NAJC President’s Message – September 2020

by Lorene Oikawa

Back to school is always a bit of challenge with arranging scheduling, and getting prepared with supplies and child care. 2020 has already been a major challenge coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the return to school is on everyone’s mind. We need the schools to have safe processes in place and we need students to have access to the valuable learning and socialization they get when in school. It’s not only for their academics, but also for their mental well-being.

To learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 on Canadian families and children, please join the NAJC’s free online session on September 10. Ms. Shizuko Kameyama Barnes, a school psychologist from New York will be presenting the session in Japanese.

It’s not only students who are returning. Those who have been temporarily working at home are starting to return to their workplaces. Those of us on the frontlines are continuing to ensure safe processes are in place and developing plans for the return of colleagues. This “restart” can work, but it requires all of us to continue precautions. We must ensure social/physical distancing, wearing a mask when it’s not possible to stay six feet apart, stay at home if sick, sneeze/cough in a tissue or sleeve, don’t touch your face, keep washing your hands, and do not hold or go to large gatherings. All your contacts have family and friends, and everyone is put at risk with one lapse in judgement.

Evidence-based decision making must prevail. One positive for all of the online sessions is an expanded audience for more learning opportunities. NAJC had already started online programming in 2018 as a way to improve access to speakers and conversations for our members and others from across Canada. We have increased our online programming during COVID-19, and continued with our speaker series, NAJC Chats, including a new format, a written interview. Look for our latest chat with Japanese Canadian author R.M. Greenaway about her B.C. Blues Crime series.   

We are also participating in events where we can represent NAJC and the interests of our communities. At a webinar about environmental racism, I was a speaker and I shared the legacy of Redress and the work we are doing to eliminate racial discrimination. One important step is ensuring we and others know an inclusive history of Canada including the Indigenous history before colonization.

The NAJC is marking commemorative days such as the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition which took place on August 23.

We must learn and remember the history of slavery, and know that Canada also had slavery. In 1629, the first African slave from Madagascar arrived in Quebec. The racist thinking from the days of slavery was embedded in society and shaped the systemic racism we see today. Racial discrimination has been used to perpetuate injustices against groups of people throughout history. Japanese Canadians share the pain of injustice. Together, we must ensure the stories of Black, Indigenous and those who are racialized are heard, shared, and never forgotten.

Upcoming is the Surrey Fusion Festival Livestream on September 26 at NAJC has hosted a Japan/Japanese Canadian booth at the annual festival and was asked to present a few minutes highlighting Japanese culture. We will have a demo of origami which is featured at our booth in previous years and very popular with children and adults.  

In September, I have the strongest urge to buy school supplies, usually notebooks and pens. I confess my pen addiction is not satisfied with a once-a-year purchase. When I visited Japan for the first time, one of my favourite memories is discovering Japanese pens. The design, the smooth line, the quality, and the colours. I was like a kid in a candy store. Today, I was looking online at popular pens in Canada. You’ll recognize the names, Pilot, Pentel, Zebra, Uniball, Muji, and maybe Tombow. Did you know that they are all Japanese pens? I knew about Zebra, Muji and Tombow, but I didn’t know about the others. They are some of my favourite pens.

The National Executive Board wishes you a smooth, safe transition to fall, and keep checking our website for our online programming and opportunities for learning and more conversations. If you have an idea for our online sessions and NAJC Chats, let us know, email For updates, event info, and news sign up for NAJC e-news at  

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