Dr. Henry Sugiyama was turned down by the University of British Columbia 69 years ago, and now at 87 he’s finally getting the chance to be a student there.
Sugiyama is the first student accepted into one of the school’s newest programs, which “aims to tell the oft-neglected stories of Asian Canadians,” according to UBC.
The program is a new minor in Asian Canadian and Asian Migrations Studies and made its debut this fall. “The program was created as part of a tribute to Japanese Canadians who were forced to leave the West Coast during the Second World War, including UBC students who were unable to complete their studies,” says UBC.
In 1945, the Canadian-born Sugiyama was a Kamloops high school student when he applied to UBC, and was sad that he was not accepted, despite his excellent academic record. At that time, Canada’s “War Measures Act still forbid Canadians of Japanese ancestry like [Sugiyama] from living on Canada’s West Coast.”
Sugiyama says his family was uprooted from Vancouver in 1942 and sent to B.C.’s interior.
Ultimately, Sugiyama went to the University of Manitoba, became a doctor, and moved to Toronto.
Even 69 years late, Sugiyama sees being accepted to UBC as a great honour.
This is just one of many steps UBC has taken to make right the wrongs of the past when it comes to Asian Canadians and World War II-era politics.
“We’ve come a long way from being a university that stood by while its own students were forcibly removed from their homes, to establishing a program that focuses on the crucial role of Asian migrants in the formation of our province and nation,” says Prof. Chris Lee, director of the new program.