NAJC President’s Message – May 2020

by Lorene Oikawa

Our current mantra in British Columbia is, “Be kind, be calm, be safe.” These are the words of the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. The top health officers across Canada have become familiar to us with their reassuring voices and efforts to provide up-to-date factual information and battling false information and rumours. Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam is also familiar to us through tv and the internet, and is responsible for not only advising the federal minister of health, but also coordinating the public health agencies across Canada. She has had an international role advising the World Health Organization on infectious diseases like Ebola. Her background includes a pediatric residence at the University of Alberta and a fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia. 

I feel compelled to mention Dr. Tam’s work for Canada, because of the disgusting remarks made by a Canadian Member of Parliament and leadership candidate questioning her loyalty to Canada and accusing her of working for China. Our recent statement calls out for government leadership to take a stand against racism: read here. There is no place for racist hateful comments and bad behaviour. We need to be working together now, more than ever, in our fight against COVID-19.  

The NAJC is concerned about anti-Asian hate related to COVID-19. We are hearing stories about verbal and physical assaults against not only Chinese Canadians, but also Japanese Canadians and anyone who appears to be Asian. We have released a statement which you can read HERE and we are collecting reports of racist incidents related to COVID-19. We encourage you to fill out our online form. We are actively working with concerned citizens and other community groups of Asian descent. We will be reporting on our involvement with a new national network, ACT2endracism, to combat racism and hate crime.

We have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely with the Edmonton Japanese Community Association with whom we were planning the 2020 NAJC AGM and Conference in October. The EJCA has been working with community partners to set up the venue, speakers, and activities. Safety is paramount for the planning committee and the NAJC will be providing an update shortly.

Also, watch your inboxes for the NAJC announcement about plans for this year’s NAJC election and call for nominations which will be coming out in May. 

All of us have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether this has been from a health, economic or social perspective.  Many of us have turned to the on-line community to find strength and support. In response, the NAJC organized an online session for our community to come together. Based on the feedback from the initial session, we have organized some additional, on-line sessions for our community.

The next Japanese Canadian COVID-19 Round Table in English will be on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 5:30 PM PDT (Vancouver time), 6:30 PM MDT, 7:30 PM CDT, 8:30 PM EDT. You will need to register in advance for this meeting which you can do at this link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Many events have been cancelled or postponed. In May, events for Asian Heritage Month in Vancouver have moved to online.  NAJC’s event will be an online forum at 7 PM PDT (Vancouver time) on Monday, May 11. Join the Conversation with NAJC (National Association with Japanese Canadians), JACL (Japanese American Citizens League), and COPANI (Biennial Pan American Nikkei Convention). We’ll be talking about heritage, culture, arts, politics, diversity, anti-Asian racism around COVID-19, and the action for justice on both sides of the border. Register in advance.

NAJC is also incorporating new online programming and setting up chat sessions with some of our community members. We’ve had some great chats in April with a great wrap up conversation about rice cookers. NAJC Chats will continue in May including a talk with Michael Abe, Project Manager for the Landscapes of Injustice, and John Endo Greenaway, Editor of The Bulletin magazine. Sign up for NAJC e-news to get updates on our programming and also check for updates at our website

In the US, Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimages to prison camps that held Japanese Americans during the Second World War have been postponed or cancelled and they are currently organizing virtual pilgrimage programming that will run from June to August. They are interested in sharing the stories of Japanese Canadians including immigration and settlement, and internment. They are in the planning stages right now, and we will share updates as they become available. 

As we enjoy the last of the Sakura, take the time to enjoy the blossoms. If we focus too much on our worries, we miss so many precious moments. Stay safe and be at home whenever possible, maintain social/physical distancing when you are out, and continue to wash your hands and don’t touch your face. Be kind. We are in this all together.   

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