This Week in History


Rev. Dr. Kosaburo Shimizu: A Guide to the Japanese Canadian Community

For the week of Monday, May 11, 2015

On May 17, 1942, Reverend Dr. Kosaburo Shimizu and his family were relocated to an internment camp at Kaslo, British Columbia. During the Second World War, more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forcibly removed from their homes in British Columbia, losing their property and possessions. The forced removal and internment of Japanese Canadians was ordered by the Canadian government.

Portrait of Rev. Dr. Shimizu, an influential community leader among Japanese Canadians, date unknown
© The United Church of Canada / BC Conference
Growing up in Japan, Shimizu saw Canada as a place of opportunity. At the age of 14, he came to Canada to work as a houseboy, sending money home for his family. He attended school, learned English, adopted Canadian customs, and joined the Methodist Church (now the United Church). After attending university, Shimizu was appointed pastor of the Vancouver Japanese United Church in 1926. The Reverend committed himself to strengthening the Japanese Canadian community socially and spiritually. He promoted English education, fostered interaction with Euro-Canadians and encouraged members to practice Christian values.

Despite efforts such as Shimizu’s, anti-Japanese sentiments in Canada were on the rise, peaking during the Second World War. Japan was an enemy power in the war, and Japanese Canadians were declared a security threat. Under the Defence of Canada Regulations, their freedom became heavily restricted despite their loyalty to the country.

Interned like so many others at Kaslo, Shimizu continued in his role as a United Church minister and community guide. He fostered positive relations with local officials and arranged the sharing of a church for services and recreational activities. With community members, he helped establish schools and other educational programs. He also held counselling meetings for internees. Despite discouraging circumstances and limited resources, Shimizu rallied the internees to transform the camp into a supportive community.

Photograph of a Japanese Canadian internment camp in British Columbia, 1945
Jack Long / National Film Board of Canada. Still Photography Division / Library and Archives Canada / PA-142853

Shimizu and his family moved to Toronto after the war. Here, just as he had in Kaslo and Vancouver, the Reverend continued to work with the United Church, encouraging Japanese Canadians to build new lives and communities in Eastern Canada.

To remember the forced removal of Japanese Canadians from their homes, Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War is designated a National Historic Event. Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, site of a former internment camp, is also a National Historic Site.

To learn more about Japanese Canadians’ experiences during the Second World War, read The Promise A Time of Tragedy and The Asahi Baseball Team: a Tale of Perseverance in the This Week in History archives.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada. Also visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada's website.

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