Public servant remembered for intelligence, high principles

Behind every flower there is a gardener.
Pierre Trudeau’s famous roses, pinned to the former prime minister’s lapel, were no exception: they were reportedly grown by a Kamloops man.
Thomas Shoyama, who died in Victoria on Dec. 22 at the age of 90, was a hobby gardener and a career bureaucrat, working as a public servant under such Canadian icons as Trudeau and Saskatchewan’s Tommy Douglas.
Shoyama’s roots, however, are in Kamloops, where he was born in 1916 and where, until a few years ago, his brother ran a bakery.
After graduating from Kam High in 1933, Shoyama moved to Vancouver to study economics at the University of B.C.
For the next seven years, he was hamstrung by his Japanese heritage: it prevented him from finding a job and later landed him in an internment camp, where, together with other Canadians of Japanese origins, he was forced to wait out the Second World War.
Decades later, the same country that had interned him would honour his long and distinguished career with the civil service by awarding Shoyama the Order of Canada.
Former Kamloops MP Len Marchand knows Shoyama from the years both men spend in Trudeau’s Ottawa.
That was after Shoyama had left Regina, where he had worked as an economic advisor to Douglas, Saskatchewan’s premier and architect of Canada’s health-care system.
Marchand, responsible for various portfolios in the 1970s, remembers Shoyama as “highly principled, highly intelligent and just one of those wonderful civil servants.
“We have very good civil servants, but he was one of the best,” Marchand said.
The two, although both from Kamloops, only knew each other officially, Marchand said.
In the late 1970s, Marchand recalls, they worked together on the Small Business Loans Act: Marchand as minister of state for small business and Shoyama as deputy minister of finance.
After retiring from the public service, Shoyama moved back to his native B.C. to teach at the University of Victoria until 1992.
Marchand recalls seeing Shoyama one last time several years ago, when he returned to Kamloops for his brother’s funeral.