SEDAI: The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project

Sharing the unique history and experiences of Canadians of Japanese ancestry

Pre-World War II Communities

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Japanese in Canada were concentrated in British Columbia. Before World War II, 95% were living in this province. Japanese labourers often moved throughout BC as they found jobs in fishing, farming, mining, and lumbering industries.

Fishing boats along the Fraser River

Fishing boats along the Fraser River at Steveston, BC. (British Columbia Archives, JCCC Archives)

Small communities were formed throughout the province, including fishing villages such as Steveston, BC, sawmill towns on the Pacific coast and on Vancouver Island, as well as farming communities in the Fraser and Okanagan valleys. Yet a third of the population resided within 60 km (40 miles) of central Vancouver and a self-contained enclave developed along Powell Street in downtown Vancouver, adjacent to Vancouver’s Chinatown. This locale became a central hub for many Japanese immigrants and it provided housing and services for the Japanese population in Canada.