as foreign and unassimilable.Footnote 72 Rather than the invocation of difference through continental distance, “Eurasian” merged Europe and Asia. This embodiment of geographic proximity displaced “half-caste,” which connoted a tragic figure caught between two cultures—a warning to whites of the dangers of “mongrelization.”Footnote 73 The shift in racial classification would carry forward old notions of fatherhood. Both “Eurasian” and “half-caste” were tied to patriarchal legal principles concerning inheritance of race and property. The potential risks posed by mixed race progeny to the norms of inheritance were managed by rules that protected men’s estates and legacies. The internment’s exemptions for Eurasians underscores how ideas of mixed raceness were inextricable from the archaic legal construction of illegitimate children. To make this point, I focus on the case of four girls in the care of Victoria’s Oriental Home, an orphanage for Chinese and Japanese children.
The Commission determined that these mixed race girls living in the missionary-run home, together with fifteen Japanese Canadian children, would be removed from Victoria.Footnote 74 In other words, the four girls were not given permits to remain in the defence zone. Their removal was documented by Mona Oikawa, who observed that the Women’s Missionary Society argued that sending the orphaned children to a camp was “unthinkable”; instead, church officials worked with the Commission to resettle the children to Saskatchewan.Footnote 75 The careful arrangements made to remove nineteen orphans from Victoria stands as an example of the thoroughness of the bureaucratic efforts to carry out the Exclusion Order. Importantly, the case also shows that not all children of white and Japanese parents would be rendered as Eurasian.Footnote 76 The outcome for these girls indicates that the exemption policy would not extend to children unclaimed by a white parent, especially those abandoned by a white father.Footnote 77 The girls, being under the church’s care, lacked legible ties to white family and were racialized as Japanese enough. Race in this instance became as much about a child’s inheritance of status as it was about perceived racial genealogy.
The patriarchal formulations of family life analyzed in the preceding section on mixed marriages expressed themselves again in the case of mixed race children. The social mores against interracial unions led to the assumption that mixed race children were illegitimate. Principles such as filius nullius (a child of nobody) help to explain the intersection of law and mixed race categorization.Footnote 78 At common law, illegitimate children would not inherit their father’s estate. The law transparently protected the property interests of men by empowering them to preserve family wealth by choosing their lineage.Footnote 79 This residue of the common law continued to inflect the racialization of Eurasians in 1940s Canada by using the construct of illegitimacy to ascertain a mixed child’s race.
By situating the Commission within this socio-legal context, its scattered decisions to grant or withhold permits from people of shared racial ancestry do not appear random. The commissioners’ choices varied depending on whether they perceived the child to be a legitimate descendant of a white father or not. The four girls who had been removed from Victoria were presumptively illegitimate in light of their environment and the circumstances of their care. Perceptions of the Oriental Home would have influenced the administrators’ impressions of the white racial inheritance of the girls. As orphans, the children were unclaimed by white family who could raise them in a sufficiently “Caucasian” environment.Footnote 80 Lacking a white male head of the household, it appeared unlikely that the girls would acculturate to a Canadian way of life. The status of an orphaned child, then, aligned more with the trope of the ill-fated half-caste than with the Eurasian, which was a figure assimilated through education, dress, and attainment of the symbols of a Canadian national milieu.Footnote 81
Cases involving mixed race Japanese Canadians who received permits, like those who did not receive them, equally relied on the discernable signs of national belonging rather than a biological concept of race. In one such case, a young Eurasian man altered his racial legibility by taking an Anglo-European surname. Specific “forms of legibility,” which enabled the Department to identify minority citizens unambiguously,Footnote 82 were foundational to the internment as a state racial project.Footnote 83 Citizens who deviated from expected naming practices would frustrate state administrators by limiting the efficacy of standardized modes of identification that traced racial affiliation and paternity.Footnote 84 Gene was nineteen years old, married, had an infant daughter, and had been separated from both his parents. His naturalized Japanese Canadian father was confined at the Tashme site, and his white American mother was deported to the United States.Footnote 85 Gene changed his surname to adopt his mother’s family name.Footnote 86 His choice defied patriarchal naming practices and obscured his paternal genealogy.Footnote 87 If it was expected that mixed race children carried their father’s names, then this young man’s name change made it appear as if his father were not Japanese. Changes like this alert us to the ways that Eurasians negotiated the ambivalent rules for mixed families by discerning and adapting to pervasive structures of racism.
The prospect of assimilability would have marked Eurasians as threatening to existing social hierarchies premised on strict racial divisions.Footnote 88 Indeed, the RCMP guarded against such a risk by registering and monitoring Eurasian individuals. The officers traced the Japanese lineage of mixed race people, absent a legal mandate to do so.Footnote 89 Registration enabled state authorities to prevent race passing. For this reason, the RCMP did not register the children of Japanese mothers and Chinese fathers,Footnote 90 who would not have threatened British Columbia’s colour line as Eurasians did. Although white society worried about Eurasians passing for white, the legal regime indicated that, generally, mixed race individuals remained as racialized subjects. The clearest example of this is that Eurasians lacked the freedoms held by white subjects.Footnote 91 In this context, the whiteness inherited by mixed race children was not a racial identity or property interest, but the inheritance of having “certain things in reach.”Footnote 92 White fathers and husbands put within reach conditional exemptions for Eurasian children and Japanese Canadian wives. The contours of such entitlements could therefore shift if one’s kin and racial ties were to change. For mixed race orphans, the Oriental Home obscured their ties from the Commission’s view and put remaining on British Columbia’s coast beyond reach.
3. The Trouble With Exceptions
Emergency regimes were plagued not only by exceptions to the rule of law, but by exceptions to those exceptions.Footnote 93 As a mode of racial regulation, the exemption for mixed marriages was a tool to preserve the main ambition of the internment’s racial project—Japanese exclusion. Yet, as state practices moved away from uncomplicated forms of exclusion, the new permit system created a space of ambiguity in which racial designations were open to contestation. Faced with requests from Japanese Canadian men married to white women, Commissioner George Collins (Pickersgill’s predecessor) authorized some of these men to return home to their wives. Despite the policy against granting permits to Japanese Canadian men, seven men received exemptions from the internment’s regulations between 1943 and 1945.Footnote 94 State actors were forced to respond to the men’s applications, and in so doing, their choices showcase how rules to define race fluctuated. It is not clear why these men and not others secured permits. Several of them satisfied ideals of social respectability as physicians and business owners, while others had served in the military—but of course, this was also the case with many Japanese Canadians who were incarcerated.Footnote 95 What can be said with certainty about this group is that they found a way to fit themselves within the space created by a system reliant on case-by-case decisions.Footnote 96
The men’s applications, however, would eventually force the Commission’s hand. Reviewing the existing permits, Pickersgill, who had replaced Collins by 1945, determined that the Department needed to curtail its discretion in such cases. Exemptions, he explained, would henceforth only be issued to Japanese Canadian men in the specific case that they were veterans of “either the last war or this war” and married to “women of non-Japanese origin.”Footnote 97 To give effect to vague Department policy, it seems the Commission turned to nationalism and the ideals of the fraternal bonds of military service.Footnote 98 Service became a factor that would justify granting an exemption to a Japanese husband, and yet the signifiers of national fidelity and civic duty associated with one’s service record mattered only if a man’s wife was white.Footnote 99
This was the case for Yoshizo Takeuchi, a Japanese Canadian man who had served during the First World War and received a permit to leave a Slocan camp. He joined his white wife in Steveston. Upon his return, his wife’s employer sought to have him removed once more, writing that “the fishermen working at our Gulf of Georgia plant are loud in their protest and insist that this man be removed, and we agree that this is the only proper procedure.”Footnote 100 The letter from the cannery provides a brief look at the racist climate exempted Japanese Canadian men faced. Takeuchi was racialized by the Commissioners as qualifying for an exemption (as an intermarried Canadian veteran), but to the men who worked with his wife, Alice, he was indistinguishable from “other Japanese.”Footnote 101
Following the archival trail of exemptions leads to these sites of simultaneous and divergent views of race and interraciality. Here, then, is an opportunity to witness not only how exemptions were used by the state but how they were contested by its subjects. Through this interaction, the exemption criteria changed. As government men searched for the signs of national allegiance, acceptable marital configurations, and legitimate children, they would come to settle on the content of racial definition. This meant that as subjects applied for exemptions, racial categories under the Department’s policy were subject to a process of amendment and departed from the common sense of biological race.
Given the context of strong anti-Japanese and anti-miscegenation sentiments in the years leading to the mid-twentieth century,Footnote 102 how does one explain the system of exemption permits that emerged during the internment for mixed race Japanese Canadians and those with non-Japanese spouses? The exemptions did not amount to the social acceptance of interracial intimacies, nor signal a legal move to extend the rights and freedoms enjoyed by white citizens to interracial Japanese Canadians. To challenge the Commission’s compassionate rhetoric, this article has relied on historical records to expose what lay beneath the exemption policy. Rather than focus solely on explaining why racism was exclusionary, this article outlined how a seemingly novel policy of racial inclusion was shaped by patriarchal doctrines that disinherited children and suspended married women’s legal rights.
Writing of a different racial colonial history, Ann Stoler observed that European laws and discourses regarding mixed marriages were concerned with “groups that straddled and disrupted cleanly marked social divides and whose diverse membership exposed the arbitrary logic by which the categories of control were made.”Footnote 103 In the context of the internment, state modes for governing interracial citizens grappled with intimacies that destabilized a racial definition of nationality. The blurred colour line embodied by mixed marriages and mixed race citizens of Japanese ancestry challenged the definitional bounds of the enemy alien, which rested on an uncomplicated view of national status and racial origin. State administrators entered into this uncertain space and deployed the exemption policy. They regulated interracial families to sustain the state’s racial classificatory system. By purportedly disregarding the race of Eurasians and of Japanese Canadians in mixed marriages, the permits reinforced the fiction that race distinguished the citizen from the enemy alien. Policy making with an air of improvisation would come to contain how nationality was conveyed from one generation to the next. The resulting exceptional path devised for multiracial families would enable the continued legitimacy of the “enemy alien” upon which the removal and confinement of Japanese Canadians depended. Out of the daily work of maintaining population registries and reviewing permit applications, we are left with the administrative details of how race was made. Attending to the nuance archived therein, it becomes clear that the regulation of interracial intimacies was not an aberrant occurrence separate from the internment’s racial project. Rather this history was interwoven with the far-reaching state practices that endeavoured to recast citizens as racialized enemy aliens.