Historical Timeline of Japanese Canadian


Project Description


Institutional Participants



Staff and Advisors

Japanese American
National Museum

First recorded instance of Japanese shipwrecks off the west coast of what would become British Columbia. Two survivors of a wreck off the Queen Charlotte Islands were taken by the Hudson's Bay Company to England. Over the next several decades, there were repeated shipwrecks. Some sailors managed to return to Japan where they might face prosecution by the Tokugawa government, which prohibited travel to foreign countries. Others are reported to have settled in aboriginal communities along the British Columbia coast.
Ranald MacDonald, son of an aboriginal woman and white man, travels to Japan in search of people like himself, after seeing castaway Japanese sailors off the coast of British Columbia. He stayed in Japan for some time, learned the language, and worked as an English tutor.
Nagano Manzo, of Yokohama abandons his ship in New Westminster and takes up permanent residence in Canada, as the first recognized Issei. He subsequently ran a gift shop, Japanese food store and hotel in Victoria, B.C.
Takezo (surname unknown) is the first Japanese immigrant employed at the Hastings Sawmill in Vancouver, later the largest employer of Japanese immigrants in Canada. Takezo was also the first Issei to die in 1889.
Yoshizawa Yasukichi is the first bosu (boss) hired to supervise the Issei work force at Hastings Sawmill.
Kuno Gihei, a fisher from Mio-mura in Wakayama-ken, visits Canada and returns to recruit fellow villagers to settle in the village of Steveston at the mouth of the Fraser River. Steveston became the second largest Japanese-Canadian settlement before World War II. Mio, also known as America-mura became one of the largest single sources of Japanese emigrants to Canada.
Shishido Yo becomes the first Issei woman to settle in Canada, where she takes up residence with her husband, Oya Washiji, a store proprietor on Powell Street.
The first Nisei, Katsuji, is born to Yo and Washiji Oya.
Issei establish stores, boarding houses and other businesses along the streets adjacent to the Hastings Mill, especially on Powell Street. This neighbourhood becomes the major settlement of Japanese Canadians until World War II.
First group of contract immigrants sent to work in Dunsmuir Mines in Cumberland, Vancouver Island by the Kobe Imingaisha.
First recorded strike in the fishing industry against Japanese fishers.
The first Christian church for Japanese immigrants opens in Vancouver.
Rev. Kaburagi Goro becomes the first ordained minister of the Japanese Methodist church. He establishes a Japanese language weekly, the Bankuba Shuho.
The Japanese Fishermen's Association is organized in Steveston, B.C., with Homma Tomekichi as President.
200 Issei men are employed at Hastings Mill. Other mills are built in Vancouver.
Honma Tomekichi, a Vancouver boarding house keeper and naturalized Canadian citizen, applies to be included on the voters' list. After refusal by the Collector of Voters, a British Columbia judge declares ultra vires a clause barring Asians from voting, but this decision is overturned by the Privy Council of Britain in 1902.
Amidst increasing public agitation against Asian immigrant, the British Columbia government makes a first attempt to impose the Natal Act, which requires immigrants to pass a written English examination.
The Bankuba Shuho becomes a daily, the Kanada Shimpo.
Japanese Canadian farmers begin to settle in the Fraser Valley, and over the next few years establish a successful berry farming industry.
The first Buddhist temple in Canada opens at the Ishikawa Hotel on Powell Street, Vancouver.
The first Japanese language school, the Kokumin Gakko, is established by Monbusho in Vancouver.
Inamasu Kumataro is the first documented Nikkei living in southern Alberta.
Immigration to the United States is drastically reduced, and large number of Japanese immigrants begin to enter Canada, many directly from Hawai'i. Emigration is increased as a result of unemployment following the Russo-Japanese War, and a widespread crop failure in Japan.
More than 9,000 Japanese immigrants enter Canada in 1906-08.
Inouye Jiro, known as Henee no soncho, settles in Haney, in the Fraser Valley, and urges others to become berry farmers.
(September 9) A mob of white supremacists gathers in Vancouver and inflicts severe damage to Chinese- and Japanese immigrant quarters. Powell Street receives extensive damage. The riot is immediately followed by a general strike of Vancouver's Asian workers.
Minister of Labour, W.L. Mackenzie King, is appointed to head a Royal Commission to assess the damages, and awards $9,000 for losses.
Oikawa Jinzaburo of Miyagi Prefecture, brings 79 men and 3 women from the village of Yonegawa as illicit immigrants to Canada. The immigrants are found by Canadian authorities on Vancouver Island, and allowed to stay. Most of them subsequently settle on Don and Lion Islands in the Fraser River.
The Tairiku Nippo begins publication.
The Hayashi-Lemieux "Gentlemen's Agreement" restricts further Japanese immigration to 400 male immigrants and domestic servants per year, plus returning immigrants and their immediate family members.
The shasshin kekkon, "picture bride" system of marriage becomes widespread.
A directory of Japanese immigrant businesses shows 568 businesses in the Powell Street area.
After being rejected in British Columbia, approximately 200 Issei volunteers travel to Alberta to join Canadian battalions of the British army and are shipped to Europe. 54 are killed and 92 wounded.
Uchida Chitose is the first Nisei to graduate from a Canadian university, qualified as a school teacher. She is unable to find employment, except teaching English in the Nikkei community.
Nikkei fishers control nearly half the fishing licenses (3,267) in British Columbia, and the government reduces the number of licenses to "other than white residents". Over the next five years, licenses to Nikkei continue to be reduced.
Japanese-Canadian millworkers form the Japanese Labour Union, the first Japanese-Canadian union. In addition to organizing for workers' rights, they provide political opposition to the Canadian Japanese Association, a conservative community association.
The "Gentlemen's Agreement" is reactivated after intense pressure placed by the British Columbia government upon the federal government, and further immigration is limited to 150 per year. British Columbia passes a Resolution proposing to limit the activities of all "Orientals" in the province.
The Japanese Labour Union gains affiliation with the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada, as the Japanese Camp and Millworkers Union, Local 31.
The first agricultural producers' cooperative, the Maple Ridge Berry Growers Co-Operative Exchange, organized by Yamaga Yasutaro.
A report commissioned by the B.C. government, with the intent of showing that Japanese Canadians are taking over the province, finds that Japanese Canadians own 9,238 acres of agricultural land valued at $1,252,063. Over the next seven years, Japanese Canadians produce 85% of the berry crop in the Fraser Valley.
The "Gentlemen's Agreement" is modified to include family members in the annual 150 quota.
Kisawa Jun, an Issei fisher, wins a court battle to overturn restrictions against Japanese Canadians using motorized fishing boats.
Issei World War I veterans receive the franchise, and become the only Japanese Canadians qualified to vote.
The Hompa Buddhist Church is built at 604 Cordova Street.
The Canadian Japanese Association is reorganized, and the Japanese Consul becomes the leader of all Nikkei groups.
The Japanese Canadian Citizens League, the first citizens' association, is founded, and sends a delegation of Nisei citizens to Ottawa to plead unsuccessfully for the franchise.
The New Canadian is established as the first English-language Nikkei newspaper. It becomes the only Nikkei newspaper allowed to publish during the years of uprooting.
In response to public agitation against Japanese Canadians, the Prime Minister appoints a Board of Review, headed by federal public servant Hugh Keenleyside, to investigate allegations of illegal entry of Japanese citizens. After investigating 1,881 individuals, the Board finds that the allegations are unfounded.
(10 September) Canada declares war with Germany.
Of the 23,303 persons of Japanese origin in Canada, 75.5% were Canadian citizens (60.2% Canadian-born and 14.6% naturalized citizens).
(7 January) In a split decision, a Special Committee of the Cabinet War Committee recommends that Japanese Canadians not be allowed to volunteer for the armed services on the grounds that there is strong public opinion against them.
(March to August) Compulsory registration of all Japanese Canadians over 16 years is carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
(7 December) Japan attacks Pearl Harbour. Canada declares war on Japan. Under the War Measures Act, Order-in-Council P.C. 9591 requires all Japanese nationals to register by 7 February with the Registrar of Enemy Aliens.
(8 December) 1,200 fishing boats owned by Japanese Canadians are impounded. Japanese language newspapers and schools close. Insurance policies are cancelled.
(16 December) Order-in-Council P.C. 9760 requires are persons of Japanese origin, regardless of citizenship, to register.
(16 January) Order-in-Council P.C. 365 creates a 100-mile 'protected area' on the coast of British Columbia from which male enemy aliens could be excluded.
(24 February) Secret Order-in-Council P.C. 1486 empowers the government to remove all persons of Japanese origin from the 'protected area', regardless of citizenship. They are restricted in areas of employment, communication and association with other persons, and denied possession of cameras, firearms and radios. Two days later, the formal 'evacuation' is announced, with the provision that all property that those 'evacuated' could not carry with them be placed in the custody of the Custodian of Alien Property. Hastings Park, an agricultural exhibition ground, is established as a temporary detention centre.
By the end of the year, approximately 12,029 persons are in detention camps in the interior of British Columbia, 945 men are in enforced labour camps, 3,991 are placed as labourers on sugar beet farms in the Prairie provinces, 1,161 are in voluntary self-supporting sites outside the 'protected area', 1,359 are given special work permits, 699 are interned in prisoner-of-war camps in Ontario, 42 are repatriated to Japan, 111 are in detention in Vancouver and 105 are in hospital in Hastings Park, approximately 2,000 were living outside the 'protected area' and allowed to remain in place but required to register and give up prohibited items, and subject to restriction of activities.
(19 January) Order-in-Council P.C. 469 allows the government to sell Japanese-Canadian property held in custody.
People are gradually released from camps if they agree to move east of the Rocky Mountains. They encounter severe hostility from the public. Many cities, among them the City of Toronto, are closed to persons of Japanese ancestry.
The Japanese Canadian Committee for Democracy and the Co-Operative Committee on Japanese Canadians (a white, mainly Christian group) are organized to assist in re-settlement.
(August) The Government announces a program to disperse Japanese Canadians throughout the country, to separate those who are 'loyal' from those who are 'disloyal', and to 'repatriate the disloyal to Japan.
(January) At the request of the British government, Japanese Canadians are allowed to enlist. They played a strong role as interpreters in southeast Asia.
Those remaining in the camps are canvassed for 'loyalty', and told to choose between 're-patriation' to Japan and immediate movement east of the Rocky Mountains. Some 10,632 people, facing uncertainty and unable to confirm new residences east of the Rockies, sign repatriation forms. Nearly half later apply to rescind their signatures.
Orders-in-Council P.C. 7335, 7356 and 7357 empower the government to assess the loyalty of Japanese Canadians, order their deportation and strip them of citizenship.
(1 January) On expiry of the measures under the War Measures Act, the National Emergency Transitional Powers Act is used to keep the measures against Japanese Canadians in place.
(December) The Privy Council upholds a Supreme Court decision that the deportation orders are legal. By this time more than 4,000 people have been deported to Japan.
(24 January) The deportation orders are cancelled.
(April) The Citizenship Act extends the franchise to Canadians of Chinese and South Asian origin, but excludes Japanese Canadians and aboriginal peoples.
(18 July) A commission is set up under Justice Henry Bird to examine the losses sustained by Japanese Canadians, who receive compensation cheques totaling $1.2 million, a small fraction of the value of their property.
(September) The National Japanese Canadian Citizens Association is established at a conference in Toronto.
(15 June) Bill 198 amends the Dominion Elections Act to remove the clause denying the franchise to Japanese Canadians.
(31 March) Restrictions imposed under the War Measures Act are lifted, and Japanese Canadians gain full rights of citizenship.
Order-in-Council P.C. 4364 revokes an order prohibiting immigration of "enemy aliens", and provides for some of those deported to re-immigrate to Canada. Eventually, about one quarter will return.
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre opens in Toronto.
Nikka Yuko (Japan-Canada Friendship) Garden is established in the city of Lethbridge to celebrate the Canadian Centennial.
Japanese Canadians renew national community ties by celebrating the centennial of the arrival of Nagano Manzo, the first known Issei in Canada. The centennial celebrations are closely followed by the organization of informal groups to discuss seeking redress.
The NJCCA becomes the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC).
Art Miki becomes president of the NAJC and begins a concerted campaign for redress. A brief entitled Democracy Betrayed: The Case for Redress is presented to the government on 21 November. Attempts to negotiate with a series of ministers over the next four years are unsuccessful, but a strong case for redress is built in the community and the public.
(14 April) 500 Japanese Canadians rally in on Parliament Hill in support of redress. Many prominent Canadians come out to support their cause and the new Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Gerry Weiner, makes a statement that opens up dialogue with the community.
(21 July) The War Measures Act is repealed.
(22 September) Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announces a Redress Settlement negotiated between the National Association of Japanese Canadians and the federal government, to acknowledge injustices against Japanese Canadians during and after World War II, provide a payment of $21,000 to all Japanese Canadians affected by the provisions of the War Measures Act, expunge criminal records of those charged with offenses stemming from violation of provisions of the War Measures Act, re-instate citizenship of those exiled to Japan, establish a $12,000,000 community fund to help rebuild community infrastructure, and provide $24,000,000, half in the name of the NAJC and half in the name of the government, to establish the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
The Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation is established to administer the community funds. Over the next ten years, projects initiated across Canada include community centres and other facilities, cultural and artistic projects, and educational projects.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is established.
The Census of Canada shows a Japanese-Canadian population of 77,130, of whom approximately one third indicate multiple ethnic backgrounds, indicating an intermarriage rate of over 90% in recent decades.
Keiko Miki becomes the first woman president of the NAJC.