Wartime opportunities at the shipyards attracted men and woman of many races and nationalities. As a result, North Vancouver’s population reflected these changes in cultural diversity. Yet, as early as the 1880s, men from Japan were hired to log the North Shore. By the early 1900s, Japanese families are known to have established homes and businesses in North Vancouver.
In 1912, the Yada family opened a grocery store at 4th & Queensbury (later moved to 701 Keith Rd.). Sutejiro Yada came from Japan in 1899 at the age of 15. He started work as a houseboy while attending night school, and later worked on a Seattle-based tugboat and at a Marpole sawmill before settling in North Vancouver. The grocery was co-owned by Sutejiro and his brothers. The Yada Bros. Grocery catered to the wider community with attractive deals and frequent delivery services.
Throughout the early years and into the 1930s, the Japanese endured racist Canadian policies that restricted immigration, employment and work opportunities. The most difficult challenge came after Japan’s military bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Canadian government designated all Canadian citizens and residents of Japanese descent (approximately 22,000) as “enemy aliens” and orchestrated their removal from a 100-mile defense zone, which included North Vancouver. Neither the Department of National Defense nor the RCMP regarded the Japanese Canadians as a security risk; however the government invoked the War Measures Act and forcibly removed them from this area.
After nearly 30 years of service to the community, Sutejiro Yada, his wife Tama and their children had to leave North Vancouver and move to a self-supporting internment camp in Lillooet, BC. Like all Japanese Canadians at the time, the Yadas had to cover the cost of their internment by using money from bank accounts and proceeds from the sale of their confiscated homes, businesses and belongings.
Archival documents from the Nikkei National Museum reveal a list of properties offered for sale to the public without consent of the owners, who were interned. The list includes the Yada’s home on 4th St. and their grocery store on Queensbury Ave.