NAJC President’s Message – August 2019

by Lorene Oikawa

We had a flurry of media interest in the BC Redress process. For the most up-to-date information about the community consultation process please check our website We are still collecting input from our community until the end of August so please talk to your family and other Japanese Canadians to encourage them to share their ideas. There are a few in-person and online meetings happening this month and you can also make a submission online (fill in a form on our website) or by emailing You have until August 31 to provide input. Nothing is final at this time. Once all the input is received then it will be reviewed and we will be able to prepare a report with our findings going to the BC provincial government in October 2019. The links for the online meetings are posted at

As we are wrapping up the BC Redress community consultations, we are also preparing for the NAJC Annual General Meeting on August 24. More information will be going out to the members and we will be utilizing technology to conduct our first online AGM.

Festival season is winding down. Powell Street Festival Calgary Omatsuri are finished for the year. Winnipeg Folklorama started on August 4 and wraps up on August 17. Nikkei Matsuri will take place at the end of the month, on August 31 & September 1 at the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby BC.

At the end of last month I was clicking on my computer browser and happened to see the google doodle, the image on Google’s homepage which commemorates events, holidays, and historical figures. The image of a Japanese man’s face with stamps on a passport and one stamp that said Lithuania immediately brought to mind, Chiune Sugihara. He was a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania. In July 1939, before the start of the Second World War, he started issuing visas to help thousands of Jewish refugees escape via Japan. He defied orders from his superiors and started writing and stamping the visas night and day. He issued over 2,000 visas which saved about 6-10,000 people and which has resulted in an estimated 100,000 descendants of families who received the visas. If you don’t know the story check it out. It’s a powerful story of the impact of one man’s actions.

As the world takes a moment to remember the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this month, let’s also take a moment to recognize the actions of a Japanese Canadian woman who is working for peace and to prevent another nuclear attack and devastation. NAJC was fortunate to have Setsuko Thurlow as a keynote speaker at the Gala organized by the NAJC and the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society in Victoria in 2015, a couple of years before she gave the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. She accepted the award on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). She is using her experience as an atomic bomb survivor to prevent it from happening again. “I am committed to share the warning of Hiroshima until my last breath.”

I had the opportunity to speak to Setsuko Thurlow last month and thanked her for her work. She started telling me about her new book that is coming out. She has discovered an early connection with her family and Canada. She was interested in the story of my mother’s side of the family who came from Hiroshima in the 1800s and settled in Cumberland on Vancouver Island. We discovered we had someone in common, one of my Hiroshima family who she knows well.

A small world. If only everyone could see how we are all connected and take action to stop the behaviour that is harmful to people and our environment.

Nobuki Sugihara, Chihune’s youngest son has said that his father was moved to help because of human kindness not religion or politics.

Here’s to more kindness in the world and I hope more quality time for you with your families.


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