November 30, 1942 – First Kaslo Issue of New Canadian Published

By Lorene Oikawa, Past President NAJC

On November 30, 1942, the first issue of Kaslo edition of The New Canadian newspaper is published. The New Canadian staff was moved to Kaslo in the previous month. The newspaper becomes the primary source of information for the internment/incarceration camps. The government also used the newspaper to disseminate information.

In Ken Adachi’s book, The Enemy That Never Was, Adachi describes the Japanese Canadian community leading up to the formation of The New Canadian newspaper. At the time, Nisei (second generation) Japanese Canadians were protesting against their second-class citizenship. In 1936, they formed the Japanese Canadian Citizens League (JCCL) and their first action was to organize a delegation to travel to Ottawa to appear before the Special Committee on Elections and Franchise Acts in Ottawa to lobby for the right to vote.

BC MPs A.W. Neill and Thomas Reid attacked the credibility of the delegation and scoffed at their well-spoken presentation. The delegation comprised a teacher, Hide Hyodo, an insurance agent, Minoru Kobayashi, a dentist, Edward Banno, and a university lecturer, S.I. Hayakawa.

Hayakawa talked about all the Japanese Canadians who supported the delegation. “We can only point out that like yourselves, we are perhaps a little better endowed with the gift of the gab than those whom we represent, and we are therefore as representative of the Canadian citizens who have sent us, as you are of the less articulate Canadian citizens who have sent you to Ottawa.” Neill, perhaps not wanting to be bested by the articulate Japanese Canadian, said, “…They may represent a few people, but they do not represent the bulk of the people for whom they are seeking votes: They do not represent the condition of Orientals.”

The public did not know much beyond stereotypes and what was published in mainstream publications. Japanese-language newspapers existed, but there wasn’t a medium for Nisei to express their views to the larger public.

The first attempt at an English language newspaper was by Hozumi Yonemura who started The New Age, a six-page monthly, but it only lasted a year. Next was Peter Masuda who edited, The Japanese Canadian which had an even shorter run.

The New Canadian was established in November 1938. The founders included leaders of the drive to organize the Nisei. The Third National Japanese Canadian Citizens League Conference with its keynote theme of the need for Japanese Canadians to move across Canada was reported in its first issue and caught the attention of the mainstream papers in Vancouver and nationally. At first, The New Canadian was only published when funds were available, but soon it would be a weekly.

The first editor was Peter Higashi. Tom Shoyama took over in 1939.

After its forced move to Kaslo, The New Canadian newspaper continued with censorship. Editor Tom Shoyama commented “It is not always possible to present facts, nor can views and opinions be as freely expressed as in pre-war days…” The government resisted some calls to have the newspaper shut down and Tom Shoyama to be incarcerated. It appears the government thought censorship was effective and the newspaper was a valuable resource for getting out announcements.

In order to reach the Japanese-speaking Issei, a Japanese editor Takaichi Umezuki was recruited, and The New Canadian started a Japanese language section. In 1945 the newspaper moved to Winnipeg and then a final move to Toronto took place in 1949. The newspaper shut down in 2001.

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