After a year of preparation, the national celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement is now behind us. While I have not yet had time to digest what all happened, from accounts received so far, I think we can safely say it was a memorable event, and undoubtedly credit goes largely to the volunteers who worked, with commitment, to this project’s success.
For me, there were positive vibes in the air from the moment the door opened on the first day at the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Gloria Wilson, Squamish National Elder, gave us her welcoming blessing. The Dinner Program on Saturday was especially charged with magical excitement (I don’t think I was the only one who felt this). Opening in the lobby with the Nishihara Kage Duo performance, and with few drinks at the bar, and moving to the dining hall, we were welcomed by Mayor Derek R. Corrigan of the City of Burnaby. A special message was offered to us by His Excellency, Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida, a rare occasion for us in the West Coast. It seems in retrospect that everyone came prepared to celebrate, as the atmosphere continued to warm with goodwill and anticipation.
The Takeo Yamashiro/Teresa Kobayashi Tabo Duo on shakuhachi and koto respectively during a dinner of Japanese food (Fujiya) was absolutely stunning, and the toast in recognition of the redress committee members given by Dr. Mona Oikawa (York University), followed by Dr. Roy Miki’s delivery of his remembrances of the Redress Movement electrified the room. If that were not enough, Chief Robert Joseph’s keynote address, containing a plea to JCs to participate in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, received a standing ovation. The evening closed with a spirited, soul-awakening beat of Katari Taiko, moving us from our present into the future
I thank the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens Association, and its President, Ron Nishimura for co-hosting this event. I acknowledge Cindy Mochizuki, the NAJC Event Coordinator, who did an incredible job particularly in pulling young people to this Event. I thank the national member organization delegates and guests for their attendance, and give special thanks to Calgary Japanese Community Association’s President Kevin Okabe for arranging the bus transportation for Calgary Kotobuki Society members to join with us.
I thank the Canadian Race Relations Foundation for their support, and also collaboration in the opening plenary, Redress: Never Too Late, bringing together communities which recently achieved formal redress settlements, and inviting discussion on outstanding issues as we move into the future.
Each session was filled to capacity, totaling close to a thousand for the weekend, with a large participation from youths and students. Of great import are the messages underlying and spoken by various participants, in particular the Aboriginal speakers. Youth and ijusha groups expressed their need for more of such discussions.
Performances and video screenings were highlighted, and I wish to give special acknowledgement to two: One, compiled and narrated by Dr. Norihiko Kuwayama, (Yamagata Prefecture), titled Chi Kyuu no Stage/Frontline for Peace; the other, Ghosts, by Jay Hirabayashi and Kokoro Dance, a special dance produced to commemorate this event, performed on the rooftop of Sunrise Market, adjacent to the site where Japanese Canadians registered prior to their internment in 1942.
In the next issue I expect to enumerate in more detail for acknowledgement all donors and sponsors while I attempt to send personal letters of thanks. In the meantime, THANK YOU ALL.
Note: A reminder of the NAJC Annual General Meeting to be held in Winnipeg this year on the weekend of October 25th. Hope to see some of you there!