In Their Words : The Story of BC Packers
Japanese quarters at Imperial Plant
Japanese quarters at Imperial plant.
British Columbia Archives, E-05069.
Japanese quarters at Imperial Plant Japanese boys filling cas at Imperial plant Japanese women filling cans with babies on their backs Japanese cannery workers on the canning line Japanese cannery worker canning salmon, showing two other men watching procedure Japanese students shown on the steps of the Steveston School

The canneries actively recruited Japanese fishermen. They built large bunkhouses so the men could live at the cannery during the fishing season. The majority of these single young men lived in Vancouver in winter. Japanese bosses would recruit them into cannery gangs. The bosses negotiated the fishing contracts with the canneries and looked after the gangs during the fishing season. For a percentage of the men's earnings, the bosses would provide food, clothing if necessary, and serve as the contact person with the employers. It took as many as sixty fishing boats to keep just one Steveston cannery supplied with salmon for the season.

Japanese fishermen faced anti-Asian sentiment in British Columbia, as the European population feared that Japanese and other Asian immigrant groups would take away their jobs. Japanese immigration was soon limited. By 1908, only 400 Japanese men were allowed to immigrate each year. There were no restrictions on women and children. Married men soon sent for their families back in Japan. Many single Japanese men soon began seeking so-called 'picture brides' through arranged marriages.

As Japanese women and children arrived in B.C., Steveston's canneries began building family houses for their Japanese fishermen. They offered affordable housing in exchange for the fishermen's loyalty and the labour of their wives in the canneries. Japanese women worked washing fish and filling cans with salmon. Their children could attend the Japanese school and if anyone was sick or injured they could go to the Japanese hospital. Steveston was becoming a small, stable community of Japanese fishing families.


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