Thomas Shoyama

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Thomas Shoyama
Born 1915
Kamloops, BC
Died December 2006
Victoria, British Columbia
Nationality Canadian
Occupation Public Servant

Thomas (Tommy) Shoyama (1915-2006) was a prominent Canadian public servant who was instrumental in designing social services in Canada, especially Medicare.

Early life[edit]

Shoyama was born in Kamloops, British Columbia, the son of a shop owner. He graduated from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1939 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Rejected for training as a chartered accountant, Shoyama went to work as a reporter for the Vancouver-based Japanese-Canadian newspaper The New Canadian, taking over as editor in 1940.

The New Canadian[edit]

The New Canadian was the sole Japanese-Canadian newspaper to be allowed to continue publishing after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1942, Shoyama was forced to move the offices of the 8-page weekly to Kaslo in the Slocan Valley. Shoyama continued to edit the newspaper until the spring of 1945, when he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Canadian Army's intelligence corps.

Public service[edit]

Shoyama left the military in 1946, taking a job in the Saskatchewan public service, where he was one of the architects of the provincial medicare system. Shoyama moved to Ottawa with Tommy Douglas when the latter won the leadership of the New Democratic Party, but was enticed into the federal public service by Pierre Trudeau. When Shoyama moved to Ottawa with Tommy Douglas, there was a saying that he was part of the "Saskatchewan mafia". There were 3 Tommy's with that move - Tommy Douglas, Tommy Shoyama and Tommy McLeod. They all gained significant positions within the workings of the Federal Government of the time. Shoyama held several senior positions, eventually becoming deputy minister of finance. He headed Atomic Energy of Canada and worked on the federal Canada Health Act and its provisions for Medicare. There were other boards and commissions which benefitted from Shoyama's presence. Another was Petro-Canada, which was a Crown corporation of the Federal government. <2>


Upon his retirement, Shoyama returned to British Columbia and taught as a professor emeritus first at the University of Victoria[1] He died in Victoria in December 2006.[2]

See also[edit]