In April 1942, over 2,000 Japanese Canadians (Nikkei) were removed from Steveston/Richmond as they were deemed to be a threat to national security. Most of these residents left the community from the tram station located at No. 1 Road and Moncton Street. From this station, many went to temporary housing at Hastings Park before being sent to internment camps. Others deciding to stay together moved to self-supporting towns such as East Lillooet or Christina Lake or to Alberta and Manitoba to work in the sugar beet fields.
The Japanese Canadians were not allowed to return to the West Coast until 1949. Upon their return to Steveston, the Nikkei community immediately began to contribute to re-building the community. In 1955, the Nikkei community joined with the Steveston Community Society to help build the first community center. This agreement was entered into provided that one room would be dedicated for judo and the gymnasium be used by the kendo club.
This initial collaboration led to the building of the Steveston Martial Arts Centre in 1972 and at the time was the first purpose built dojo outside of Japan. In 1992 with funding provided by the Japanese Redress Foundation and the Provincial Government, the Steveston Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre was constructed.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary in 2017 of the removal of the Nikkei community and the upcoming 70th anniversary of their return in 2019, the Nikkei Memorial Committee was formed.
This committee was established to construct a fitting memorial that will not only educate others of this devastating period in history but, more importantly, pay tribute to the Nikkei pioneers who suffered racism, intolerance and injustice yet returned to re-build their lives and contribute to the building of our community.
On July 24, 2017 Richmond City Council unanimously approved funding for the completion of this important community project. A community fundraising drive is being initiated with some of the monies to be used for project contingencies as well as towards a Nikkei Memorial Legacy Fund. This Fund will be used to promote educational, cultural and historical programs and activities related to the Nikkei community in Steveston/Richmond.
Soon after City Council’s approval of the project, the Nikkei Memorial Committee worked with City staff to select an appropriate artist/contractor to design and build the memorial. After much deliberation, Joseph Fry and his team at Hapa Collaborative were selected.
Hapa Collaborative have been working on the conceptual design for the past several months and their preliminary design work has been approved. The plan is to have a grand opening of the memorial in mid-June 2019.
On September 22, 2018 the official groundbreaking ceremony was held. The event took place on the future site of the memorial and was attended by Mayor and Council as well as many from the Nikkei organizations in Steveston.
There is a partnership with the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre and donations can be sent to NNM&CC at 6688 Southoaks Crescent, Burnaby, B.C. V5E 4M7. Please make a note that the donation is for the “Steveston Nikkei Memorial project.”
Further information is available by contacting Kelvin Higo, chairman, Steveston Nikkei Memorial Committee or any of our members: Bud Sakamoto, Dan Nomura, Brenda Yttri, Don and Shioko Mukai, Roy and Julie Matsuyama.
This Memorial project is co-sponsored by the Steveston Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Advisory Committee, Steveston Community Society, Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre and the City of Richmond.