Ubyssey Publishes Yearbook for Japanese-Canadian Students Forced Off Campus During World War II

The Ubyssey at the University of British Columbia has published a commemorative yearbook for 76 Japanese-Canadian students who were forced off campus and held as “enemy aliens” during World War II.  It is a truly monumental achievement, fascinating for the history it provides about both the school and the affected students.  Page after page after page features people whose lives were forever altered by a decision made during a moment of “frantic military mobilization.”

Timed to appear at a recent UBC ceremony presenting the former students– living and deceased– with honorary degrees, it is titled simply, “Return.

Jonny Wakefield, Ubyssey’s coordinating editor, tells me the story of how it came about:

“A university administrator approached us after it was announced the students would be receiving honorary degrees, and asked if we would be interested in making a yearbook for the students. . . . Those who are still around are in their 80s or 90s, and the majority were unable to complete their studies. . . . At first we were wary that the university would try to control the project or tell us what to do, but we worked out an MOU [memorandum of understanding] and were told we would have full creative control over the final product.  It was an interesting partnership for us, because we are very arms-length from the university.  We’re funded by a per student levy, and operate independent of the institution and the student union.  Ultimately, though, we were able publish something that was entirely ours, and included a feature about how the admin. basically botched this entire honorary degree process.  Being able to hand out the finished product to the students who were able to attend and the families of those who could not was also a tremendous experience.”

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