Living Conditions on the Sugar Beet Farms

photograph of small shack with vertical tar paper siding, 1 door, 1 window, bicycle beside

Typical home provided for Japanese Canadian evacuee families, ca 1940s

Galt Museum & Archives exhibit file

“The evacuation made you angry, very angry. But the anger killed the sorrow and the hurt, and the anger itself was destroyed by making a living. I became too busy to be angry.”

Japanese mother of 10

When the Japanese arrived in southern Alberta, they found very difficult living conditions. There were widespread complaints about the housing conditions. Many of these homes were previously used by seasonal summer beet labourers – they were not insulated and offered sparse living conditions.

The Security Commission offered limited assistance by supplying some building materials to improve their new homes. The Japanese were also expected to assist financially in maintaining and upgrading their accommodations with the meager wages earned in the fields.

It was not unusual to find up to 11 people, including elderly grandparents and young children, living in a 12 x 20 feet shack (3.6 x 6 meters). The lack of a good and abundant water source was also a difficult adjustment for a people known for their sense of cleanliness. Isolation on the beet farms made medical attention difficult and medical expenses were high.