East Asians of Canada - Kinship, Marriage and Family

Chinese. Chinese kinship, marriage, and family in Canada have gone through three distinct stages. From the 1880s to 1947, the Chinese in Canada formed a "bachelor Community" composed almost entirely of unmarried men or men whose wives and families were in China. These men usually lived in collective households called fang-k'ou -in the Chinatowns. A few fang-k'ou-still exist, though they are disappearing as the few remaining old Chinese bachelors die off. They were organized into numerous associations or fictive kin groups with affiliation based on a common place of birth, surname, or dialect. The second stage took place roughly from 1947 to 1967 and involved the arrival of the wives and Children of some of the bachelors and the formation of nuclear families.

The third stage began in 1967 and continues today with nuclear families that are similar in size and composition to Canadian families in general. Perhaps the major differences between the contemporary Chinese-Canadian family and other Canadian families are the extent to which adult Chinese children provide financial support for their parents and the frequency with which grandparents live with their Children and their important contribution to child rearing.

Japanese. Many of the Japanese laborers who came to Canada in the early 1900s were unmarried men. Unable to Return to Japan, they relied upon arranged marriages or on "picture bride" arrangements, a system whereby pictures of the prospective bride and groom were exchanged and the decision to marry made after consultation with relatives and possibly the nakodo, or go-between. As these brides immigrated to Canada, the demographic composition of the Japanese community gradually changed.

Kobayashi has observed that the most significant characteristic of Japanese-Canadian marriages today is that Japanese-Canadians are marrying Canadians of other ethnic backgrounds at a rate that suggests that this is the norm rather than the exception. Her analysis of immigrant Marriages also reveals that immigrants, too, are intermarrying frequently with non-Japanese Canadians. About 42 percent of Japanese women under the age of forty-four are married to non-Japanese men.

In these mixed marriages, however, there are indications that not all aspects of traditional Japanese culture have disappeared. Certain traditional festivals such as hina-matsuri (dolls festival) on May 3, tango-no-sekku (boys festival) on May 5, and keiro-no-hi (a day set aside to respect the aged) are still celebrated. The celebration of these festivals reinforces Japanese family values. For example, the elderly issei and nisei place considerable emphasis on gaman (forebearance) and enryo (modesty). Gaman means the suppression of emotions, the ability to grin and bear all pain, to remain calm and carry out one's task regardless of the circumstances. Enryo means much more than modesty as it encompasses codes of behavior concerning moderation and nonaggression. Self-effacement, self-control, reticence, humility, and denigration of oneself are all included in enryo. With the aging of the issei and nisei, the Japanese-Canadian family is attempting to come to terms with some traditional family values such as oyakoko and kansha. Oyakoko (filial piety) rests on the feeling of kansha (gratitude to one's parents) and children are obliged to fulfill their filial duties to take care of their aging parents. This responsibility often falls on the eldest son or daughter. But in many families, because of the vast geographic distances that often separate the generations in Canada, it can be extremely difficult to fulfill one's filial obligations.

Koreans and Filipinos. Because of their recent arrival, middle-class socioeconomic status, and residential dispersal, Korean and Filipino families are generally similar to the average Canadian family. Many Koreans, however, own small businesses, which are often staffed by family members from three generations, making economic cooperation between extended kin important. And despite economic assimilation, many traditional Korean family values such as the importance of ties to clan members, patriarchal authority, and Respect for the elderly remain important. Filipino families in Canada are often formed through a chain migration, with the first immigrant being a young woman with job skills marketable in Canada. She subsequently arranges for her parents, children, siblings, and other relatives to emigrate.

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