NAJC President’s Message – January 2020

by Lorene Oikawa

The NAJC National Executive Board wish all the best for you and your loved ones in this New Year, 2020. It’s the year of the rat, and according to legend, the rat’s intelligence, quick thinking and adaptability allowed it to become the first animal in the 12 year zodiac. The order of the animals after rat (nezumi) are ox (ushi), tiger (tora), rabbit (usagi), dragon (tatsu), snake (hebi), horse (uma), sheep (hitsuji), monkey (saru), rooster (tori), dog (inu) and boar (inoshishi).

2020 is about starting a new project with great energy and progressing without obstacles. Challenges will bring out the best in everyone. The metal element (one of five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal and water) this year means a sharper focus. Decisions will be made and there will be more satisfaction.

The symbolism of this New Year is an auspicious start to another productive year for the NAJC. We completed our BC Redress community consultations and presented the findings to the BC government near the end of last year. We will be meeting with the BC government this month to determine the next steps. There are five themes to the findings from the community input, and the themes cover a broad range of interests and need in our community. The work we are doing is about history, and it’s also about now, the future, and the benefits for society as a whole. The NAJC will be following up with a more detailed proposal to move forward with recommendations.

Our work is not limited to one initiative. We are going to continue to work with our member chapter organizations and look to expand our partnerships with the community including from our connections made at COPANI XX in San Francisco,. We want to preserve the history of our ancestors, share our Japanese Canadian stories, arts, and culture as part of our work to build inclusive and welcoming communities. This also includes working with other groups to eliminate discrimination and racism.

We are cultivating new media contacts and broadening our reach. Watch for the links to media stories such as this recent article. Watch for our communication in the Nikkei Voice, The Bulletin,, e-news, Facebook, and Twitter. We will have regular member newsletters which we started last year, and we are developing special communications for our BC Redress initiative.

We have regular meetings set for the NEB and membership in 2020. Of note, we will have a special meeting of members in March to discuss some revised bylaws to make our processes more effective and transparent. And we will meet in the fall in Edmonton for our AGM and National Conference.

The National Association of Japanese Canadians was founded in 1947 and in two years we will celebrate our 75th anniversary. When our organization was started, our main objectives were about strengthening the Japanese Canadian community and human rights. Even though times have changed, our mission continues. Incidents related to hate persist although we are no longer the main target and our work is needed now more than ever.

With thanks to our ancestors and our families, we know their perseverance, resiliency, and hard work got us to where we are today. However, the strategies and tactics we need to employ are different than in the past.

In some ways, we have the most resources and technology at our disposal, more than any other generation, and the challenges we face have also multiplied and are different than in the past. You see the concerns in the headlines, in social media, and some of it seems so daunting such as hate and climate change. But we also see and hear people speaking up and taking action. We also appreciate your support, our members and allies. It will take all of us sticking together, working together, and we can accomplish so much. Ganbatte! We will persevere.

We hope you had the opportunity to enjoy some time for rest and making good memories with your loved ones. Some of my memories include the traditions of my grandmother and mother, eating noodles on New Year’s Eve and eating the special foods of Osechi on New Year’s Day (Shogatsu).

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and hopeful 2020!

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