Materializing Multiculturalism

Learning About Diversity at a Young Age

The Japanese Canadians, and associated Teacher’s Resource Book. Both texts belong to the OISE Multicultural Canada Series.

The Japanese Canadians and the associated Teacher’s Resource Book, are a pair of educational materials used to educate elementary students about Japanese Canadians. They were written by Roy Ito, who was a teacher for 25 years.[1]  The books were published in 1978, and were used to enlighten children on multiculturalism across Canada. They include engaging activities, such as: learning hiragana, a written form of Japanese, and photographs depicting the daily lives of Japanese migrants settled in Canada.[2] These features help shed some light on just a few Japanese cultural elements, such as: religious beliefs, traditional cuisine, arts, and language. The textbook also explores the narratives of several Japanese Canadian generations, paying homage to the history of Japanese immigrants throughout Canada’s diverse migratory history. The materials give us a glimpse into the way Japanese Canadians (and their culture) were represented in elementary school curricula at the time, and how the history of Japanese migrants was embodied at the time of publication.

A side-by-side comparison of the first chapters of the texts. Both texts belong to the OISE Multicultural Canada Series.

Migrants and Our Multicultural Surroundings

As someone who experienced the Canadian grade school system – albeit years ago – I can see how The Japanese Canadians fits into curricula, past and present, supporting the notion of schools as a “formal means by which a society transmits its knowledge, skills, languages, and culture from one generation to the next.[3]  It is important to instill positive perspectives for youth to apply to their own views. Similarly, as a child of immigrants, I have come to embrace the history of migration, and its vital role in crafting the diverse mosaic of our country. I believe it is our responsibility, as descendants, neighbours, and friends of these countless multicultural groups, to remind others of the need to embrace and engage with the diverse society we live in. This is exactly why I think programs like SEDAI: The Japanese Legacy Project are so important. The organisation is devoted to sharing “the unique history and experiences of Canadians of Japanese ancestry using oral histories, text, archival photographs and related material” with current and future generations of Canadians.[4]  SEDAI  goes above and beyond to preserve Japanese-Canadian voices, working to keep their histories alive.

Educational materials like The Japanese Canadians, and their modern counterparts, are important as reflections of Japanese migration history, and in turn, Canadian history, because both are so intertwined. Canadian history is filled with the stories of millions of migrants, who make up the country’s vast multicultural landscape we see in our daily lives as Torontonians. Books such as The Japanese Canadians, have always been – and always will be –  necessary to remind younger generations – or anyone for that matter – that we live in a diverse nation. Above all, as Canadians, we must remember that Canada would not be the country it is today without our multicultural heritages that make up the beautifully eclectic mosaic we see all around us. What better way to remember this by, than to start multicultural education at a young age?


Anna Maria Kawecka is a CRO student at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information, studying both Museum Studies and Archives and Records Management. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, amateur photography, and board games. She is currently working on a project to document, digitize, and archive her family tree and Polish ancestry. Armed with her trusty portable scanner, she has compiled over 1,250 photographs and documents on her last trip to Poland this summer.

“Canadian history is filled with the stories of millions of migrants, who make up the country’s vast multicultural landscape we see in our daily lives as Torontonians.”