REPORT ON THE APOLOGY ISSUED BY THE DISTRICT OF TOFINO
Report submitted by Keiko Miki, NAJC Vice President and Chair of NAJC Human Rights Committee
On May 28, 2019 Mayor Josie Osborne of the District of Tofino gave a public apology to the people impacted by the 1947 “Resolution Regarding Orientals”. It was rescinded in 1997 at the request of Mr. Sada Sato, but was not widely communicated at the time.
The NAJC received a message from the Mayor, forwarded by Michael Abe on March 29th, asking for thoughts on how to widely communicate that the motion had been rescinded, possibly during the Pacific Rim Arts Society’s Cultural Heritage Festival in the spring. We wondered what impact the discriminatory resolution had on Japanese Canadians. Researchers, Japanese Canadian organizations on Vancouver Island, and families who may have been affected were contacted. I found articles, books and interviews relating the hardships of the fishermen who lived on the Island before and after the war.
Ellen Crowe-Swords (Kimoto) as a small child lived in Tofino with her fishermen parents. She was interviewed for Landscapes of Injustice project in 2017 and worked for two years with the Mayor for an apology. Marlene Mortensen’s father, John Yoshio Madokoro’s experiences best illustrate the impact that the exclusionary resolution had on Japanese Canadians. The NAJC sent a letter to the Mayor expressing full support for an apology and provided a statement for the Mayor to read with the official apology.
The day of the apology, a reception was held at the Tofino Council Chambers where I met Mayor Osborne, the Councillors, families and friends. On behalf of the NAJC, I presented the Mayor with a copy of “Justice in our Time” book and commended them for having the courage to do the right thing. We walked to the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum two blocks away to visit the display about the early settlers. In 1941 about 100 people of Japanese descent lived in Tofino, over one third of the population.
We returned to the Chamber to witness the official acknowledgement and apology. The audience of over 50 people gave a standing ovation. 97 year old Mary Kimoto simply said she cried. It was emotional for the family members and they were happy with the way the apology was conducted. Frances Kuni Nakagawa, 96, came from Surrey, others from Port Alberni, Ucluelet, and Victoria. A celebration dinner was held after the apology.