According to the 2001 Census, there are 20,085 Japanese living
Three out of every 10 individuals who were visible minorities
were born in Canada. Immigration has been the biggest contributor
to the rapid growth of the visible minority population, but
some visible minority groups such as the Japanese have long
histories in this country, and are more likely to be Canadian-born.
Proportions of Canadian-born visible minorities varied widely
from group to group, in large measure a reflection of historical
immigration patterns. About 65% of Japanese were born in Canada,
the highest proportion of all visible minority groups.
In fact, only one in 10 Japanese is an immigrant who came to
Canada in the last 10 years. Given that immigrants tend to be
relatively younger, Japanese are more likely to be older than
other visible minority groups. Japanese represent about 2% of
Canada's visible minority population.
History in Canada
The first person of Japanese origin to settle in Canada was
Manzo Nagano (who has a mountain in British Columbia named after
him), in the mid-19th century. Japanese Canadians were frequently
used as labourers on the railways and on fishing boats, because
there were restrictions on Japanese Canadians from entering
the professions, the civil service and teaching until 1967.
Gov. James Douglas summarised the Canadian attitude towards
Japanese Canadians in a letter dated April 23, 1860: "They are
certainly not a desirable class of people, as a permanent population,
but are for the present useful as labourers, and, as consumers,
of a revenue-paying character." Although Japanese Canadians
worked and paid taxes, they were not allowed to vote.
At the turn of the century, consecutive waves of Asian immigration
led to public anxiety over the "Yellow Peril." In
1907, a crowd at an anti-Asian rally marched through Vancouver's
Chinatown and Japanese town breaking store windows. Industrial
workers and the propaganda of the media and politicians like
Douglas aggravated anti-Asian sentiment. The government restricted
immigration of Japanese immigrants from 400 in 1908 to 150 in
Over the next few decades, Japanese Canadians began to prosper.
Laws banning Japanese Canadians from buying certain pieces of
land were lifted. But these improvements took a downward turn
heading into the 1940s. In 1941, Japanese Canadians were fingerprinted
and photographed and were required to carry registration cards.
In 1942 the War Measures Act was enacted for the removal of
all people of Japanese origin residing within 100 miles of the
Pacific Coast, three months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour.
Almost 21,000 Japanese-Canadians (75% of whom were Canadian
nationals) were removed from their homes and shipped to road
camps, internment camps and prisoner of war camps, most with
only 24 hours notice to vacate their homes. Construction camps
at Lucerne, Rainbow, Red Pass, Albreda, and Tete Jaune Cache
housed over 1,500 Japanese-Canadians, mostly single men. In
the U.S., housing and food were provided. In Canada, internees
paid for food, clothes and basic improvements in housing from
savings and proceeds of property sales. In the U.S., families
were interned together. In Canada, initially, families were
Between 1943 and 1946 the federal government sold off the property
owned by Japanese-Canadians. (In the U.S., constitutional protections
forbade the sale of property). The RCMP were allowed to search
without warrants, imposed a curfew and confiscated property.
Japanese-Canadians should be removed, according to one recommendation,
to "areas and under conditions which will assure their removal
from any suspicion of possibility of subversive activities."
In a letter to the Commissioner of the RCMP, Japanese-Canadians
were said to: "unfortunately, lack both discipline and mature
judgement." It wouldn't have mattered if they had pledged allegiance
to Canada, as Humphrey Mitchell, the Dominion Minister of Labour
said: "they would all be treated alike in regard to treatment
and work." Canadian-born, naturalized Japanese-Canadians and
enemy aliens were indistinguishable in the eyes of the government.
The Second World War ended in 1945. Japanese Canadians were
forced into exile to Japan or to re-settle east of the Rockies.
Ten thousand signed up for re-patriation. The case against deportation
was brought to the Supreme Court, which ruled for deportation
of Japanese Canadians. In 1946-7, Prime Minister King yielded
to public opinion, and ended deportation. But by then 4,000
people had left, 2,000 of whom were Canadian-born.
It wasn't until 1949 that Japanese Canadians were allowed to
vote. By then, most of the wartime restrictions had been lifted.
The government wanted to compensate (Redress) the Japanese Canadians
for their losses during the war, but it could only be limited
to property losses. It did not address the issue of civil rights,
sale of property without consent, and damages incurred from
loss earnings, disruption to education and psychological trauma.
In 1950, Justice Henry Bird recommended $1.2 million compensation.
This worked out to $52 a person. A 1987 Price Waterhouse study
estimated real property loss at $50 million, total economic
loss at $443 million.
In 1980, the US Congress conducted hearings into the internment
of Japanese Americans and offered an apology and individual
compensation package to the internees. On September 22, 1988,
The Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement was signed with the
government offering an apology and committing to creating a
national organization that would help eliminate racism --- The
Canadian Race Relations Foundation. The agreement also provided
compensation for survivors of internment, although at $21,000
for 16,000 people, it was little more than an symbolic act.
In 1987, the War Measures Act was replaced with the Emergencies
Act. The new Act outlines criteria for what is considered a
national emergency and prohibits the detention of individuals
on the basis of race and other grounds, e.g. religion, etc.
Based in part on the article "From Racism to Redress: The Japanese
Canadian Experience" at http://www.crr.ca.
Significant Dates (adapted from the CHRC website):
1885 - A $50 head tax is imposed on immigrants from China before
they can be admitted to the country; it is doubled in 1900 and
increased three years later to $500.
"No Chinaman, Japanese or Indian shall have his name placed
on the register of Voters for any Electoral District, or be
entitled to vote at any election." - Provincial Elections
Act of B.C., 1895.
1902 - British Columbia politicians urge further restrictions
on Chinese and Japanese immigration. The federal government
appoints the Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese immigration,
which says that Asians are "unfit for full citizenship...
obnoxious to a free community and dangerous to the state."
1919 - Following World War I, discriminatory immigration policies
are enshrined in law by creating an excluded class on the basis
of "preferred" and "non-preferred" countries
of origin, the most favoured being the United Kingdom and the
United States followed by north and western Europe. Asian and
African immigration was non-preferred.
1930 - Restrictive covenants that prevent Chinese people from
buying property outside the Chinatown area in Vancouver begin
to be lifted.
1942 - The War Measures Act is enacted to order the removal
of all people of Japanese origin residing within 100 miles of
the Pacific Coast, three months after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor
and Hong Kong. 20,881 Japanese Canadians, 75% of whom are
Canadian nationals, are removed from their homes and shipped
to detention camps in the interior of British Columbia or to
farms in Alberta and Manitoba. Between 1943 and 1946, the federal
government sells off all Japanese property
1944 - Prime Minister Mackenzie King discloses in the House
of Commons that "no person of the Japanese race born in
Canada has been charged with any act of sabotage or disloyalty
during the years of the war."
1946 - A massive public protest from across Canada stops the
government from its attempt to deport 10,000 Japanese Canadians.
1947 - South Asians and Chinese Canadians are given the vote
federally and provincially. Saskatchewan is the first Canadian
province to enact a Bill of Rights. The Bill provided protection
from discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, colour
and national origin, and proclaimed such civil and political
freedoms as freedom of expression, freedom of association and
the right to vote.
1949 - Japanese Canadians regain their freedom and are given
the vote. The ban on Chinese and South Asian immigration instituted
in 1923 is repealed, but only wives and children of Canadian
citizens are eligible.
1950's - Most Canadian provinces enact legislation prohibiting
racial and religious discrimination in employment and/or housing.
1952 - A new Immigration Act is passed. Along with people seeking
entry for subversive or immoral purposes, it prohibits immigration
by the mentally ill, epileptics, people with disabilities and
homosexuals. It also excludes Chinese, East Indian and Black
immigration on the basis of a system of preferred nationalities.
1962 - Ontario enacts Canada's first comprehensive provincial
human rights code and established the country's first human
1996 - The Honourable Lincoln Alexander is named chair of the
newly formed Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Half of the
$24 million federal endowment for the CRRF is provided by the
Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement in recognition of injustices
suffered by Japanese Canadians during and after WWII. Its task
is to contribute to the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination
Decisions in Council
P.C 117: March 1941.
Required registration and fingerprinting of all Japanese Canadians
over the age of 16.
P.C. 365: January 1941.
Required all male Japanese Canadian nationals between the ages
of 18-45 to be removed from the protected land - 100 miles inland.
P.C. 1486: February 1941.
Required removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from protected
P.C. 469: January 1943.
Authorized the Custodian of Enemy Property to sell property
of Japanese Canadians that was being held in trust.
P.C. 496: February 1943.
Required that Japanese Canadians had to apply for a license
to purchase property.
P.C. 469: April 1943.
Ordered the deportation of Japanese Canadians to Japan or their
removal to eastern Canada.
from "From Racism to Redress: The Japanese Canadian Experience."
1969 -- David Suzuki (Officer of the Order of Canada) receives
the Steacie Memorial Fellowship for the best young Canadian
scientist. The Japanese Canadian geneticist spent his early
life in a World War II detention camp. He was awarded his PhD
in 1961 at the University of British Columbia. Though there
were restrictions on Japanese Canadians from entering the professions,
the civil service and teaching until 1967, Suzuki becomes Canada's
most popular and highly regarded scientific educator.
1978 -- Thomas Shoyama receives the Order of Canada. He is the
first Japanese Canadian to have become a deputy minister, first
of Energy, Mines and Resources, then Finance. He began his career
as a labourer in British Columbia during the War Measures Act.
Later, in Saskatchewan, he became economic advisor to the premier,
T.C. Douglas, at a time when major social programs were being
developed and in 1964, headed the Economic Council of Canada.
1988 -- NAJC negotiated the historic Redress Settlement on behalf
of all Japanese Canadians. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and
NAJC President Art Miki signed the Redress agreement on September
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (http://www.crr.ca)
was founded by Japanese Canadians. They contributed $12 million
as part of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement.
The two major religions of Japan are Buddhism and Shinto. One
to two million Japanese are Christian.
Links and Resources
The National Association of Japanese Canadians
www.najc.caThe NAJC is the national organization that represents
the Japanese-Canadian community with fourteen chapters across
Canada. Their focus is human rights and community development.
Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)
1002-175 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R8
Telephone: (416) 973-5527 or 1-800-999-6899
Fax: (416) 973-6184
Masumi Hayashi Photography: Canadian Concentration Camps.
maps and history of internment camps in which Japanese Canadians
were imprisoned during WWII.
Canadian Race Relations Foundation
4576 Yonge Street, Suite 701,
Toronto, Ontario, M2N 6N4
Telephone: 1-888-240-4936 (toll free) or 416-952-3500
National Association of Japanese Canadians - Greater Toronto
NAJC Friendship House, 382 Harbord Street, Toronto, Ontario,
CANADA, M6G 1H9
Telephone: (416) 516-1375 Fax: (416) 516-8402
A history of Asians in Canada.
Adachi, Ken and Iwaasa, David.
Two Monographs on Japanese Canadians.
New York: Arno Press, 1978.
Adachi,Ken. The Enemy That Never Was:
A History of the Japanese Canadians.
Toronto:McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1991.
Broadfoot, Barry. Years of Sorrow, Years of Shame:
The Story of the Japanese
Canadians in World War II.
Toronto: Doubleday Canada Limited, 1977.
Scantland, Anna Cecile. Study of Historical Injustice to Japanese
Vancouver: Parallel Publishers Ltd., 1984.
Shimizu, Yon. The Exiles: Archival History of the World War
Japanese Road Camps in British Colombia and Ontario.
Wallaceburg: Shimizu Consulting and Publishing, 1993.
Researched by Jennifer Baker