OMNES : The Journal of multicultural society

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OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 9 , No. 1

[ Article ]
OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.1-29
ISSN: 2093-5498 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Jul 2018
Received 30 Nov 2017 Revised 21 May 2018 Accepted 15 Jun 2018

The Ambivalent Model Minority: Japanese-Canadians and Canadian Multiculturalism
Lyle De Souza
Kyoto University, Japan

Funding Information ▼


This paper synthesizes the development of Canadian multiculturalism and its effect on Japanese-Canadians. It argues that although Japanese-Canadians are showcased as a model minority in modern multicultural Canada, their key representative voices exhibit an ambivalent attitude towards multiculturalism. Since the 1960s, Japanese-Canadians have been featured as a model minority due to their high levels of education, professional success, integration, and English language proficiency. However, using the documentary film One big hapa family and an interview with its director Jeff Chiba Stearns, along with other works by Japanese-Canadian cultural producers, we can see that they exhibit a vacillating attitude towards multiculturalism. Applying discourse analysis through a postcolonial theory lens combined with Will Kymlicka’s “The Three Lives of Multiculturalism,” I demonstrate how historical trauma distorts the effect of multiculturalism on Japanese-Canadians. Although they may now be viewed by the white majority as a model minority, their history of suffering racism in Canada and previous labelling as yellow peril causes a caution towards representations of them by government, media, and society. The study shows the importance when administering Canadian multiculturalism of considering immigrant identity and voice, political and social conditions in the past, and political economy in the present.

Keywords: Canada, multiculturalism, Japanese-Canadian, identity, minority


This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 16F16751.

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Biographical Note

Lyle De Souza is a 2016-2019 JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University (host: Professor Yasuko Takezawa). His research fields span sociology, cultural anthropology, Japanese Studies, English literature, and cultural studies. His research topic is Nikkei diaspora literature. His current research project is titled “The Literature of the Japanese Diaspora: Identity Beyond Japan.” It examines cultural identity in literature written by people of Japanese descent. E-mail: (