Canada 150: Interned during war, Masajiro Miyazaki later became first Japanese-Canadian politician

March 3, 2017

By Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun |

To mark Canada’s 150th birthday, we are counting down to Canada Day with profiles of 150 noteworthy British Columbians.

At an historic moment when stereotypes about foreigners and strangers are resurgent, here’s the story of an immigrant who overcame racism and prejudice, unselfishly served his community, and ultimately became one of its most beloved members.

Miyazaki was born in Hikone in central Japan on Nov. 24, 1899. His father emigrated to British Columbia. His mother remained in Japan. In 1913, she put him aboard the Empress of India and the 14-year-old sailed for Vancouver. He was met by his father who paid his room and board in advance for six months. He worked to support himself as a gardener and dishwasher.

He learned English, enrolled at Lord Strathcona Elementary and topped his class, then went to Duke of Connaught High School. During the First World War, Japan was an ally — a Japanese battleship had been stationed at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to deter German raiders and Japanese men with Canadian citizenship were serving in the army in France — so he was welcome.

Miyazaki enrolled at the University of B.C., graduated and applied to medical school. Canadian universities refused him entry. He enrolled in the United States, supporting himself as a waiter at a fraternity house. He earned his degree, was licensed in B.C., and in 1930 began practicing in Vancouver. He was active with the Canadian Japanese Association, UBC’s Japanese Alumni Association, and even founded a Japanese newspaper.

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