NAJC President’s Message – October 2018

by Lorene Oikawa

The 2018 NAJC AGM and Conference wrapped up the last weekend of September in Winnipeg. Participants from across the country left with a renewed commitment to continue our work on human rights, sharing the stories of Japanese Canadians, and strengthening our intergenerational and community collaborations.

The conference theme, “Moving Forward After Injustice” celebrated the 30thanniversary of Redress, and the conference kick off and the gala dinner took place at the Museum for Human Rights. The guest speaker at the gala was Mark Sakamoto, author of Forgiveness: A Gift from My Grandparents, which won the 2018 Canada Reads competition. Mark shared his family stories including how his grandmother, a Canadian citizen of Japanese ancestry, was branded as an enemy of the state by her own government. “Hate came for my grandmother. Hate came wrapped up in a flag.”

The NAJC member organization, JCAM (Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba) also presented two awards, Outstanding Community Service Award to Janet Hirose and Lifetime Achievement Award to Art Miki who led the negotiations for Redress. Art shared stories of the work of NAJC to achieve Redress.

With the stroke of a pen on September 22, 1988, the Federal government formally apologized to the survivors and families of the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were uprooted, dispossessed, and interned. Forty-six years earlier, a stroke of the pen deemed all Japanese Canadians as “enemy aliens” despite the lack of evidence, and without consideration that most were Canadian citizens with families who settled here in the 1800s and were born in Canada. The heads of the RCMP and military said there was no reason to take any action against Japanese Canadians and in fact, no Japanese Canadian was ever charged with disloyalty.

Another part of this weekend was the NAJC AGM which took place at the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba (JCAM) centre. Elections were held for the National Executive Board. Your new 2018-2020 NAJC Board:

President Lorene Oikawa
Vice President Keiko Miki
Treasurer Les Kojima
Secretary Eiko Eby
Director Kiyoshi Denbo
Director Susanne Tabata
Director Bryan Tomlinson
Past President David Mitsui

Thank you to JCAM and Valerie Hoshizaki Nordin and volunteers for organizing a Taste of Manitoba, a fun Friday evening of food representing the diversity of the province including Indigenous food such as bannock, Japanese Canadian food such as inari sushi (with wild rice!), and the much-loved home made Winnipeg perogies. Delicious!

Thank you to all the participants, facilitators, speakers, and volunteers. Thank you JCAM, Art Miki, Ken Teramura and the planning committee. Thanks to the NAJC staff. Also, thank you to co-sponsors the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Thank you to the Gala Dinner sponsor The Frank H. Hori Charitable Foundation. Thanks to all who provided Silent Auction donations.

We had the opportunity to hear stories, share ideas, reconnect with friends, make new friends, and be inspired to take back information to our communities so we can take the next steps in our work to strengthen our communities.

I am honoured to take on the role of president of the NAJC. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you to past president David Mitsui for your work for our community. I appreciated working with you, learning from you, and your sense of humour. Thank you to the 2016-2018 board for your work and support. Also, thanks to all the leadership who paved the path for us. I know my responsibility includes carrying on the legacy of past presidents and looking at the bigger picture of our work now and into the future. I am looking forward to getting to know more about the NAJC membership and your communities and how we can work together. One of our strategic priorities will be focused on engagement and communication.

I am a Yonsei (fourth generation Japanese Canadian) and I will be looking toallthe generations to contribute your experience, knowledge, and skills to strengthen our organization and build capacity. We will have challenges and opportunities and we can create more of the latter. We are a large extended family, and sometimes families don’t always agree, but we must be respectful in our discussions and remember that we have more in common than any differences. We want the best for our community and we want all communities to thrive which happens when we have an inclusive, safe, and welcoming society for all. Together, we can meet the challenges and move forward. Gambatte!

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