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UBC’s new 1942 Japanese Canadian Students Fund

Let me begin by saying that I have never had the honour of meeting Charles Kadota, 90, who passed away shortly after he received his University of British Columbia degree 70 years after he was expelled from that school because of his Japanese ancestry.

Charles Kadota. He just passed away on Aug. 15, 2012 at age 90. He was past president of the Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association and played a prominent role in the 1988 fight for Redress.

Neither have I met Mary and Tosh Kitagawa who led the remarkable effort to make sure that the legacy of the 76 Nisei who were expelled from UBC in 1942 is not forgotten.

Having come to know these three people reminds me that there are visionaries in our community who deserve our support and that there is a national community out there worth fighting for.

* * * *

Charles Hiroshi Kadota was born May 15, 1922 in Swanson Bay, BC, the fifth child of Kantaro and Shigeno (née Kunita) Kadota.

He attended elementary school in Englewood near Telegraph Cove and Duke of Connaught High School in New Westminster where he was one of the top three students in his class as well as class president and vice-president of the Student Council. He excelled in oratorical contests and debates. After graduating from High School in 1940, he enrolled at the University of British Columbia and moved into residence at the United Church on the corner of Powell Street and Jackson.

At UBC, Charles enjoyed his studies, being part of the Canadian Officers Training Corps and an active social life. His dreams of being the first university graduate in his family ended with the Japanese Canadian internment order. He completed his second year exams in the spring of 1942 before being sent to road camp near Schreiber, Ontario.

After a short period at the camp, Charles, along with his older brother George, were sent to work with their father at a nearby mill. He moved to Toronto in late 1942 and worked in a number of factory jobs until 1946. His girlfriend at UBC, Lillian Shimotakahara, travelled with a friend from Montreal to Toronto after hearing that Charles was living there.

In 1955, at the age of 33, he took night school courses to get his Certified General Accounting certification. He graduated in 1961. He left Modiste and started his own business, Hiro Distributors in 1961. After selling lighters embossed with company logos and other small promotional items, he was hired to get CSA approval for Japanese appliances including the popular Matsushita Rice Cooker. He also landed the contract to supply Canadian Pacific with Noritake dinnerware and these two products were the basis on his success in business.

Charles was very active in the Japanese Canadian community, serving as president of the Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association, as a Vancouver representative on the National Association of Japanese Canadians and as a fundraiser and board member of Tonari Gumi. Among the first members of the Vancouver Redress Committee, he was an outspoken supporter and active participant. He lead successful fundraising campaigns, took part in media interviews, talks and panel discussions in support of Redress and to raise awareness of the injustices of the internment order. He was among the leaders of the Redress March to the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa in April 1988 and celebrated the Redress Settlement reached on September 22, 1988.

“My Christian parents stressed that we should honour where we were born, where we are educated and where we make our livelihood. When I entered UBC in 1940, I discovered I was an Oriental,” he said.

* * * *

At a symposium held on March 21, 2012, UBC’s Dean Gage Averill announced that a new Asian Canadian Studies minor program in the Faculty of Arts would be created and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013. “The objective is to raise $300,000. UBC is targeting $224,000 from the corporate sector and $76,000 from individual donations. The latter amount is symbolic to represent the 76 students who were deprived of their right to continue their education.”

Since Redress, there have been few causes that deserve our community’s support like this one. The gesture of reconciliation that UBC made was a sincere and genuine one. It is important to respond in kind. What better way than through education is there to ensure that the legacy of the UBC Nisei survives in an honourable and meaningful way?

All Canadians deserve the chance to learn about Charles and those remarkable Nisei.

Gifts can be made by mail, online at or by calling 604.827.4111 (toll-free 1.877.717.4483).

More information about the planned Asian Canadian Studies Program can be found by visiting the site.

© 2012 Norm Ibuki

Asian Canadian Studies Canada community Japanese Canadian students ubc World War II