Letter to UBC

September 1, 2011
Dr. Stephen Toope, President
Office of the President
The University of British Columbia
6328 Memorial Road
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2

Dear Dr. Toope,

Re: Honorary degrees to former Japanese Canadian students from 1941-42

It was with great interest that we recently read the Vancouver Sun article of August 27, 2011, “UBC ponders how to mark 1942 Exodus”.

The National Association of Japanese Canadians is the organization that successfully achieved the Redress settlement and the apology from the Canadian government when Japanese Canadians suffered injustices and were dispossessed, forcibly relocated and interned during and after World War II.

Dr. Sally Thorne, chair of the UBC Senate Tributes Committee is quoted as saying UBC is currently considering ways in which “to honour all the ethnic Japanese who were forced out of their homes and jobs, not just the students.” We believe that this is an important move and certainly a permanent historical display or a special library collection would be welcomed and would serve as a reminder and lesson for future generations of students and faculty. But, more importantly, we believe that UBC needs to recognize the history of how 76 Japanese Canadian students, enrolled at UBC in 1941-42, were unable to complete their studies.

Six of those Japanese Canadian students were expelled from the Canadian Officer Training Corp and 43 from the Basic group as a result of a decision of a Military Education Committee, made up of the Chancellor, UBC president and other officials connected with the program. They bowed to the hostile and racist attitudes and hysteria of the community.

Only one UBC faculty member spoke up to defend the students. Japanese Canadian students were unable to complete their studies due to restrictions on their movements, expulsion from the B.C. coast to work camps and internment camps in the Interior or to Alberta, Manitoba and other parts of Canada. The Universities of California, Oregon, Washington and Oregon State University have all granted honorary degrees to former Japanese American students in 2008. These universities recognized that students’ lives were disrupted as a result of violations of their civil rights, and they suffered great losses both emotionally and financially.

We urge UBC to show ethical leadership and grant honorary degrees to former Japanese Canadian students who were enrolled there in 1941-42. As President Stephen Sundborg of the University of Seattle stated at the 2008 ceremony, “Let us remember what the Japanese American of the 1940’s went through, the cost of ignorance and prejudice and the importance of moral leadership in confronting social wrongs during times of crisis and conflict.”

We look forward to receiving a response to our letter and urge you to act quickly.

The 70th anniversary of the internment is in 2012 and it would be fitting to issue these honorary degrees in the coming year.

Sincerely, Ken Noma President, National Association of Japanese Canadians
Lillian Nakamura Maguire Vice-President and Chair, NAJC Human Rights Committee
cc: President & Vice Chancellor Dr. Stephen J. Toope
UBC Chancellor Sarah Morgan-Silvester
UBC Board of Governors, Chair, Bill Levine
UBC Alma Mater Society (AMS), president, Jeremy McElroy
Dr. Sally Thorne, chair of UBC Senate Tributes Committee
Vancouver Sun “Letters to the Editor”
UBC Ubyssey paper: Managing editor, Print, Jonny Wakefield
Managing editor, Web, Arshy Manor

PDF Version: Letter – UBC 2011

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