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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Diana Morita Cole Interview
Narrator: Diana Morita Cole
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 30, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-483-19

<Begin Segment 19>

DC: So it was a struggle to become established in Canada, and I went and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music and got my diploma there and became a piano teacher through that. And my husband got his master's in English at York University and got a fellowship there, but we still didn't know very many Japanese Canadians that I recall. But we did know a Vietnamese family, a couple, and they were discriminated against and Wayne helped them. And a result of his having been involved in their case during the FLQ crisis, which was when the FLQ, which were the separatists, the young separatists had formed this group called the FLQ, they actually kidnapped a Minister of Justice in the Quebec government and killed him and took a British diplomat, James Cross as hostage in order to try to gain concessions from Pierre Elliott Trudeau. And so Pierre Elliott Trudeau declared the War Measures Act, which is the same act that had expelled the Japanese Canadians from the lower mainland of B.C. They suspend all civil liberties, and so under that act, you may act in an inhumane way. And so 22,000 Japanese Canadians were dispossessed and dislocated through the War Measures Act that was passed, that was declared by Mackenzie King in 1942. And when I was in Toronto, I started reading Ken Adachi's book called The Enemy that Never Was, and I was just blown away by the extent of suffering that the Japanese Canadians went through, much longer, much harder in many ways than what we had been affected by. And so I'm kind of seeing parallels between the War Measures Act in 1969, I believe, and what happened to the Japanese Canadians. But anyway, concessions were made by Pierre Elliott Trudeau and those, really they were terrorists, were sent to Cuba. And some concessions were made, and eventually French became the second official language of Canada.

But at that time, because of my husband's involvement with this Vietnamese couple, there was a knock on our door during the War Measures Act when we had moved to Belleville, and these two plainclothesmen asked for my husband. So I went over and I woke my husband up because he was taking a nap, and I said, "There's two RCMP outside our door." And so my husband came to the door and they said, "You're accused of smuggling stereo component parts into Canada." And my husband, being this very methodical person, he had saved all our receipts. So we had legally imported parts to have a friend of ours put together, and he said, "Of course we did that, the stereo's right there, you can see it." But he said, "But here are the receipts." And they said, "This is very interesting," they said, "you should wonder who your friends are in Toronto." And, of course, this was in Toronto where my husband had taken up the cause of this Vietnamese couple. But my husband said, "Well, why don't you just look up in your database or in your records to see whether we had imported these things legally or not? I mean, surely, because they were imported legally, you would have records of this?" And they said, "Oh, no, in customs cases, you are considered guilty until proven innocent." So at that time they were looking, I think, to deport us.

VY: That's so scary, isn't it? I mean, in some ways, there's parallels to that particular incident and what happened to many Japanese Americans during World War II.

DC: With a knock on the door, right. And their having to burn all their possessions and things. So the suspension of civil liberties is a mistake, but it's an act of sheer power, executive power to do that. And you have no recourse. And we were landed immigrants at that time, so we could have easily been deported. And my husband would still, I think he had a bounty on his head. When you leave the United States, and I think they put a warrant out or something because you were supposed to be drafted, and so there was a bounty on his head. It was something insignificant like fifteen dollars or something, but nonetheless, it just increased my sense of insecurity. And having known insecurity probably from the time I was a fetus, this was not a welcome feeling I was having, and my husband could not travel out of Canada for the longest time because he did not have a passport.

VY: So what changed over time? How did things change related to that?

DC: Related to my sense of insecurity?

VY: Well, yes. [Laughs]

DC: I think that's always with you. I think that's part of my DNA, frankly. Because as we know now, trauma that's experienced by our ancestors are lodged in our DNA and traveled down through the generations, unfortunately. But I certainly feel more comfortable in Canada, I've lived there for most of my life, more than I have in the United States. You're going to ask me a question? So the thing is, of course, one is socialized at very crucial points in your childhood to America, and there's something very appealing about the American myth. And so I was instilled or indoctrinated in a certain way. And then I had to adopt this new set of values that was much different. The idea of being in a commonwealth, what does that mean? And it was very, very interesting because I think the Canadian personality is so much different than American. And I even spent many hours on a psychotherapist's couch trying to come to terms with all this information and confusions that I've had. And I had one time gone to see a counselor, I think that was his title, who had also been an American draft dodger, but of Jewish background. And he said to me, he said, "You know, I think you probably have more difficulty than other people in Canada because your nature is a bit more aggressive." And I think Americans tend to be very forthright in the way they express themselves, and, of course, Trump is the extreme on that spectrum, right? Where he should keep his mouth shut a lot more than he does, but where Canadians are far more moderate in the way they express themselves.

VY: So do you feel more like an American or a Canadian, or does it kind of depend? Like when you're in America, do you feel like you're more like a Canadian, when you're in Canada, do you feel like you're more like an American, do you know what I mean? [Laughs]

DC: That's very insightful of you to say because one is constantly doing comparisons. And so yes, when I come down to the States, I see what is of value in Canada, and when I'm in Canada, I miss certain things about the States. But I guess I have the best of both worlds because I've had both experiences. And my husband has always been able to get employment even though he and I were constantly testing the waters there because of our unique perspectives on things. Once you stand up to authority like we did by leaving the United States, you're constantly questioning everything, and you certainly don't trust your government to look out for you even though, in Canada, they largely do, right? Because they've got the universal health care, they've got old age pension, and when our son was born, we would get a baby bonus. And when we lived in Nova Scotia there was free dental care for children up to the age of fifteen. And so we have had the benefits, probably, of both countries, and because I guess I can say the serendipity of having left when we did. So when my husband came up to Canada, the Canadian universities, the education system were hungry for people who had been educated so it was easy for him to get jobs and to get fellowships. And because, once again, white privilege and male, he was able to get fellowships. And people gave him the benefit of the doubt, whereas with me, I had to prove myself, so there was a difference in our status and it's always been.

But I think the trials that we've had in Canada made Wayne and I closer. And I became more in sync with his values and began to understand him more, probably because I became inculcated with his values just like I was inculcated by William and his values. Because they made sense to me, it appealed to my intellect rather than to my emotions. But, I mean, being a biracial couple has its challenges. When we went to Toronto and would go into a store, they never thought we were together. And, of course, now, ninety-five percent of the Nikkei have married into, have entered into interracial relationships.

VY: So you think acceptance of that has changed over time?

DC: Oh, definitely in Toronto. I mean, Toronto is a majority Chinese and Asian now. So, I mean, it's just a different Toronto than the Toronto we knew that was largely dominated by WASPs. And when I was going to the Royal Conservatory of Music, teachers there were speaking very resentfully of the "foreigners that were coming in." And then they would say to me, "Why do you speak English so well?" So, yeah, it was a real education, and then learning about the Japanese Canadian experience was really another, I guess I could say an enriching experience because I could see the similarities between the two experiences. So my perspective on what happened to us in the United States became enlarged by what I learned about the Japanese Canadian experience. And then so when I give talks, I weave both into each other and then I can add Art's story. And really it was a fight for the Pacific, who was going to control the Pacific Rim. And the Japanese were into building an empire at that time and then we now know who has the most military bases around the world, and who won that war.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.