Black and white historic portrait of a man
Tomekichi Homma, c. 1900
© Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre / Accession number: NNM 2013-55-4

Cunningham v. Tomey legal battle was designated a national historic event in 2011.

Historical importance: Provided pre-Charter human rights activists with a compelling illustration of the need for measures that would protect the civil and human rights of individual Canadians.

Commemorative plaque: no plaque installedFootnote 1

Prominent Japanese Canadian Tomekichi “Tomey” Homma fought a landmark legal battle in 1900–1903 against a provision of the British Columbia Provincial Elections Act, which barred Asian Canadians and First Nations from voting. While he won in the lower and superior courts, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England, then Canada’s highest court of appeal, upheld the Act, affirming the power of the provinces to disqualify voters on the basis of “race.” The injustice of this legal precedent inspired generations of activists who fought to secure equal voting rights for all Canadians, which was achieved only in 1960.

The National Program of Historical Commemoration relies on the participation of Canadians in the identification of places, events and persons of national historic significance. Any member of the public can nominate a topic for consideration by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

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