During the last week of April, I attended the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Award of Excellence Symposium, held in Calgary. “What is Canadian Racism?” was the main theme, which engaged in a critical analysis of a distinct manifestation of racism, through diverse workshops focusing on policy, education, and training, toward better understanding of racism in the Canadian context.
As its pamphlet will tell us, the purpose of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (an arm’s length government agency) is, briefly, “to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society…”
The 2008 Award of Excellence went to two finalists (out of seven): Chinese Canadian National Council which led the campaign for an apology and redress of the Chinese Head Tax (joined by such groups as the BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants; the Ontario Coalition of Head Tax Payers, and various individuals from across Canada), and an excellent program by Le Carrefour BLE, Agrippez-vous!, which assists foreign-trained graduates to integrate into the agricultural food industry in Quebec.
Listening to speeches which inevitably included acknowledgement regarding the origin of CRRF, one cannot but feel pride in the many who fought to accomplish a just and honourable settlement for Japanese Canadians from the Government of Canada, who had the foresight to include the establishment of this Foundation as a part of the 1988 Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement (under the terms of which $25 Million was allocated toward establishing the Foundation.)
In attending this event, what struck me as most hopeful and exciting was not only in learning about the outstanding work being performed nationally by individuals and groups to eliminate racism, encouraged by this Foundation, but also the relatively young ages of the leaders and the participants.
The `spirit of redress’ that moved our community toward resolution must not be forgotten. The Settlement was an unprecedented event, the first in Canadian history. I am therefore very pleased to find in the National Redress Anniversary Celebration programming youth taking the initiative of planning an educational workshop with seniors and sansei who worked with nisei parents to lead the Redress movement. A second workshop invites mentors to share stories of identity issues, and experiences in entrepreneurial, academic, artistic, and political activities.
The Opening Plenary on the morning of September 19th, is sponsored by CRRF, and moderated by Arthur K. Miki who had in 1988, as President of National Association of Japanese Canadians, signed the Redress Acknowledgement Agreement with Prime Minister Mulroney. Distinguished speakers include members of communities which have achieved formal redress settlements, and respondents who will address the terms of agreement as well as issues that remain outstanding. This plenary is expected to be both lively and informative.
Please visit our website or www.redressanniversary.najc.ca/redress for details. Regional organizations are encouraged to share information about their celebration activities. Please send to (firstname.lastname@example.org) for insertion in the website.