In 1942, during the internment of Japanese-Canadians in the Slocan Valley, The New Canadian Newspaper reported:
“Plans have been made by the Slocan Buddhist Memorial Society to erect a memorial monument (seirei to) in commemoration of the deceased who were cremated at the Slocan cemetery before the New Denver Crematorium was completed.”
At least nine people – six men, a woman, a child and an infant – were cremated in Slocan before the crematorium opened in April 1943. Seven more are likely, but this can’t be definitively established.
The monument took the shape of a wooden pillar with inscriptions in Japanese. It was placed atop a rock cairn in a fenced area at the east end of the cemetery. It was refurbished in 1969 and in 1986, but by 2017, both the fence and monument were rotting, and its original meaning was no longer widely known in Slocan.
We obtained a grant through Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Initiative & Affected Areas program to rebuild the fence and install an interpretative pedestal and panel. The final stage was replacing the memorial itself, in partnership with the Japanese-Canadian Legacy Committee.
A sawmill in Surrey donated a western red cedar post. Hinterland Design, a woodwork artisan shop and neighbour to the Japanese Hall in Vancouver, heavily discounted the woodwork, and a retired Shin Buddhist minister wrote the Japanese calligraphy on the monument. The message has been engraved into the wood, repainted, and varnished to withstand the elements for years to come.
In addition to funding from the Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Initiatives & Affected Areas program, the historical society received many donations from the Nikkei community for this project. The refurbished monument was rededicated in the summer of 2018.