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Numbers in Canada
According to the 2001 Census, there are 20,085 Japanese living in Toronto.

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 1923.

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 separated.

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 rights commission

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 in Canada.

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 area.
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."

Significant Events:
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 22, 1988.

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.
http://www.csuohio.edu/art_photos/canada/canada.htmlPictures, 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 Chapter
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 Canadians.
Vancouver: Parallel Publishers Ltd., 1984.

Shimizu, Yon. The Exiles: Archival History of the World War Two
Japanese Road Camps in British Colombia and Ontario.
Wallaceburg: Shimizu Consulting and Publishing, 1993.

Researched by Jennifer Baker
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