The transformation of meaning: Legal discourse and Canadian internment camps


Authors
William Conklin
University of Windsor
Abstract
This Paper addresses the question as to how legal officials of the Canadian state pictured “persons of the Japanese race” in their internment before, during and after their internment. The legislative and judicial internment and exile of Canadian citizens “of the Japanese race” reads as if the internment and exile is ‘natural’, inevitable, and reasonable and that the judicial decisions posed no choice for the judiciary except to support the internment and exile. The role of the judiciary was held out as a matter of sustaining the classification of living beings as “persons of the Japanese race” with all the experienced suffering for the categorized beings. The judiciary’s reaction remains commonly accepted during alleged emergencies amongst the judiciary today. Why did the judiciary and the lawyers performing before the higher courts render their decisions as if they had no choice in the matter? Were the lawyers and judges just plain ‘out-and-out racists whose legal opinions may be discarded as an aberration of rights consciousness? Or was there something special about the legal discourse, independent of race, which rendered the internment and exile on the grounds of race seem ‘natural’? These issues, this Paper suggests, concern the more general issue, prominent in contemporary Anglo-American legal philosophy, as to why a law is considered legally obligatory.
Keywords semiotics, law, emergency legislation, racism
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DOI 10.1007/BF01570808
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