By Lorene Oikawa
I was at the March 21st International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination event in Vancouver. It was very appropriate that it was on this day, on behalf of the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC), I signed the agreement with the BC government for the funding of the BC Redress Community Consultations.
We’ve called it BC Redress, but it isn’t about an apology. The apology from the BC government to Japanese Canadians was done in 2012. This is about the process to have something meaningful come from that apology and to have the community included this time.
The BC government participated in, benefitted from, and were complicit in the uprooting, detention, dispossession, and forced exile of 22,000 Japanese Canadians, from babies to seniors, between 1942 and 1949. Members of the BC Legislature including Ministers along with BC Members of Parliament lobbied for the removal of Japanese Canadians. In 1943, the BC government refused to pay its share of education expenses for Japanese Canadian children despite a formal request from the federal government. This was a clear violation of the mandated responsibility divided between provincial and federal governments.
When the war with Japan ended in 1945, Japanese Canadians were denied the right to return to BC’s coast until 1949, because the federal government extended the executive powers of the War Measures Act.
In 1947 the BC government gave the right to vote to Chinese Canadians and Indo Canadians, but they denied the right to vote for Japanese Canadians, continuing racist voting laws which started in 1872. The BC government also refused to accept the BC Supreme Court ruling in favour of a Japanese Canadian court challenge started in 1900.
There are many more examples of the complicity of the BC government.
The current BC government has committed to hearing from the community and is providing financial support for community consultations. The community will have an opportunity to share their stories and provide ideas on what they would like to see for legacy initiatives.
The NAJC has set up a BC Redress Community Consultations Steering Committee to plan the community consultations which will include in-person meetings, virtual meetings, and have an online system for gathering input. We want to make sure that everyone is getting the same background information and questions so that we can collect your ideas and put those ideas into recommendations for the government in the fall 2019.
The committee includes Art Miki and Maryka Omatsu (formerly on the NAJC BC Redress Advisory Panel), Judy Hanazawa (Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association, President), Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi (Greater Toronto Chapter of the NAJC, President), Eiko Eby and Les Kojima (NAJC, National Executive Board), and Kevin Okabe (NAJC, Executive Director).
The committee will be working with the NAJC member organizations to have the community consultations take place in April, May and June. Please keep in touch with your local NAJC member organization for updates as the community consultation process is developed. We will also have information about how to participate in the community consultation process posted at najc.ca
I was pleased to join some powerful women leaders at the BC Teachers’ Federation Bread and Roses event last month. I met teachers from around the province and shared some stories of the resilience of our Japanese Canadian community. I stressed the importance of knowing the history of Japanese Canadians, other racialized communities and Indigenous Peoples and how it relates to today’s work against racism and discrimination. The teachers responded positively and we will look at more opportunities to work together.
An important update on COPANI XX 2019 Biennial Pan American Nikkei Convention. The early bird price has been extended until April 30. A new rate for young adults has been introduced. More info at copani.org and on the NAJC website and Facebook page.
On April 24, Canada Post is unveiling a new postage stamp honouring the Vancouver Asahi baseball team. More info about the Vancouver event is on the NAJC Facebook page.