The Unfaithful Custodian: Glenn McPherson and the Dispossession of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Abstract Taking a biographical approach, this article exposes the double role of Glenn McPherson, the man most responsible for the dispossession of the property of Japanese Canadians during the 1940s. At the same time, we revise scholarly understandings of how federal policy was formed in wartime Canada, emphasizing the importance of little-known bureaucrats. Charged with protecting the property that Japanese Canadians were forced to leave behind during their uprooting, McPherson instead steered policy toward the forced sale of everything they owned. Troublingly, McPherson simultaneously acted as an intelligence agent, promulgating doubt of the loyalty of Japanese Canadians in unsubstantiated reports. Unveiling McPherson as a typical bureaucrat (concerned with administering legally defensible state policy), but also a key lawmaker and, most surprisingly, a clandestine agent, we find the policy both easier and harder to understand: easier because the records of his life and work detail the process by which this consequential policy emerged within the wider context of the internment, but harder because unlike political actors whose animosity toward Japanese Canadians in this era was often plain and public, McPherson’s motives are more obscure, his actions more secretive.

publication date

  • July 1, 2018