Skip to content

Museum of Surrey’s new ‘Broken Promises’ explores ‘dark part of Canadian history’

Touring exhibition about Japanese-Canadians ‘a vehicle to start a conversation with children about racism’
The Murakami family in Greenwood, B.C., in a photo featured in “Broken Promises” at Museum of Surrey. Opening Feb. 5, the exhibition explores the dispossession of Japanese-Canadians in the 1940s. (Photo courtesy Salt Spring Island Archives)

The Museum of Surrey’s first feature exhibition of 2022 will explore the dispossession of Japanese-Canadians in the 1940s.

Titled “Broken Promises,” the travelling exhibition showcases personal histories of people from seven families interned during the Second World War.

Opening Saturday, Feb. 5 at the Cloverdale museum (MOS), and on view until April 24, the exhibition is co-curated by Burnaby-based Nikkei National Museum with Royal British Columbia Museum and Landscapes of Injustice research collective.

In both English and French, “the multisensory experience features the Offices of Loss, which shows the administration of lives, and how this all happened, a map table that illustrates where this all took place, and an Oral History Theatre, offering first-person accounts from both descendants and bystanders,” according to an event advisory.

Museum of Surrey is expanding the exhibition to include personal stories from Surrey residents of Japanese descent.

“While the exhibit uncovers a dark part of Canadian history, it also emphasizes that this history is a resource, calling on us to create a more just Canadian future,” explained Lynn Saffery, MOS manager. “For families, ‘Broken Promises’ is a vehicle to start a conversation with children about racism and how they can be catalysts for change.”

MORE PHOTOS: Gallery explores ‘broken promises’ during Japanese Canadian internment in 1940s.

Launched in 2014, “Broken Promises” is funded by a $2.5-million grant from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, $3 million in matching contributions from institutional partners and $285,000 from Canadian Heritage.

Based at the University of Victoria (UVic), Landscapes of Injustice research collective involves 15 partners including four other universities, two government agencies, four Japanese-Canadian organizations, one provincial and one federal museum and three historical societies and learning associations.

• READ ALSO: Wartime letters between Surrey teen and interned Japanese friends spark search for descendants.

MOS has been “closed for the season” and reopens Feb. 5, at 17710 56A Ave.

Due to the pandemic, cancelled February events at the museum include Lunar New Year, Family Day and a History Expo.

The current Community Treasures exhibit at MOS is “The Indo-Fijians: Surrey’s Pocket of Paradise,” featured until May 1. Museum operators are now looking for more Community Treasures, which are collaborative exhibits that offer “a space for community partners to tell their own stories,” explains a post on

In the Indigenous Hall, the life and legacy of actor and activist Chief Dan George is showcased until April 24. A virtual tour is available on the museum’s website.

For in-person visits, Museum of Surrey follows current provincial health and safety guidelines. For more details, visit


‘Invisible’ Japanese-Canadian histories visible at Surrey Art Gallery in summer 2021.

B.C. apologizes for Japanese internment.

“I’m a fourth-generation Canadian of Japanese ancestry who grew up in Surrey, and I did not know about the history of Japanese Canadians in Surrey.”

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
Read more