East Asians of Canada - Sociopolitical Organization

Because of their isolation within Canadian society, both the Chinese and Japanese developed distinct ethnic communities with their own social, economic, and religious institutions, which reflected both the values and customs of the homeland and adaptational needs in Canada.

Chinese. The basic social unit in Chinese communities in pre-World War II Canada, the fictive clan (clan association or brotherhood), reflected the reality that 90 percent of the population was male. These associations were formed in Chinese communities on the basis of shared surnames or combinations of names or, less often, common district of origin or dialect. They served a wide range of functions: they helped maintain ties to China and to the men's wives and families there; they provided a forum for the settlement of disputes; they served as centers for organizing festivals; and they offered companionship. The activities of clan associations were supplemented by more formal, broader-based organizations such as the Freemasons, the Chinese Benevolent Association, and the Chinese Nationalist League. With the growth and demographic change in the Chinese community after World War II, the type and number of organizations in Chinese communities have proliferated. Most are now served by many of the following: community associations, political groups, fraternal organizations, clan associations, schools, recreational/athletic clubs, alumni associations, music/dance societies, churches, commercial associations, youth groups, charities, and religious groups. In many cases, membership in these groups is interlocking; thus special interests are served while community cohesion is reinforced. In addition, there are broader groups that draw a more general membership, Including the Chinese Benevolent Association, the Kuomintang, and the Freemasons.

Japanese. Group solidarity within the post-World War II Japanese community was strengthened by their social and physical segregation in their work and residential environments. Within this bounded territorial space, it was not difficult to retain the highly systematized and interdependent Social relations that were based on the principle of social and moral obligations and the traditional practices of mutual assistance such as the oyabun-kobun and sempai-kohai relationships. The oyabun-kobun relationship promoted non-kin social ties on the basis of a wide-ranging set of obligations. The oyabun-kobun relationship is one in which persons unrelated by kin ties enter into an agreement to assume certain obligations. The kobun, or junior person, receives the benefits of the oyabun's wisdom and experience in dealing with day-to-day situations. The kobun, in turn, must be ready to offer his services whenever the oyabun requires them. Similarly, the sempai-kohai relationship is based on a sense of responsibility whereby the sempai, or senior member, assumes responsibility for overseeing the social, economic, and Religious affairs of the kohai, or junior member. Such a system of social relations provided for a cohesive and unified collectivity, which enjoyed a high degree of competitive power in the economic sphere. With the removal of the Japanese during World War II, subsequent relocations, and the arrival of the shin eijusha after World War II, there has been a weakening of these traditional social relations and obligations.

The sizable Japanese population, which shared a Common language, religion, and similar occupations, led to the formation of various social organizations. Friendship groups and prefectural associations numbered about eighty-four in Vancouver in 1934. These organizations provided the cohesive force necessary to maintain the formal and informal Social networks operative in the Japanese community. Prefectural association members were able to secure social and financial assistance, and this resource plus the strong cohesive nature of the Japanese family enabled early immigrants to remain competitive in numerous service-oriented businesses. Japanese-language schools were an important means of Socialization for the nisei, until the schools were closed by the government in 1942. In 1949 the Japanese finally won the right to vote. Today, both the sansei and shin eijusha are active participants in Canadian society, although their involvement in the academic and business sectors is more noticeable than in the political sector. The National Association of Japanese Canadians has played a major role in settling the claims of the Japanese removed during World War II and in representing Japanese-Canadian interests in general.

Koreans and Filipinos. Koreans and Filipinos in Canada have formed a variety of local and regional associations, with the church (United church for Koreans and Roman Catholic church for Filipinos) and affiliated organizations often the most important institution serving the community.

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