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Japanese Canadians

Japanese Canadians
Nikkei Kanadajin
Total population
2001 Census: 85,000 (by ancestry, 77% native born)[1]
2016 Census: 121,485 (by ancestry)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Lethbridge, Edmonton
English, French and Japanese
Irreligion (46%), Protestant (24%), Buddhism (16%), Catholic (9%) and other (5%)[3]
Related ethnic groups
Japanese, Japanese Americans, Japanese Brazilians, Japanese Peruvians, Japanese Mexicans

Japanese Canadians (日系カナダ人, Nikkei Kanadajin, French: Canadiens japonais) are Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry. Japanese Canadians are mostly concentrated in Western Canada, especially in the province of British Columbia, which hosts the largest Japanese community in the country with the majority of them living in and around Vancouver. In 2016, there were 121,485 Japanese Canadians throughout Canada.[2]


The term Nikkei (日系) was coined by sociologists and encompasses all of the world's Japanese immigrants across generations. Japanese descendants living overseas have special names for each of their generations. These are formed by combining one of the Japanese numerals with the Japanese word for generation (sei, 世):

  • Issei (一世) – The first generation of immigrants, born in Japan before moving to Canada.
  • Nisei (二世) – The second generation, born in Canada to Issei parents not born in Canada.
  • Sansei (三世) – The third generation, born in Canada to Nisei parents born in Canada.
  • Yonsei (四世) – The fourth generation, born in Canada to Sansei parents born in Canada.
  • Gosei (五世) – The fifth generation, born in Canada to Yonsei parents born in Canada.


Early years

The first Japanese settler in Canada was Manzo Nagano, who lived in Victoria, British Columbia in 1877 (a mountain in the province was named after him in 1977). The first generation or Issei, mostly came to Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and Rivers Inlet from fishing villages on the islands of Kyūshū and Honshū between 1877 and 1928. A Japanese community newspaper for Vancouver residents was first launched in 1897. Around the same time, the Fraser River Japanese Fishermen’s Association Hospital in Steveston was established after the local hospital refused to admit and treat Japanese immigrants.[4]

In 1907, the Asiatic Exclusion League was established in Vancouver and, by September of that year, led a mob of rioters who vandalized both Chinese and Japanese neighbourhoods.[5] In 1908, Canada enacted a Gentlemen's Agreement intended to curb further Japanese immigration to Canada.[6]

Influenced by the American Immigration Act of 1924, members of the British Columbia parliament pushed for a total federal ban on immigration in the 1920s. After several years of negotiations, Japan eventually agreed to reduce its immigration quota under the Gentleman's Agreement to only 150 persons per year.[7]


On January 14, 1942, the Canadian government used the War Measures Act to brand Japanese-Canadians enemy aliens and to categorize them as security threats. There were 20,881 Japanese placed in internment camps and road camps in British Columbia, and prisoner-of-war camps in Ontario. Families were also sent as forced labourers to farms throughout the prairies. Three quarters of them were already citizens in Canada. A parallel situation occurred in the United States, the Japanese American internment.[8]

The property and homes of Japanese Canadians living in the province of British Columbia were seized and sold off without their consent in 1943. The funds were used to pay for their internment. They also had to "pay rent" for living in the internment shacks that they were assigned. In 1945, after the war, as part of the continued effort to remove all Japanese Canadians from British Columbia, Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King had his cabinet pass Orders-in-Council to extend the powers of the War Measures Act and give Japanese Canadians two "options": to be relocated to another province "East of the Rockies" or to go "back" to Japan though most were born in Canada and had never been to Japan.[citation needed] After organized protests by against their treatment, they were finally given the right to vote in 1949. Mobility restrictions were lifted in 1949.[citation needed]

After World War II

Until 1948, Japanese-Canadians, both Issei and Canadian-born Nisei, were denied the right to vote. Those born in the 1950s and 1960s in Canada are mostly Sansei, the third generation. Sansei usually have little knowledge of the Japanese language. Over 75% of the Sansei have married non-Japanese. Nisei and Sansei generally identify themselves not as fully Japanese but as Canadians first who happen to have Japanese ancestry.

Since 1967, the second wave of immigrants were usually highly educated and resided in urban areas.[9]

In the late 1970s and the 1980s, documents on the Japanese Canadian internment were released, and redress was sought by the National Association of Japanese Canadians, an organization representing Japanese Canadians nationally that was headed by Art Miki from Winnipeg. In 1986, it was shown that Japanese Canadians had lost $443 million during the internment. There were 63% of Canadians who supported redress and 45% who favoured individual compensation. On September 22, 1988, the National Association of Japanese Canadians succeeded in negotiating a redress settlement with the government at the time, under the leadership of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. The settlement included $21,000 for each individual directly affected, which was by 1993 almost 18,000 survivors. The federal government also provided a community endowment fund to assist in rebuilding the community, which is run by the National Association of Japanese Canadians. In addition, to address the more systemic racism that led to the plan and later justifications of the effort to remove "all people of Japanese racial origin" from Canadian territory, the redress settlement included the establishment of the Race Relations Foundation and challenges to the War Measures Act. The Prime Minister also offered a formal apology in the House of Commons and the certificate of acknowledgement of injustices of the past, which was sent to each Japanese Canadian whose rights had been stripped, incarcerated, dispossessed and forcibly displaced.

The younger generation of Japanese-Canadians born in the late 20th century are mostly Yonsei, the fourth generation. Many Yonsei are of mixed racial descent. According to Statistics Canada's 2001 census of population information, Japanese-Canadians were the Canadian visible minority group most likely to have a formal or common-law marriage with a non-Japanese partner. Out of the 25,100 couples in Canada in 2001 that had at least one Japanese person, in only 30% of them were both partners of Japanese descent. As of 2001, 65% of Canada's Japanese population was born in Canada.


Japanese Canadians is located in Canada
Locations of hoshū jugyō kō in Canada

Hoshū jugyō kō (Japanese supplementary schools) for instruction of the Japanese language include those in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Toronto, and Vancouver.[10]

With teachers from Japan:

  • Toronto Japanese School
  • Vancouver Japanese School (バンクーバー補習授業校, Bankūbā Hoshū Jugyō Kō) - Established on April 7, 1973 (Showa Year 48).[11]

Without teachers from Japan:[10]

  • Alberta
    • Calgary Hoshuko Japanese School Association (カルガリー補習授業校 Karugarī Hoshū Jugyō Kō)[12]
    • Metro Edmonton Japanese Community School (MEJCS; エドモントン補習校 Edomonton Hoshūkō)[13]
  • Nova Scotia
    • Japanese School of Halifax (ハリファックス補習授業校 Harifakkusu Hoshū Jugyō Kō)
  • Ontario
    • London (CA) Japanese School (ロンドン(CA)補習授業校 Rondon Hoshū Jugyō Kō)
    • The Ottawa Hoshuko (オタワ補習校 Otawa Hoshūkō)[14]
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
    • Saskatoon Japanese Language School (サスカトーン補習授業校 Sasukatōn Hoshū Jugyō Kō)


Historical population

Japanese Canadians by province or territory

Japanese Canadian population by province and territory in Canada in 2021 according to Statistics Canada:

Province or territory Japanese Canadians Percentage
 Canada 129,425 0.4%
 British Columbia 54,640 1.1%
 Ontario 42,250 0.3%
 Alberta 18,605 0.4%
 Quebec 7,460 0.1%
 Manitoba 2,770 0.2%
 Saskatchewan 1,295 0.1%
 Nova Scotia 1,125 0.1%
 New Brunswick 440 0.1%
 Yukon 275 0.7%
 Prince Edward Island 250 0.2%
 Newfoundland and Labrador 150 0.0%
 Northwest Territories 145 0.4%
 Nunavut 15 0.0%


Notable people





Film and broadcasting


Politicians and government officials

Visual artists

Writers and authors


See also


  1. ^ "The Japanese Community in Canada". Statistics Canada. 2007.
  2. ^ a b Statistics Canada. "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables". Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  3. ^ "The Japanese Community in Canada".
  4. ^ Tanaka, Yusuke (October 23, 2020). "Waves of Pandemics and the Prewar Japanese Canadian Community". Discover Nikkei.
  5. ^ Baker, Rafferty (November 17, 2019), "Riot Walk tour recounts dark moment in Vancouver's history", CBC News
  6. ^ Lee, Erika (2007). "The "Yellow Peril" and Asian Exclusion in the Americas". Pacific Historical Review. 76 (4): 551. doi:10.1525/phr.2007.76.4.537.
  7. ^ Robinson, Greg (2009). A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America. Columbia University Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0231129220.
  8. ^ Ann Gomer Sunahara, The politics of racism: The uprooting of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War (James Lorimer & Co, 1981)
  9. ^ Ken Adachi, The enemy that never was: A history of the Japanese Canadians (McClelland & Stewart, 1976)
  10. ^ a b "北米の補習授業校一覧(平成25年4月15日現在)." () MEXT. Retrieved on May 5, 2014.
  11. ^ Home page. Vancouver Japanese School. Retrieved on April 2, 2015.
  12. ^ "トップページ." Calgary Hoshuko Japanese School Association. Retrieved on February 15, 2015.
  13. ^ "Time/Location." Metro Edmonton Japanese Community School. Retrieved on February 15, 2015.
  14. ^ "Contact." The Ottawa Hoshuko. Retrieved on February 15, 2015. "日本大使館 領事班 オタワ補習校事務局  (住所)255 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, ON"

Further reading

  • Adachi, Ken. The enemy that never was: A history of the Japanese Canadians (McClelland & Stewart, 1976)
  • Sunahara, Ann Gomer. The politics of racism: The uprooting of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War (James Lorimer & Co, 1981)
  • Ward, W. Peter, The Japanese in Canada (Canadian Historical Association Booklets, 1982) online 21pp
  • Multicultural Canada website images in the BC Multicultural Photograph Collection and digitized issues of The New Canadian (Japanese-Canadian newspaper) and Tairiku Jiho (The Continental Times)
  • Japanese Canadians Photograph Collection – A photo album from the UBC Library Digital Collections chronicling the treatment of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia during World War II
  • Tairiku Nippō – Japanese-Canadian newspaper published between 1907 and 1941, and now digitized by the UBC Library Digital Collections
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Japanese Canadians
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