by Lorene Oikawa
Summer is here and our thoughts turn to festivals. 2020 is looking very different because of COVID-19. Festivals have been postponed, transformed into virtual online events and even a “reverse parade” where people stay in their car and drive through fair grounds to see entertainment at various stations. The NAJC encourages everyone to support the efforts of our member organizations and community organizations who rely on the proceeds from their events. Also, please consider supporting the non-profit organizations providing elder care for Japanese Canadians such as Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing, and Momiji Health Care, and publications like Nikkei Voice and The Bulletin which provide an important connection for our community.
The COVID-19 pandemic also slowed down processes for the National Association of Japanese Canadians. The NAJC has used the time to do a considerable amount of work including a deeper dive on the NAJC report, Recommendations for Redressing Historical Wrongs Against Japanese Canadians in BC, which was presented to the BC Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, on November 14, 2019. We conducted provincial stakeholder engagement to further develop and clarify our recommendations. We received a response to our report from the provincial government and incorporated their feedback. Specific asks will include a number of initiatives in health and mental wellness; culture and community building; education; heritage; acknowledgement; and combating racism. These specific asks will be presented to the BC government at upcoming meetings.
Your positive response to our online sessions is appreciated and we are continuing our online programming. It’s been a great way to connect during this pandemic. It’s also been a wonderful opportunity to bring people together from across the country to have important discussions such as our NAJC Human Rights Committee’s discussion about racism today and actions we can take. The NAJC Arts, Culture & Education Committee is organizing sessions so we can meet members of our community who are doing great work in the arts and culture fields, and also participate in some fun activities. In the most recent session we learned how to make three types of face masks which will help protect us.
We will also continue to have “chats” with some of our partner organizations such as Landscapes of Injustice and learn about the accessible data base which will help Japanese Canadians access documents about their families’ uprooting and dispossession. We have a webpage listing our online programming and a placeholder for resource information from past sessions. In addition to the NAJC online programming we will also post our member organizations’ programming and speaker events involving the NAJC. Check it out at najc.ca/online-programs. Also, sign up for NAJC e-news at najc.ca/subscribe/ to get updates on our programming and also check for news at najc.ca
One of the commemorative days we will be acknowledging this summer is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9. There are about 370 million Indigenous Peoples living in about 90 countries. They represent less than five percent of the world population, but about 15 percent are represented in poverty statistics. In Canada, we also see the disproportionate representation in poverty numbers and in the numbers of those who are incarcerated in our prison system. Also, a 2019 report by Statistics Canada found a substantial and consistent gap in life expectancy for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations compared with Non-Indigenous populations across time periods. Although there is diversity in Indigenous populations, they share disadvantages including the effects of colonization and the trauma and intergenerational trauma of past and present racism, and many social determinants of health leading to poorer health outcomes.
We are also calling out for an end to systemic racism and the violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. We issued a statement about Black Lives Matter which is posted on the NAJC website: najc.ca/najc-statement-on-black-lives-matter. We stand with the Black community in their time of need and this does not diminish the importance of any other group of people.
Our work on anti-Asian racism continues. The NAJC Human Rights Committee has organized one online session recently and is continuing to collect data on racist verbal and physical attacks against Asian Canadians. The survey is on the NAJC website:
Volunteers are our strength and help us do all the important work needed by our community. We still need volunteers for our committees. Learn how you can make a difference. Information is on the NAJC website: najc.ca/get-involved-with-your-najc.
Deadlines are coming up for the Young Leaders Fund on July 19, 2020 and the Community Development Fund on July 31, 2020. The Endowment Fund is closed for this year. Next year’s deadline will be March 31, 2021. More info at najc.ca.
The National Association of Japanese Canadians Annual General Meeting will take place on October 3, 2020 and will be a virtual event. The conference has been cancelled because of safety concerns.
As provinces start re-opening, we urge everyone to continue to take precautions. Keep social/physical distancing, wash your hands and avoid touching your face, stay home when sick, and avoid large gatherings. We must do all we can to prevent a catastrophic second wave.
The NAJC National Executive Board wishes you and your loved ones a wonderful, safe summer.