NAJC President’s Message – April 2022

By Lorene Oikawa

April showers are here, but on the west coast we are also deluged by blossoms. Don’t hate us. It is also aggravating allergies. Cherry blossoms remind us to take in the beauty before it is gone. Enjoy nature wherever you are.

The National Association of Japanese Canadians is preparing for a busy spring. We finished a wonderful online session with Kelvin Higo who shared the history of Steveston and the work behind the scenes gathering stories and recipes for the Steveston cookbook, From the Sea and Shore. Participants also shared some of their stories. There were a lot of great memories and similarities with family experiences and inspiration for the next food or recipes we want to try. If you missed the session you can watch the recording on the NAJC website, najc.ca .

We also celebrated the stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey an added feature for which we helped to gather stories and is on display at the Museum of Surrey with the main exhibit, Broken Promises. Broken Promises follows seven Japanese Canadians when their families were uprooted and dispossessed in 1942. The exhibit is co-created by the Nikkei National Museum with the Royal BC Museum and the Landscapes of Injustice with whom we partnered in the multi-year project. I was pleased to speak at the in-person event on March 31 to emphasize the importance of Japanese Canadian stories, especially as a Yonsei (4th generation JC) and lifelong Surrey resident, and to meet up with some of the Japanese Canadian community who attended. It’s been so long since we’ve had in-person events.

Speaking of Japanese Canadian stories please check out the NAJC website for a special webpage where we are posting the family stories we receive. Connie Kadota’s family story is the first to be posted. One of our past NAJC presidents Terumi Kuwada had the opportunity to visit the Broken Promises exhibit and we have a video taped comment from her about the two anniversaries we are commemorating this year, the 80th anniversary of the start of the forced uprooting, incarceration, dispossession, and exile and the 75th anniversary of the founding of the NAJC. Share some thoughts about your family in 1942 and/or your family’s involvement in some of the NAJC activities and events since 1947. Email your ideas, family stories and photos to national@najc.ca

On April 26, 2022 we will be thinking about the first arrivals in Greenwood. Greenwood was the first internment camp in the ghost towns in the interior of British Columbia. Ken Adachi in his book, The Enemy That Never Was, describes how an advance party of Nisei and Issei men were sent to repair some of the vacant homes and buildings on April 21. Chuck Tasaka who has written two books and articles about Greenwood confirms that the first trainload of internees, mostly women and children and some elderly men, arrived on April 26. About 1,200 Japanese Canadians would end up in Greenwood, reviving the population and economic conditions of a town that had dropped from 3,000 to under 200 people in 1918.

One of my favourite events when I was president of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association was Keirokai, the annual luncheon to celebrate our Japanese Canadian seniors. The tradition was on hold because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and I am pleased it is back on. It is also my first invitation for a JC event in April. I will post a few photos on the NAJC social media.

We will be again taking part in the annual National Canadian Film Day on April 20 starting at 5:30 pm Pacific. We are happy to highlight Indigenous voices and we will have a double-bill featuring the amazing Tantoo Cardinal in Falls Around Her and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers in a dystopian thriller, Night Raiders. We will post information about how to obtain your free tickets on the NAJC website.

World Health Day is on April 7. This year’s theme is Our Planet, Our Health, and it’s a reminder that we must take action to keep both humans and the planet healthy for our survival.

April 28 is the annual Day of Mourning. We remember and honour those who have died or have been injured on the job. We re-commit to making all workplaces healthy and safe. No one should lose their life or be injured because of something that could have been prevented. If you are unable to attend a local event, please take a moment in silent reflection at 11 a.m. or the time designated in your province or territory.

During our online session with Kelvin Higo, he mentioned that the Day of Mourning takes place in Steveston with a long history of fishing and a focus on the Japanese Canadian fishers we have lost. We could look at other job sectors and we would also find Japanese Canadians. Japanese Canadians started arriving in Canada in the 1800s and often took jobs for which they were paid less because of their ethnicity and given the most dangerous jobs. It’s another reason why we must tell our stories, Japanese Canadian history is Canadian history. We must ensure our history is known and not forgotten.

May is Asian Heritage Month. Another opportunity to share our stories. On May 27, we will host Masako Fukawa an educator and writer and the director of British Columbia: An Untold History, Kevin Eastwood for a screening of the episode Migration + Resilience which highlights some Japanese Canadian history including stories from Masako and me. We will have a question and answer after the screening. We will be posting more details about this event on our website. Mark your calendars for 6 pm Pacific on May 27.

Keep up to date on NAJC news & events by signing up to the NAJC e-news at http://najc.ca/subscribe/

The National Executive Board thanks former Board Director Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi for her work as VP & Chair of the Human Rights Committee. Lynn submitted her resignation last month. We wish her well.

Take care everyone and enjoy the start of Spring!

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