Working Conditions

photograph of 3 men in hard hats and coveralls in winter, snow on ground, icicles hang from buildings with trees behind
Hick Hideo Hinastu, Lankey Yoshiaki Tanaka and Tak Ikeda stand in front of ice covered buildings in Camp No. 6, Chisholm Sawmills, Slave Lake, Alberta, 1944
Galt Museum & Archives 19790284001

Though some of the evacuees had farming experience, a great many more had worked in the fishing and lumber industries. Work in the sugar beet fields was back-breaking work, involving a great deal of hand labour. For those who had owned their own farms, boats and businesses, being reduced to menial labour was humiliating.

A family of five could earn about $1,320 a year working on the sugar beet farms. Many families could not make it through the winter of 1942 without their income being supplemented. It was not until arrangements were made for male members to work in lumber camps and canning factories during the winter that families were able to become self-supporting.

Opportunities for Japanese Canadians to find work in Lethbridge to supplement the meager income from beet farms was limited and often faced with controversy. Many southern Albertans actively opposed Japanese Canadians leaving the farms to work in the city.

It was not until 1943 that Lethbridge City Council approved the limited use of Japanese labour in the city by the Broder Canning Company. Even then, they were closely supervised, required to live in dormitories on the Broder property, and had to return to the farms after the canning season.

The Broder Canning Company was also a source of employment for the Japanese after World War II.

For additional details see the “Resettlement” section in “The Nisei” chapter