I was, to say the least, shocked to open the newspaper recently to find that Val Ross, journalist and author, had passed away. I had spoken with her at least a couple of times last year when she was good enough to contact me regarding our concerns about the Canadian War Museum’s exhibition panel relating to the experience of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. I regret that I had delayed letting her know the Museum had informed us recently that changes were now underway. I believe her reporting on this matter in The Globe and Mail was instrumental.
The importance of media support should be held with respect. I am aware that it played a large role in moving forward the redress movement. Ms. Ross had also expressed her interest in the 20th anniversary celebration plans. We have lost a good friend.
Some of you have asked me about plans for the redress anniversary celebration. I was able to respond that the work is progressing with the help of local community members and organizations, who are contacting national members, toward producing subjects for discussions and workshops as well as events to gather people socially. Any assistance you can give would be appreciated. I understand celebratory plans are underway at the regional levels also.
In the last twenty years since the Redress Settlement, our communities have flourished as with `justice realized’ most were able to move to healing and reconciliation. In The Japanese Canadian Redress Legacy. A Community Revitalized, (2003), Arthur K. Miki, the author, lists highlights of accomplishments, both individual and community. In all aspects—professional, academic, business, artistic, sports—though demographically small in number and dispersed across this wide country, Japanese Canadians have become major contributors to Canadian society.
It is to be remembered that the years following internment and dispersal were spent in re-establishing homes and jobs, in survival mode, as parents and grandparents worked hard to give the third generation education they believed was the key to successful entry into the larger Canadian society which, previous to 1949, without the franchise, was largely impossible to achieve.
As we contemplate the next twenty years I find, as president of the National Executive Board of the NAJC, that there are many questions which I would like to share with you in this and the next articles. The redress movement by a small group of Canadian citizens was unprecedented. It sought a just and honourable settlement from the Government of Canada. The Redress Agreement acknowledged that the treatment of Japanese Canadians during and after World War II was unjust and violated principles of human rights. Yet, today, many of our younger generations, I find, have little or no knowledge or interest about this history and about the struggles of the pioneers. We have in our effort to move into the larger society economically and socially, to a large degree, failed to educate our children in these aspects, and I believe it is important that our plans for the celebration of the 20th anniversary include special focus on history to begin to rectify this situation.