NAJC President’s Message – July 2021

by Lorene Oikawa

Finally, there is some light after our dark year with the pandemic. We still must be cautious, because of the variants and those who are not vaccinated yet, but we are moving forward in our next steps.

Unfortunately, we are still being challenged. We are dealing with extreme weather which seems to be even earlier this year. It has meant another threat to vulnerable populations who are having challenges finding respite and keeping hydrated. We have put out reminders on social media to check on family, friends and neighbours who live alone or at risk. The extreme heat is also damaging crops and increasing the risk of wildfires. Scientific studies point to more frequent or more intense extreme weather with climate change. Human cause is also believed to be what started the fire that destroyed the town of Lytton BC during the recent heatwave. Lytton recorded the highest temperature ever seen in Canada for three consecutive days with the highest temperature at 49.6 C.

We are also standing in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. Their communities are in mourning with the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and 751 unmarked graves near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. In Cranbrook BC, 182 unmarked burial sites were found in a community cemetery close to the former residential school at St. Eugene’s Mission. It has not been established whether the graves contain the remains of the children who attended the residential school. However, it is still painful news. We know that many more children did not return home and we support First Nations’ work to find those children and the implementation of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The NAJC National Executive Board, our human rights committee, and our member organizations across Canada are speaking up in solidarity. First Nations are dealing with grieving communities and the COVID-19 pandemic so we encourage everyone to give them space and listen to them for how we can support them as allies. As allies, we will help amplify Indigenous voices for truth and justice. We also urge individuals to take meaningful action by learning about the history of Indigenous peoples and the TRC Calls to Action. We can provide a visible show of support by wearing orange at events and commemorations such as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9. For anyone in Canada who is experiencing pain or distress because of their Residential School experience, please know there is support through the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419, available 24-hours a day.

Our work to stop hate continues in other areas. We will join in the celebration of Pride taking place throughout the summer.

We will be continuing our work along with other community representatives as part of the UBC Steering Committee on the National Forum on Anti-Asian Racism that took place in June. The recordings and some resources are posted on the event page The steering committee will be assisting with a final report based on the outputs of the Forum.

Our online sessions for July include the NAJC and the Landscapes of Injustice (LOI) presenting the LOI Research Database and Family Story Sharing in association with the Powell Street Festival. When we first offered the sessions, the database was in production. LOI Project Manager Michael Abe will demonstrate the completed database so that you can use it to find out information about your families. Special guests from NAJC member organizations will share their family stories with their findings. Register in advance for the 90-minute session on Friday, July 30 at 5pm PDT, 6pm MDT, 7pm CDT, 8pm EDT.

The NAJC Human Rights Committee is holding an open discussion for Ijusha (Japanese immigrants) about racism in Canada. The 90-minute session will be in Japanese on Thursday, July 15 at 5:30 pm PDT, 6:30pm MDT, 7:30pm CDT, 8:30pm EDT. Register in advance:

Reminder that there are two deadlines coming up in July.

Applications for the NAJC Young Leaders Fund must be received by July 19, 2021 at 11:59 pm PDT. The Fund is managed by the Young Leaders Committee and gives Japanese Canadian youth the opportunity to help realize projects and initiatives. Successful applicants can receive up to $2,000 for their projects or initiatives. Please see information for applicants on the NAJC website.

Nominations for the NAJC Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Award has been extended to July 31, 2021 at 11:50 pm PDT. Dr. Hirabayashi is widely respected for his courage and leadership in Canada and the USA. In 1942, when he was a college student, he deliberately violated the curfew imposed upon Japanese Americans and officially challenged the government order on the grounds that it violated his constitutional rights. For more information about the award go to our website.

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The NAJC NEB wishes you and your families a safe summer.

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