NAJC President’s Message – September 2019

by Lorene Oikawa

September always holds strong memories for me including starting a new school year, meeting old and new friends, and new learning. This September we will be making more memories when the NAJC executive, representatives of NAJC member organizations, and members of the Japanese Canadian community will be heading out to San Francisco for COPANI XX, the 20thBiennial Pan American Nikkei Convention. Some will be meeting up with old friends and for most of us, we will be meeting new friends, and discovering the links between those from North and South America with Japanese ancestry. We will be learning about our different cultures, and the work we are all doing, and discover areas for collaboration and support. We will have opportunities to attend sessions and hear from speakers on a range of topics. Since each participant will come back with a unique experience including different connections, learning, and resources, we hope to collect reports so all member organizations will benefit. I will share some impressions in next month’s president’s report and for those who use social media check out the Facebook posts (National Association of Japanese Canadians) and Twitter feed (@najc_ca) September 20-22 when we will share some of the highlights and what we are experiencing at COPANI XX. If you are attending COPANI XX please make sure you register with us so that we know you are attending and how to contact you. When we have more details about the convention agenda and find out about the availability of a venue, we are going to try to organize a gathering for the JC delegation in San Francisco.

NAJC will share our work on BC Redress with COPANI participants. Thanks to the hard work of the BC Redress Committee and the organizational skills of our Executive Director, on August 31st , we completed 19 community consultation sessions and received input from the Japanese Canadian community at in-person meetings, virtual sessions, and through online submissions. A very special thank you to the NAJC member organizations and volunteers for your support and to all of you who contributed your ideas and comments. We stressed from the beginning that it was important to hear from as many voices from the JC community as possible. Through September, the BC Redress Committee is reviewing all the submissions and developing recommendations. The NAJC National Executive Board will be reviewing the report and discussing the recommendations with the membership at a zoom meeting on September 28. An email with the meeting details will be sent out to members. The plan is for the report and recommendations to be presented to the BC government and JC community by October 16, 2019 to be in time for consideration for the next year’s provincial BC budget.

Last month, we held our first virtual AGM. I am pleased to say that the technology worked and supported this online meeting so we were able to conduct our AGM business smoothly and it was cost effective.

We started off the meeting by acknowledging Indigenous territory. The Japanese Canadian community started with long-time settlers like my family who came to Canada in the 1800s and 1906, and we want to recognize First Peoples and the traditional Indigenous territories when we meet.

Part of the business is announcements and we reminded members that we have openings on the Endowment Fund Committee, Human Rights Committee, Audit Committee, and Nominations Committee.

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We also shared some important recognition at this meeting.

NAJC past president David Mitsui was recognized for his hard work and dedication. He has continued to provide guidance and support for a year after he completed his term as president last year. The 2019 AGM is his last meeting as past president. I have appreciated his support when I was his vice president and started the process for BC Redress. We will miss him, but I know he will not be far and look forward to seeing him at the next Remembrance Day ceremonies in Vancouver. He has shared his memory as a five-year-old-boy visiting his grandfather, Sgt Masumi Mitsui, and admiring his grandfather’s WWI medals and then the profound impact on his life when he received the medals after his grandfather’s death. His grandfather’s story is a reminder of the heroic efforts of the Japanese Canadian Issei volunteers in the First World War – their bravery and the 54 who lost their lives and their fight off the battlefield to attain the right to vote, which they finally received in 1931.

Another former NAJC president, Terumi Kuwada, will receive well-deserved recognition at the Islamic Social Services Association Canada’s 20thAnniversary Gala Dinner in Winnipeg on September 19, 2019. Terumi’s efforts to support a just and peaceful society through her work for the Japanese Canadian community and her cross-cultural work with the Muslim community is inspiring. We join in the accolades and thank Terumi for all she has done and continues to do.

We paid tribute to Gordon Kadota, a former NAJC president, who passed away on July 31, 2019. Gordon Kadota will be remembered for his important work on behalf of the Japanese Canadian community and his many accomplishments.

Also in August, I was honoured to attend the premiere performance of Linda Ohama’s new play From the Inland Sea which took place at the former Murakami Boatworks in Steveston BC.It’s a deeply moving story about her grandfather Otokichi Murakami’s dream to be a boatbuilder and his journey from the Seto Naikai Sea (Inland Sea of Japan) to Steveston and to a 1948 hearing before the Bird Commission. Her powerful play connects us with family, their perseverance, and their dreams.
Lots of memories past and present.

Take the time in September to make more wonderful memories with your loved ones.

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