NAJC President’s Message – April 2020

By Lorene Oikawa

It’s only been a month since my last message, but it feels longer with the constant changes and news about the COVID-19 (Corona) pandemic. The NAJC National Executive Board (NEB) is urging everyone to follow the direction of our national and local public health authorities. More info at We can save lives. Stop gatherings. Follow social distancing, cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or the inside of our arms, wash our hands, and follow self-isolating.

What we do not only protects us and our families, but also workers who are providing essential services. We have a personal interest because there are some of us on the NEB who are on the front lines. The NEB offers gratitude for health care workers, first responders, and other front-line workers including those at grocery stores, drug stores, food services, gas stations, government workers providing health services, social services and child protection, and public transit. Other essential services workers are working for our safety and others are producing and transporting needed supplies such as food and safety equipment.

We understand the impact on our communities. We know many are without work, worried about loved ones, and many organizations including our member organizations have closed their operations and postponed events. With that in mind, we have changed the due dates for the applications for the Endowment Fund (Sports, Education, Arts Development (SEAD) and Cultural Development (CD)) to June 30, 2020, and the Community Development Fund (CDF) to July 31, 2020. Also, we have increased the amount of the Community Development Fund to $30,000 to support our members with their rescheduled events and initiatives, and re-building capacity. You can find more information on our website at

Our national office in Winnipeg is closed for now and our National Administrator, Karina Uehara, and Executive Director, Kevin Okabe are working remotely. Please use email for messages and to send applications and documents to us, and make payments using etransfer. No one is at the office to accept mail.

By the time you read this, we will have already held a zoom meeting on April 1st – a community/membership round table discussion about the impacts of COVID-19. We want to provide an opportunity to share ideas, concerns, and support each other. The physical separation because of social distancing and geographic location doesn’t stop us from connecting. NAJC has previously held regular online meetings and forums and we will look at more ways to use technology to support our members and our communities.

On May 11, 2020, the NAJC is hosting an online Asian Heritage Month event. 7 p.m. Pacific time A Conversation with Japanese Americans. Heritage. Culture. Arts. Politics. Diversity. Inclusion. Haruka Roudebush – Japanese American Citizens League, Roji Oyama – COPANI XX, and Lorene Oikawa – National Association of Japanese Canadians.

We will also be having some online conversations with a couple of Japanese Canadian authors who have new books out. John Ota just launched The Kitchen which offers an inside look at great historic kitchens in Canada and the US. John’s book hits all my interests, food, design, and history, I am looking forward to talking to John about his journey. Jeff Chiba Stearns wrote and illustrated his new book, Nori and His Delicious Dreams. It’s a delicious dive into food culture in this story about a little boy who dreams about sleeping on food. Full disclosure: I participated in the crowd funding to get my personalized copy of the book. When the dates and times are confirmed, we’ll send the zoom links to you.

We are working on a number of other events. Planning is happening for a virtual event in place of the Tsuru for Solidarity June 5-6 march and rally in Washington DC which has been postponed. Also the annual pilgrimages at the Japanese American camps have been cancelled and postponed. I’ve talked to one of the leaders and they are proposing online activities, primarily pre-recorded content being made available from June through August. The content would be similar to the pilgrimage activities such as walking tours of the site, educational sessions, intergenerational talks, and performances by musicians. They are also interested in Japanese Canadian stories. We will keep you posted as we receive information and confirm events.

Members will have already received a message from the BC Redress Team which is posted on the NAJC website. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we are suspending the delivery of the BC Redress proposal. We will complete the “asks” proposal piece and re-evaluate next steps.

In times of crisis, we must not let fear take us to a hateful place of discrimination and racism. It is concerning to hear about racist comments related to COVID-19 directed at Asian Canadians. Don’t make assumptions about people. Let’s stop the use of stereotypes. Let’s share more examples of kindness. We can survive this if we work together. Keep 2 metres (6 feet) away, wash your hands for 20 seconds, cough/sneeze into the inside of your arm, and self-isolate for 2 weeks (14 days) if you’ve travelled or show symptoms.

Keep safe and stay well.

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