It is with great pleasure that I announce the 2015 Japanese Canadian Young Leaders Conference (JCYLC), running August 7 to 9 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This annual conference has been a major forum for the younger generation of the Japanese Canadian community to meet and help focus our energy and action in helping invigorate the community. Thanks in large part to the vision, dedication and energy of outstanding young Japanese Canadian leaders such as Lisa Schoenhofer, young leaders from a wide range of backgrounds, ages and experiences have had the invaluable opportunity to convene at JCYLCs since 2013.
These national-level conferences have helped build momentum behind the effort among young leaders from across Canada to discuss a wide range of issues, voice our opinions, and most importantly, feel empowered and invigorated to take action in our respective local communities. Previous JCYLCs have included discussion and activities focused on a rich medley of topics ranging from arts, sports and culture to JC history, from business and entrepreneurship, to advocacy, education and activism.
This year’s JCYLC in Winnipeg will focus primarily on advocacy and activism, where participants will discuss issues regarding human rights activism, learn more about our community’s experience with the Redress movement, and explore advocacy opportunities with other communities. Our prospective meeting agenda is indeed timely, given the recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on the First Nations community’s experience with residential schools, and many potential areas of work that will arise from the recommendations outlined in the report.
However, thinking back to what it means to be a part of the Japanese Canadian community – let alone a ‘young leader’ in our community – has prompted some soul-searching, particularly looking to the future of our community. If one can argue that the vigor of a community is predicated on a wide variety of factors – ranging from the strength of cultural institutions, self-identify, and economic and social sustainability – securing the future prospects of a community requires additional investments, particularly in the next generation.
It is in this regard that I feel particularly fortunate that the Japanese Canadian community has recognized the recent upwelling of youth involvement. At its 2014 Annual General Meeting, the NAJC decided to provide financial support for this upsurge of youth engagement by approving a dedicated budget line for the National Young Leaders Council (NYLC). This much-needed and much-appreciated financial support will help enhance and sustain initiatives such as the JCYLC, where youth are being given the opportunity to empower other youth in the JC community.
But why is a physical conference necessary? Though the digital age has made communication across the globe a relatively painless endeavor with family, friends and colleagues we already know, a major difficulty remains over how to build new connections in a meaningful way. This stands as a particular problem for our community, due not only to the vast expanses of Canada, but also given the diversity and geographic diffusion that characterizes our history and present situation. The old-fashioned method of physically meeting face-to-face remains an invaluable means of helping build new connections, deepen existing ones, and create a stronger sense of community.
The timing of this year’s JCYLC in Winnipeg couldn’t be better for building stronger bonds and invigorating our community. Not only will we be able to access the recently opened Canadian Museum of Human Rights to learn more about some of the injustices our community has faced in our past, we will also be treated to the Folklorama Festival, one of the world’s largest and oldest multicultural festivals. We’ll get to experience the delicious tastes and dazzling cultural displays that Canada’s diverse communities have to offer! What better way to see where we fit in Canada’s multicultural mosaic?! This venue will provide an outstanding backdrop to meet new friends and colleagues, and help further strengthen our network of young leaders that spans across Canada.
In closing, I am both thrilled and humbled to say that I’m a part of this evolving process, of youth empowering youth. I send all my very best to the Winnipeg-based JCYLC organizing committee, led by the steadfastly inspiring Mackenzie Sato, and look forward with excitement to the upcoming conference where we will continue to promote the rising energy and action amongst young Japanese Canadians that want to make a difference in their community.
Bryan Tsuyuki Tomlinson is a Vancouver-born yonsei who has been active in the Japanese-Canadian community in both Vancouver and Ottawa. Currently sitting on the NAJC’s National Young Leaders Council (NYLC), Bryan has previously worked on a number of issues, including the BC-Japan Earthquake Relief Fund and seeking recognition for the injustices faced by UBC’s wartime JC students. Bryan holds a Dual Degree (BSc/BA) from UBC and an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He is currently working with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.