Profile: Tets Kitaguchi was born in Evansburg in 1918, the son of a Japanese coalminer who emigrated to Canada in 1906 and worked in Cumberland BC coal mines before relocating to work in a new Evansburg mine. Kitaguchi describes life in Evansburg, noting the lack of comforts in miners’ homes. Kitaguchi worked in the mines as a summer job but then moved with his brother to Vancouver where they worked in a pulp mill. Forced to leave the coast during World War II because of his Japanese ancestry, he and his wife moved to Raymond, Alberta, and both worked on a sugar beet farm for low wages and a substandard accommodation. After the war, Kitaguchi worked in a lime kiln near Coleman in the Crowsnest where Japanese Canadians worked alongside recent arrivals from eastern Europe. He led an effort to organize the mine, and the United Mine Workers was able to persuade the company to increase pay and to replace workers’ shacks with decent homes. To escape lime dust, Kitaguchi took a pulp mill job in Hinton where again his union involvement helped to pressure management to improve working conditions.
Keywords: Coal mining; Company housing; Evansburg; Japanese relocation during World War II; Lime kilns; Mining town living conditions; Occupational health and safety—lime kilns; Pulp and paper workers; Sugar beet workers; Union organizing; United Mineworkers of America.
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See also: Systemic Racism in Alberta’s History