Hide Hyodo Shimizu

Hide Shimizu (née Hyodo), CM, educator, activist (born 11 May 1908 in Vancouver, BC; died 22 August 1999 in Nepean, ON). The daughter of Japanese immigrants, Shimizu was instrumental in organizing education for interned Japanese Canadian children in British Columbia during the Second World War. For this, she was awarded the Order of Canada in 1982. She was also an activist, lobbying the Canadian government for the enfranchisement of Japanese Canadians in the 1930s and, in the 1980s, for redress for the suffering and loss of interned Japanese Canadians.

Hide Hyodo Shimizu
Hide Hyodo teaching children detained at Hastings Park, Vancouver, in 1942. With her are Midori Jane, age 6, and Naomi, age 10.

Early Life and Education

Hide Hyodo was born on 11 May 1908 in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was the first of eight children born to Hideichi and Toshi Hyodo. Her parents had immigrated to Canada from Uwajima, Japan, making Hide a nisei (a child of Japanese-born immigrants). The Hyodo family had arrived in Vancouver while en route to the United States, where they had planned to settle in Boston. They instead decided to stay and settle in Vancouver, where they would remain until they were expelled from the Pacific coast during the Second World War.

Shimizu attended Laura Secord Elementary School and then continued her studies at John Oliver High School. Her family lived in a working-class neighbourhood, where few students continued to high school. After graduating, Hide attended the University of British Columbia for one year. She transferred to Vancouver Normal School in 1925, and received a teacher’s certificate in 1926 (see Normal Schools). At this time, she was one of the first nisei to receive a teacher’s certificate (see Teaching Profession).

Pre-war Career

After completing her teacher’s training, Shimizu became the first nisei to teach in the British Columbia school system. Other nisei who had graduated from Vancouver Normal school became teachers, but not in British Columbia, where anti-Asian sentiments were more prevalent. She began teaching grade 1 at Lord Byng Elementary School in Steveston (now a part of Richmond), in October 1926. Originally, another teacher had been hired to teach the class, but because Steveston had a large Japanese immigrant community and the students spoke mostly Japanese, the teacher had resigned after two weeks due to communication issues.

Shimizu applied for the opening in the fall and received the appointment because the school board had assumed that she could speak Japanese. Although Shimizu had heard her parents speaking Japanese while growing up, their neighbourhood in south Vancouver had few Japanese Canadians and no Japanese-language school, so she only knew a little of the language. Regardless, she persevered and would teach at Lord Byng for 16 years until being expelled to an interment camp in 1942.

At a time when only 5 per cent of Vancouver Normal School graduates received appointments and anti-Japanese sentiments made getting any job difficult, Shimizu’s career in education was unprecedented.

Activism: The Japanese-Canadian Right to Vote

While teaching at Lord Byng, Shimizu became involved in the community. She worked with the Powell Street United Church in Vancouver and the Japanese Canadian Citizens League (JCCL). The JCCL was the first major organization of nisei, comprised of university-educated Japanese Canadians who campaigned for full citizenship, particularly the right to vote.

After the 1920 Dominion Elections Act was passed, Japanese Canadians lost the federal right to vote because British Columbia already excluded Japanese residents (along with Chinese and South Asian residents) from voting.

Because of her involvement in the community, Shimizu was invited by the JCCL to join a four-person delegation to Ottawa in 1936 to lobby for the right to vote. The delegation appeared before the Elections and Franchise Acts Committee in the House of Commons on 22 May. Shimizu was the first of the group to present. According to the Canadian Press, committee members were surprised by how well the delegates spoke English.

The delegation was ultimately unsuccessful. The following year the committee allowed British Columbia’s exclusion of Asian voters to continue. (Japanese Canadians would not receive the right to vote federally until 1948 and in British Columbia in 1949.) Although unsuccessful, Shimizu and the delegation helped pave the way for other non-White communities to fight for the right to vote. Shimizu’s participation in this delegation enhanced her standing in the community, which would later help her receive the position of supervisor of education for the internment camps.

Education of Interned Japanese Canadians

While the Second World War had heightened tensions against Japanese Canadians, in British Columbia there had been a long history of discrimination.

In 1941, Shimizu, like all Japanese Canadians over the age of 16, was forced to register with the RCMP. Her family’s land and belongings were confiscated. After an order from Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King expelled Japanese Canadians from coastal British Columbia, Japanese Canadians were brought to Hastings Park, which acted as a clearing house in Vancouver (see Internment of Japanese Canadians).At this time, Shimizu was still teaching at Lord Byng school.

As the only Japanese Canadian with experience in the British Columbia school system, Shimizu became involved in the education of children held in Hastings Park. After finishing the school day in Steveston, she commuted to Vancouver every other day to supervise education in Hastings Park, and returned home by the 9 p.m. curfew Japanese Canadians were forced to observe. By about May 1942, Shimizu had left her job at Lord Byng to work full time at Hastings Park, where she believed her help was needed more.

Japanese Canadians being relocated in British Columbia, 1942.

In October 1942, Shimizu was part of one of the last trainloads of Japanese Canadians expelled from Vancouver. She first stopped at the Tashme internment camp, located near Hope, British Columbia, to help organize a school before leaving for New Denver, located farther in the province’s interior. Shimizu would stay and work at the New Denver camp for three years, living in a house with two other nisei women. Although located in New Denver, each month Hide would travel to other internment camps to oversee the education system.

Japanese Canadian Internment Camp
Community kitchen at a Japanese Canadian internment camp in Greenwood BC, 1943.

Working with the JCCL, Shimizu began to develop a school system for the detained children, working under the strict supervision of the British Columbia Securities Commission. Along with Terry Hidaka, another nisei who held a teacher’s certification but did not have experience in the school system, Shimizu organized for high-school educated nisei in the camps to be trained as teachers. In total, between 120 and 140 nisei were initially trained as teachers in the internment camps — as many as 198 people taught over the course of internment.

As supervisor of education, Shimizu coordinated for supplies and equipment for classrooms since the British Columbia Department of Education had refused to provide textbooks for the detainees. She advocated for better classroom conditions, teacher training and wages. Testimonies from former teachers in the camps revealed that Shimizu was seen as a great help to the school system and the nisei teachers.

Canadian-trained teachers staff the internment camp school at Slocan City, BC, ca. 1943.

Later Life and Activism

In the summer of 1945, Shimizu’s tenure as supervisor of education for British Columbia internment camps ended. She left New Denver to join her family in Ontario and moved to Toronto. During the expulsion of Japanese Canadians, members of her family had dispersed to various parts of Canada, and many eventually settled in Hamilton, Ontario.

In 1948, she married Reverend Kosaburo Shimizu, who himself had been evacuated to an internment camp in Kaslo, British Columbia. Her husband had been widowed, and Shimizu became stepmother to his four children. In Toronto, she once again become active in her community. She was involved with a variety of organizations, including the Nisei Church, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and the Momiji Health Care Society.

Shimizu was involved in the 1980s redress movement, which sought compensation from the Canadian government for the property seizure and forced migration of Japanese Canadians during the war. In 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney issued an apology, and ordered a redress payment of $21,000 to each survivor, the establishment of a $12-million community fund, and funding for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

Legacy

In 1990, Shimizu became the first president of the newly formed Ghost Town Teachers Historical Society, which documented the work and experience of teachers in the Japanese internment camps. The society got its name from the (abandoned) ghost towns in which internment camps were set up in British Columbia’s interior. She had been inspired to tell the teachers’ stories after visits to the Public Archives in Ottawa in the 1980s, where she discovered that the majority of documents related to internment camp education were official papers, which did not tell the personal stories of this experience.

In June 1982, Shimizu was made a Member of the Order of Canada by the Governor General, in recognition for her work to ensure Japanese Canadian children received an education while interned during the Second World War. In 1993, Hide was one of 32 women honoured by Status of Women Canada for her role in shaping Canada’s history. In 1997, Lord Byng Elementary School, where she taught for 16 years, dedicated a Japanese rock garden in her honour.Shimizu died on 22 August 1999 at the age of 91 in Nepean, Ontario.


Further Reading

  • Ann Gomer Sunahara, The Politics of Racism: The Uprooting of Japanese Canadians During the Second World War (1981).

  • Pamela Hickman and Masako Fukawa, Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War (2011).

  • Frank Moritsugu, Teaching in Canadian Exile: A History of the Schools for Japanese-Canadian Children in British Columbia Detention Camps during the Second World War (2001).

External Links