Internment: New Denver

Slocan Lake, New Denver

Named after Denver Colorado, New Denver – a village of about 500, was briefly known as Eldorado City.

Developed in the 1890’s as a mining town, New Denver did not experience the same gold rush/silver madness as other towns in the region.

It was not incorporated until the late 1920’s.

While researching, I found a few interesting New Denver facts.


The locals did not want cellular service and voted against its introduction in 2008. A ban was created that lasted until 2010, when Telus stepped in, regardless of peaceful protests, and built a cell facility in the heart of town.

I myself am a cell phone hold out, and don’t see one in my near future. I find it very interesting that a whole town tried to fight against cellular service. Next visit, I will be watching to see who is/who is not using mobile service!


Also, from Wikipedia;

In the 1950s, children of Freedomites, a Doukhobor extremist group, were removed from their parents and sent to residential school in New Denver. The Freedomites refused to send their children to school because of their religious beliefs.

Remember, the Doukhobors assisted interns in Sandon? I wonder if this could have been, in part, a bit of backlash.

Kids in Prison Camp New Denver

Children in New Denver’s Doukhobor school prison camp. Photo source;

Not that I am saying I disagree with children getting an education, but I certainly disagree with the approach that was taken, and the horrors committed against the imprisoned kids. You don’t get over that kind of thing, no matter how old you get.

I know that Canada was still generally quite suspicious of persons of non European/caucasian or even worse ‘Soviet’ decent, in the 1950’s, and to have helped ‘the enemy’ during wartime would not have gone unnoticed.

The 200+ children (aged 5 – 17) were apprehended and held in prison like conditions, under what was known as ‘Operation Snatch’.

I don’t know very much about the Doukhobors, or their history. That’s reason enough for you to expect another tour.

Old West Architecture New Denver Architecture New Denver

There is some interesting architecture scattered throughout the town of New Denver. You can still see original old west style buildings on most streets. If you make a visit, be sure to tour some side roads.

Remarkably, a few tiny renovated internment homes are still being lived in here.

Downtown New Denver


New Denver houses the impressive Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre.

Located directly on the former ‘Orchard’ internment camp site, the centre was put together with the help of 20 formerly interned survivors. It includes several original ‘self-supporting’ internment shacks, and a gorgeous Japanese garden.

Many former internees have written about their gardens, and how it was in them that they found peace, freedom and life. For many, it was their gardens that helped them survive.

Internment Memorial New Denver

Internment Memorial, New Denver. Photo source:

The shacks were tiny and made to house two families. They were uninsulated, and though the winters were somewhat less harsh than those in Sandon, this was still the mountain interior, and winters were still unbearable – nothing like on the coast.


More than 1600 Japanese were sent to New Denver. Aged men, women and children were put to work here. Additional substandard housing was built on various plots of (farm) land around the village.


The internment camps (in New Denver and surrounding area) consisted of rows of shacks, hastily built, often using green, undried lumber. The shrinkage of the lumber as it dried, caused cracks to appear in the walls and the lack of insulation resulted in frost on the walls which melted when the stoves were fired up. The unpreparedness of the government resulted in some families having to initially live in tents.

Some even had to survive the first winter tented.

The main ‘self-supporting’ site in New Denver deceptively became known as ‘the Orchard’. Built in a former orchard, by the time interns arrived, there was hardly a fruit bearing tree.

Japanese bank accounts were held to be used by these self-supporting communities. Though the interned did not pay for housing, they were expected to cover other personal costs.


Not all families were able to stay together during the internship, which made places like New Denver the lesser of the available evils.

Other Nikkei interns, namely those working on road crews and farm/logging/work placements, were held in unlivable conditions and separated from children and wives.

They referred to those housed in self-supporting camps as ‘kane-mochi’ – the rich people. They had money to draw from, and more importantly – they had their families.

Overlooking Slocan Lake Bikers In New Denver

There is a plethora of information (and photos) about the WWII internment in New Denver and surrounding area, available by PDF at

There, you can read an account of what life was like in a ‘self-supporting’ shack, and what it was like to be a child going to school in the camps. You will also find information about what happened to the Japanese-Canadians in other provinces of Canada, and a bit about the propaganda used to facilitate and maintain internment.

New Denver, with its dark internment history, has made great efforts to create a beautiful, meaningful, educational memorial. Through its efforts, it has become somewhat a centre for internment research and remembrance.

There are still a few former internees that call New Denver home, and even a few that have come back – after years away – to live out their last days in a place they thought they would never call home.

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You can follow our tour in the ‘WWII Japanese Internment‘ section, or head to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook for more photos.

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2 responses to “Internment: New Denver

  1. Another great post, thank you.

    I should take some time and learn more about the Doukhobors and their experience. I mentioned in a previous post that I grew up in Greenwood with many Japanese-Canadian friends. We also had Doukhobor classmates; mostly from Midway but a few from Greenwood. In fact I just reconnected with one Doukhobor classmate a few days ago.

    As a child I remember being told that “Son’s of Freedom” radical Doukhobours had burnt down the “Orthodox” Doukhobour community center in Grand Forks. I was told that the “Son’s of Freedom” had burnt schools down and that their women would protest by marching downtown naked. Perhaps this was in reaction to Operation Snatch. So sad how our government dealt with this situation.

    I am really enjoying your posts and insights. I look forward to your future posts.


    • I started my Doukhobor research as soon as I finished that post! 🙂 It is FASCINATING. The Tolstoy stuff blows my mind. I will absolutely be planning out a BC/Alberta/Sask Doukhobor history tour.

      From what I read, all of the burnings and bombings did, in fact, happen AFTER some hideous act of injustice. And yes, it was the fanatical offshoot Sons of Freedom/Freedomites that were responsible. Lots of unusual history – I had no idea!

      And thank you – nice to know someone appreciates my favourite hobby :D.


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