Sid Ikeda: A tireless advocate for the common good and interfaith co-operation

Sid Ikeda: A tireless advocate for the common good and interfaith co-operation

Sid Kiyoshi Ikeda, age 88, passed away peacefully during the early morning of Saturday, July 8, 2023, at Providence Healthcare after a rapid decline stemming from a long battle with cancer.

An engineer by trade and training, Sid worked for the T. Eaton Co. and retired in 1996 ending his 40 year career there as the National Environment and Energy Manager. He is most known however for his acts of volunteerism which could be described as legendary and are too numerous to list here on one page.

He was most closely associated with the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre where he served nine terms as president of the board. In 1977 he oversaw the Centennial year celebration of immigration from Japan to Canada. He also led the JCCC during the planning and eventual move from Wynford Dr. to Garamond Ct. in 1995. Always having an eye on succession, Sid retired from the presidency in 1998 and served as Special Ambassador and later as an Adviser up to his passing.

Sid always believed in working together for the common good. He founded several organizations such as the Network, with organizations and groups in the Japanese Canadian community in the GTA where representatives would meet quarterly to inform and help each other in their progress and growth. He also extended this idea to the East Asian and some South Asian communities by helping to found CMC Asians in Ontario. The latter includes Chinese, Taiwanese and Tibetan Canadian communities as well Tamil, Lao and Burmese among many. Sid even spoke and played his harmonica last month at the CMC Gala honoring Asian Canadian heroes. Indeed he seemed to play his harmonica at most events, parties and even funerals.

This spirit of cooperation also extended to his spiritual life. He referred to himself proudly as a Buddhist Christian and also practiced Moon Meditation again focusing on the common good of all faiths. He helped form the Toronto Interfaith Council and was very happy to serve on the steering committee for the Parliament for World Religion, a large week-long international event held in Toronto in 2018.

Among his many awards and honors are the Rotary Paul Harris Award, Order of the Rising Sun Gold and Silver Rays, the Canadian Ethnic Media Association award and was the World Interfaith Harmony Week Champion. He was particularly proud of the JCCC’s Sid and Marie Ikeda Tower which greets you as you enter the building.

The accomplishments are surprising given his humble origin and upbringing. He was the third child born to Masao and Tamae (né Nishijima). He is actually both nisei and sansei. His Nishijima grandparents met on their boat to Canada in 1895 and married. His mother was born in 1907 in New Westminster, B.C., the fourth of eight children. Sid’s father came to Canada from Kumamoto, Japan, following his brother to seek his fortune. Young Masao married Tamae and had seven children together. Sid, born Kiyoshi, was the third son, born on October 11, 1934.

Like most Japanese Canadians of this era the Ikeda family is defined most by World War II and the internment and diaspora following its end. In 1942, the family home and the Nishijima businesses in Vancouver were confiscated. The family was allowed one suitcase and were first moved to Hastings Park while Masao was sent to work in the interior. The family was later reunited in Tashme, a makeshift camp in the interior of B.C. The reunion was unfortunately short-lived. Masao passed away suddenly on November 15, 1943 leaving Tamae who was pregnant with her seventh child in the camp, and the eldest son Arthur, aged around 12, now heading the household.

At the end of the war Japanese Canadians were given the “opportunity” to go to Japan and renounce their Canadian citizenship. Uncle Tosh (Nishijima) urged the young Ikeda family not to sign anything and come out east to Toronto; an astute move since many who changed their minds about leaving were nonetheless forced to repatriate to Japan. So the family first moved to Slocan, then New Denver, B.C. and then to Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighborhood in 1947; the two room house still stands today on St. Paul’s St. None of the family and even extended family ever moved back again to B.C. when allowed to legally travel freely and also vote in elections in 1949. Sid and brother Edgar sold newspapers on street corners and washed dishes after school to help support the family. According to Sid, every cent he earned went to his mother.

The family, which is still to this day incredibly close and supportive of each other, earned enough to buy a house in 1952. Sid earned his Engineering certificate while working. He met Marie, who he called the “Love of my Life” and married her in 1960. They had three children, David, Laurie, and Carole, who sadly passed away suddenly of a heart infection at age 11 in January 1982. Sid and Marie bought a house in Don Mills and after 62 years moved in 2022 to the Momiji Senior Centre.

He lived a long and rich life. May his spirit of seeing the good side of people and working together to create good things live on. As Sid closed each and every email, “With love, respect and appreciation.”

[Source: Obituary - Arbor Memorial]