Search for "Black Canadians"

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Interview

Interned in Canada: an Interview with Pat Adachi

Pat Adachi was born and raised in Vancouver, the daughter of Japanese immigrants. She grew up in the heart of the city’s Little Tokyo neighbourhood, within walking distance of the local grounds where her father would take her on Sundays to watch her favourite baseball team, the Vancouver Asahi. Adachi and her family lived normal lives, until she and her community were uprooted in 1942, when the federal government ordered Japanese Canadians to internment camps in rural British Columbia (see Internment of Japanese Canadians).

In this interview, Adachi shares her story and relates the experiences of the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were interned in Canada during the Second World War.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Article

Leo Kolber

Ernest Leo Kolber, OC, businessman, philanthropist, senator (born 18 January 1929 in Montreal, QC; died 9 January 2020 in Montreal). Leo Kolber was a pillar of Canada’s business, political and philanthropic communities for more than 50 years. He was perhaps best known as a long-time advisor to the Bronfman family. Kolber also ran the successful real estate firm Cadillac Fairview Corporation, as well as holding companies that administered the Bronfman family trust. He served in the Senate of Canada from 1983 to 2004, most notably as chairman of the Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. He was also the Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser for many years and chair of the Advisory Council on National Security from 2005 to 2007. An Officer of the Order of Canada, he was recognized for his many charitable and philanthropic contributions.

Article

Chinese Immigration Act

The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, known also as the Chinese Exclusion Act, banned the entry of virtually all Chinese immigrants for 24 years. Although migration into Canada from most countries was controlled or restricted in some way, only Chinese people were singled out completely from entering on the basis of race. The four exceptions to the exclusion were students, merchants (excluding laundry, restaurant and retail operators), diplomats and Canadian-born Chinese returning from education in China. The limit on absence from Canada was two years, and the consequence for not returning on time was being barred re-entry. Additionally, every person of Chinese descent, whether Canadian-born or naturalized, was required to register for an identity card within 12 months. The penalty for noncompliance was imprisonment or a fine of up to $500. Though the Act was repealed in 1947, immigration restrictions on the basis of race and national origin were not fully scrubbed until 1967.

Article

Alessia Cara

Alessia Caracciolo, singer, songwriter (born 11 July 1996 in Brampton, Ontario). Alessia Cara is a pop music singer-songwriter. She has sold more than 11 million records in the United States and more than 285,000 in Canada since debuting in 2015. She is perhaps best known for her songs “Here” and “Scars to Your Beautiful.” She was named the Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2016 Juno Awards and the Best New Artist at the 2018 Grammy Awards. Her debut album Know-It-All (2015) won the 2017 Juno Award for Pop Album of the Year. Her album The Pains of Growing (2018) earned her 2020 Juno Awards for Album of the Year, Pop Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. Cara has also won a SOCAN Award, two MTV Video Music Awards and three Canadian Radio Music Awards.

Article

Lui Passaglia

Lui Passaglia, football player (born 7 June 1954 in Vancouver, BC). Lui Passaglia is regarded as one of the best kickers in Canadian Football League (CFL) history. He played 25 straight seasons with the BC Lions (1976–2000) and won three Grey Cups (1985, 1994, 2000). He holds both the CFL and professional football record for most points scored (3,991). He is also the CFL’s all-time leader in seasons, games played (408), field goals made (875) and converts made (1,045). He has been inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum, the BC Football Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. His No. 5 has been retired by the Lions, with whom he works as a community relations ambassador.

Article

Douglas Jung

Douglas Jung, CM, OBC, politician, lawyer, soldier (born 25 February 1924 in Victoria, BC; died 4 January 2002 in Vancouver, BC). Douglas Jung was a member of Force 136, a group of Chinese Canadian soldiers who fought behind enemy lines in the Pacific theatre during the Second World War. After the war, Jung became a lawyer in British Columbia and was the first Chinese Canadian lawyer to appear before the BC Court of Appeal in 1955. On 10 June 1957, Douglas Jung was elected as the first Chinese Canadian member of Parliament.

Article

David Suzuki

David Takayoshi Suzuki, CC, OBC, geneticist, broadcaster, environmental activist (born 24 March 1936 in Vancouver, BC). A Canadian of Japanese parentage, Suzuki was interned with his family during the Second World War and later became one of Canada’s most popular scientists and media personalities. He is known for his career as a broadcaster (including the CBC TV series The Nature of Things) as well as his work as an environmental activist.

Article

Frank Bing Wong (Primary Source)

Frank Bing Wong was a Chinese Canadian corporal in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. From 1942 to 1946, Wong served in the North West Europe campaign. Learn all about Wong’s experiences as he recalls the sights of battle and the impact that the Liberation of the Netherlands had on the Canadian war effort.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Article

Rose Johnstone

Rose Mamelak Johnstone, FRSC, biochemist (born 14 May 1928 in Lodz, Poland; died 3 July 2009 in Montreal, QC). Rose Johnstone is best known for her discovery of exosomes, a key development in the field of cell biology. These tiniest of structures originating in all cells of the human body are vehicles that transport proteins, lipids and RNA from one cell to another. A pioneer of women in science, Johnstone was the first woman to hold the Gilman Cheney Chair in Biochemistry and the first and only woman chair of the Department of Biochemistry in McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine.

Article

Marshall Chow (Primary Source)

Marshall Chow served as a wireless operator during the Second World War. Initially refused entry into the Air Force because he was Chinese Canadian, Chow was later stationed overseas with the Canadian Army from 1941 to 1945. Read and listen to Chow describe his battles against prejudice and the horrors on the frontlines.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Article

Bessie Starkman

Besha (Bessie) Starkman (Perri), organized crime boss (born 14 April 1889 or 21 June 1890 in Poland; died 13 August 1930 in Hamilton, ON). During the Prohibition era she became known as Canada’s first high-profile female crime boss. With her common-law spouse, mobster Rocco Perri, she ran a bootlegging and drug-smuggling enterprise. Starkman was gunned down in the garage of her home and her murderers were never caught. Her funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Hamilton.

Article

Alfonso Gagliano

Alfonso Gagliano, politician (born 1942 in Italy; died 12 December 2020). Alfonso Gagliano was the Member of Parliament for the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Leonard from 1984 until 2002. Following the 1997 election, he served as Minister of Public Works and Government Services in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He was also chair of the electoral commission of the Liberal Party in Quebec. Gagliano resigned from cabinet and the House of Commons to accept a position as ambassador to Denmark. He was fired by Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2004 for his role in the sponsorship scandal.

Article

Sleeping Car Porters in Canada

Sleeping car porters were railway employees who attended to passengers aboard sleeping cars. Porters were responsible for passengers’ needs throughout a train trip, including carrying luggage, setting up beds, pressing clothes and shining shoes, and serving food and beverages, among other services. The vast majority of sleeping car porters were Black men and the position was one of only a few job opportunities available to Black men in Canada. While the position carried respect and prestige for Black men in their communities, the work demanded long hours for little pay. Porters could be fired suddenly and were often subjected to racist treatment. Black Canadian porters formed the first Black railway union in North America (1917) and became members of the larger Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1939. Both unions combatted racism and the many challenges that porters experienced on the job.

Article

Edward Fey "Ed" Lee (Primary Source)

Edward Fey "Ed" Lee joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a volunteer for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) overseas program. He served from 1944 to 1946. Being a Canadian of Chinese origin, Lee was called to duty as a secret agent in Asia under the command of the British Army. Listen to his tales of guerrilla warfare deep in Japanese-occupied territory.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Article

Heather Reisman

Heather Maxine Reisman, OC, entrepreneur, business executive (born 28 August 1948 in Montreal, QC). Reisman is best known as the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Indigo Books & Music, Canada’s largest book and specialty toy retailer, and the co-founder of Kobo, a top global e-reader maker. She holds honorary doctorates from several universities and a bachelor’s degree in social work from McGill University.

Article

Eleanor Coerr

Eleanor Coerr, journalist, children’s author (born 29 May 1922 in Kamsack, SK; died 22 November 2010 in Princeton, New Jersey). An award-winning writer of children’s books, Eleanor Coerr is best known for Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (1977), the result of a childhood fascination with Japan and a reporting trip there in 1949. As the wife of a diplomat, Coerr spent many years abroad. Her travels inspired her writing, much of which focuses on historical figures and subjects from far-flung locales.

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Lillian Freiman

Lillian Freiman (née Bilsky), OBE, benefactor, community activist, organizer, civic leader and Zionist (born 6 June 1885 in Mattawa, ON; died 2 November 1940 in Montreal, QC). Lillian Freiman used her high social status and wealth to help those less fortunate, both within and beyond the Jewish community. For her work assisting First World War soldiers and leading the Poppy Campaign, the Canadian Legion made her an honorary life member in 1933. Freiman was the first woman to receive this honour.

Article

Deepa Mehta

Deepa Mehta, OCOOnt, director, producer, screenwriter (born 1 January 1950 in Amritsar, India). Deepa Mehta has received international acclaim for her moving and provocative films, which often explore issues of human rights and social injustice. She is perhaps best known for her epic “Elements trilogy” — Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005). The latter was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Mehta has received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Order of Ontario and Queen’s Jubilee Medal. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for “challenging cultural traditions and bringing stories of oppression, injustice and violence to the fore.”

Article

Masumi Mitsui

Masumi Mitsui, MM, farmer, soldier, Canadian Legion official (born 7 October 1887 in Tokyo, Japan; died 22 April 1987 in Hamilton, ON). Masumi Mitsui immigrated to Canada in 1908 and served with distinction in the First World War. In 1931, he and his comrades persuaded the BC government to grant Japanese Canadian veterans the right to vote, a breakthrough for Japanese and other disenfranchised Canadians. Nevertheless, Matsui and more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were displaced, detained and dispossessed by the federal government during the Second World War (see Internment of Japanese Canadians).