NAJC President’s Message – October 2020

by Lorene Oikawa

Thanksgiving is more than fall foods and pumpkin pie, it’s an opportunity to pause and give thanks. We are thankful for our family and friends, and during this pandemic, it is even more important to cherish our loved ones. 

The NAJC National Executive Board (NEB) is very grateful for our extended JC family, all of our member organizations and members, volunteers, and the Japanese Canadian communities across Canada. With the COVID-19 pandemic we had to rethink, pivot, and adapt. Sometimes we were able to switch events to online such as our AGM on October 2nd. Last year was our first online AGM and our membership meetings are conducted online so thankfully it’s not a new process for us. 

We do know that not every event could be easily switched to online. We know the revenue from fundraising has been drastically reduced for organizations. Many of our senior members and volunteers are staying at home to minimize their risk so the number of volunteers has also diminished. If you are in a position to donate some time or some funds, please check in with your local member organization. They would appreciate your support. Working together we will be able to survive, and thrive.

The NAJC is also dependent upon volunteers for our board and our committees. The NEB is composed of volunteers for a two year term. With this year’s AGM on October 2, 2020 we welcomed a new board. We are deeply appreciative of the outgoing board members, Keiko Miki, VP & Chair, Human Rights; Eiko Eby, Secretary & Chair, Community Development Fund; Alex Miki, Chair, Young Leaders; and Kiyoshi Dembo, Chair, Membership. Also, Bryan Tomlinson, Chair, Constitution and Bylaws who resigned in February 2020. They spent many hours as members of the board, and also had responsibilities as chairs of various committees, and participated in other NAJC initiatives. We enjoyed some laughs along with the hard work, and I want to add my personal thanks for their contributions. 

For the new term, I am honoured to return as President, and work with Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi, the new VP & Chair, Human Rights, Les Kojima returning as Treasurer, Maryka Omatsu, new Director, and Susanne Tabata, returning as a Director. Also, Stéphane Hamade was appointed Chair, Young Leaders. またステファン・濱出が青年指導者委員会の議長に指名されました。

We have two positions, Secretary and Director, that were not filled and the new board will be looking at next steps to fill those positions.

The members of the board along with our part-time staff, Kevin Okabe, Executive Director; and Karina Uehara, National Administrative, have the responsibility for operations. For projects, we also have volunteers participating in our committees. 

Serving on the board is a two-year commitment to the NAJC, putting aside self-interest, engaging in respectful discourse, and pulling together for our common goal of wanting our organization and community to thrive. We must have a single-minded purpose as fiduciaries who are guiding the NAJC towards a sustainable future, and ensuring we have the resources to advance our mission. We are going to be continuing our engagement with member organizations and the JC communities across Canada. Our work will also involve the broader community as we continue our work on inclusion and human rights. 

Our work on BC Redress is on pause, because a provincial election was called at the end of last month and is underway. Non-partisan talks will resume after the election. The latest update is posted on the NAJC website.

Online programming continues this month with two sessions in English and Japanese on the Impacts of COVID-19 on people with dementia and their families. Also, the NAJC ACE Committee backed a film, Bitter Sweet Trail, by Kenji Dyck, which will premiere on October 24 at 1pm (Pacific). Check for info about the film about sugar beet farms and upcoming online sessions on the NAJC website:

October 1st marks the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons. This year will highlight the role of the health care workers contributing to the health of older persons and recognize nursing and the role of women who are undervalued and most often not compensated adequately.

World Mental Health Day is on October 10 and this year’s theme is kindness. Let’s continue to bring awareness, education, and work to end the social stigma. With all the added stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s make kindness and good mental health a part of our wellness regimes.

World Food Day is on October 16 and is calling for global solidarity to help all people especially the most vulnerable to recover from the pandemic. We need food systems that can withstand climate and economic shocks so that healthy food is accessible to all and workers in the food system have decent wages and working conditions. This ties in with October 17, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

October 18 is Persons Day in Canada. On this day in 1929, Canada’s highest court of appeal made a historic decision to include women in the legal definition of “persons.” This decision would give some women the opportunity to participate in public office, but there were systemic barriers and racism which would block indigenous and racialized women including the lack of franchise. Japanese Canadians did not get franchise until 1949. Two years earlier in 1947, Chinese and Indo Canadians would get franchise. For First Nations peoples, it wasn’t until 1960. Inuit were allowed to vote in 1950, but there weren’t any ballot boxes in their communities until 1962. Métis were not restricted unless they didn’t meet the age and property ownership requirements. 

Keep safe. Be kind. The National Executive Board wishes you well. Keep in touch with NAJC e-news Sign If you have an idea for our online sessions and NAJC Chats, let us know, email  

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