History of The Bulletin Part II
In part one of the history of The Bulletin, we traced the origins of The Bulletin to 1958—when Mickey Tanaka, a member of the Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association founded the magazine—and followed it up to the Japanese Canadian Centennial in 1977.
The Japanese Canadian Centennial in 1977 is the result of research and lobbying on the part of former New Canadian Editor Toyo Takata, who understood the importance of not only identifying, but celebrating, the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to Canada. In 1974, his research had led him to identify Manzo Nagano as the first immigrant, along with the date of his arrival—the spring of 1877. In convincing centres across Canada to buy into the Centennial and to hold events in the various cities and towns where Japanese Canadians had resettled, he sets the stage for a revitalization of the Nikkei community in Canada, a community that had been dispersed across the country in the wake of the Internment.
In Vancouver, The Bulletin does its part to promote the Centennial. The January 1977 issue carries a notice announcing the JCCA Centennial Banquet and Dance, to be held on March 5. As the notice says, Come and meet some new friends. Remember, you won’t get another chance for 100 years! The same issue lists some of the activities being planned across Canada, including the Powell Street Festival, a new festival that will take place at the Powell Grounds (Oppenheimer Park). Improvements to the grounds are being funded by the municipal and federal governments, including the planting of Japanese cherry trees in recognition of the long association of Japanese Canadians with the area.
Throughout the year, The Bulletin carries articles relating to the Centennial, including one on the naming of a new school in Steveston after Tomekichi Homma. The founding president of the Japanese Fishermen Association, Homma was instrumental in the construction of the first Japanese school in Steveston, as well as the Fishermen’s Hospital.
Another issue carries a review of Barry Broadbent’s Years of Sorrow, Years of Shame, a book that collects interviews with Japanese Canadians (and others) about the internment experience: Years or Sorrow, Years of Shame, along with Ken Adachi’s The Enemy That Never Was, fills a vacuum in Canadian history. Canada can now provide her schools with a comprehensive and enlightening account of a vastly important period of her past, and a study of the validity of civil rights in Canada . . . Perhaps with books as well-constructed and eloquently presented as this one, Canada will find in her past the seeds of a proud legacy in the future.
In the August 1977 issue it is reported that a mountain in British Columbia will be renamed Mount Manzo Nagano in honour of the first Japanese immigrant to Canada. The mountain, 6,600 feet high, lies southeast of Rivers Inlet, a legendary fishing spot among Nikkei fishermen.
The same issue carries a small piece on the formation of the Powell Street Revue, a new Japanese Canadian organization focussing on community involvement and awareness, particularly as it relates to the sansei.
The notice, although brief, is another small sign of the rise of the sansei, the third generation Japanese Canadians, who are just starting to come into their own. Although the Centennial year celebrations are the result of all generations working together, it is the sansei who kick-start a number of the community initiatives, many driven by a sense of outrage at the treatment accorded their parents and grandparents, as well as a need to find out more about their history and heritage, of which many know very little. Together with newer immigrants like Michiko Sakata and Takeo Yamashiro, the sansei have helped create Tonari Gumi—the drop in centre of seniors—and are getting involved in the community on many levels. While organizations like the JCCA are still dominated by the nisei, it is clear that the younger generation is started to assert itself.
THE YEAR 1978 MARKS THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY of The Bulletin. Publisher Gordon Mayede, writing in the April issue, notes over the past ten years, membership in the JCCA has grown from 1,800 households to 4,000 and The Bulletin is mailed to almost all Japanese Canadian homes in the Lower Mainland, as far east as Hope. An additional 300 copies are mailed out to homes across BC and the rest of Canada. A large volunteer staff is in charge of producing the monthly publication. The inventory of equipment has grown over the years to include a graphotype, addressograph, electric staplers, typewriters and collators.
Included in the 20th Anniversary issue is a piece by Dr. Edward C. Banno, titled An Early History of the JCCA. The article traces the origins of the JCCA to the early thirties, when a Japanese-born graduate of the University of British Columbia named Hozumi Yonemura began to organize a movement to gain legal and economic equality and rightful place in Canadian society. The Japanese Canadian Citizens Association was founded in 1932 but failed to gain momentum. In 1935 it was absorbed into the newly-formed Japanese Canadian Citizens’ League and the organization soon found great support among the nisei. The JCCL spent the next few years working tirelessly in an attempt to gain the right to vote for Japanese Canadians, only to be defeated in the end.
As Dr. Banno writes toward the end of his piece, Although the JCCL was unable to attain its objectives, at least the people of Canada were made aware that the Japanese Canadians suffered from severe political and legal restrictions which were a blot on Canadian democracy . . . Now, forty years later, in retrospect, it may seem that a naive and idealistic group of young people went to Ottawa to plead for recognition, only to learn how slow and agonizing the political process could be. We had a hopeless role to play and to our credit we played it well. We could have done no less. It was foreordained that we were going to lose.
Today, the Japanese Canadians are no longer considered second-class citizens. The bitterness and hopelessness of the war-time and postwar years have largely disappeared. The last of the restrictive orders-in-council lapsed on March 31, 1949. Japanese Canadians were free to return to the coastal areas of British Columbia. The next day, April 1, 1949, they were given the right to vote in British Columbia for the first time in history.
AN UNCREDITED ARTICLE IN THE SAME ISSUE looks back at the creation of The Bulletin but also looks at the road ahead: Although the Bulletin’s objective remains intact, the community which it serves has changed—in some respects dramatically—over the intervening years. Our Issei parents have, as a natural consequence of passing time, diminished sadly in numbers while their offspring, the Nisei, have acquired familiar menopausal signs of advancing years. The Sansei and Yonsei are now the force of the day, firmly establishing their presence in the Japanese Canadian community and the wider society.
Postwar immigration has added yet another facet to the composition of our community. The arrival of new Japanese immigrants, at first in trickles but in appreciable numbers since the early and mid 1960s, has provided another dimension to the social and cultural fabric of the community. In general, young and well-educated, energetic and ambitious, our new friends from Japan are already proving themselves to be a vital force in our midst.
THE APPEARANCE OF THESE AND SIMILAR ARTICLES that begin to appear in The Bulletin and The New Canadian mark a shift in the mindset of Japanese Canadians. Spurred on by the collective spirit evidenced in the Japanese Canadian Centennial celebrations and the influence of activist sansei, there seems to be greater sense of optimism and pride, along with a greater willingness to stand up and be heard.
An ad in the April 1978 issue promotes a new book, A Dream of Riches, the Japanese Canadians 1877-1977, published by the Japanese Canadian Centennial Project and derived from a photo exhibit of the same name that is now touring the country. The book, through photographs and words, provides a powerful portrait of the Nikkei community from 1877 to 1977. The final statement in the book issues an eloquent challenge to all Japanese Canadians: Let us break this self-damaging silence and own our history. If we do not, estrangement from our past will be absorbed and driven deeper, surfacing as a fragmentation in ourselves and coming generations. But in retracing the journey of our people through time, in going back to our roots, we find ourselves made whole, replenished in spirit. We return from that journey deeply proud of our people, of their contribution to this country.
Let us also examine ourselves. Having gained our freedom and established our respectability, we must not lose sight of our own experience of hatred and fear. Too often we have heard ‘damn Jew’, ‘lazy Indian’ from those who were once called ‘dirty Japs’. The struggle of the generations and the meaning of the war years is completely betrayed if we are to go over to the side of the racist. Let us honour our history and our centennial by supporting the new immigrants and other minorities who now travel the road our people once travelled.
WHILE THE PAGES OF THE BULLETIN REMAIN devoted primarily to community announcements and advertisements, historical articles and pieces highlighting achievements of community members are on the increase, reflecting the greater sense of acceptance within society. One small piece highlights three Japanese Canadians that have been awarded the Order of Canada. Tom Shoyama, Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr. T. Sato, former principal of the Vancouver Japanese Language School, and Mrs. Seisho Kuwabara, an Ikebana master join recent recipients Roy Kiyooka, Mr. G. Kitagawa, Dr. M. Miyazaki and Dr. David Suzuki in the order. Over the coming years, a number of names will be added to the list and duly noted in The Bulletin.
Another article puts the spotlight on Vancouver-born Yuki Yoshida, who became the first Japanese Canadian to win an Oscar at the 1978 Academy Awards. The award was for her role as producer of the National Film Board film I’ll Find A Way. The winning film was one of a series of seven films under the title Children of Canada by the NFB.
A SMALL ARTICLE IN THE JUNE 1978 ISSUE doesn’t call special attention to itself and it is only in retrospect that its importance can be seen. Titled Reparation Campaign Under Way, it is the first mention in The Bulletin
of the Redress campaign that would dominate the mid to late eighties: The National JCCA has taken the first steps towards an organized Japanese Canadian stand on the matter of reparations and wartime losses suffered by the Japanese community in Canada during World War Two.
Working through a sub-committee, the JCCA is distributing questionnaires and “fact-sheets” to discover just how Japanese Canadians feel about reparations. The results may lead to a demand from the JCCA for such compensation from the Canadian Government.
‘We were Canadians at the time. But still our human and civil rights, as well as our homes, were taken away and we’ve never been properly or reasonably compensated,’ stated sub-committee co-chairman Eugene Maikawa. ‘A reparations campaign would have tremendous educational value in areas of civil and human rights for all Canadians, as well as ensure the older members of the community, those who suffered, a secure old age. That’s why we want restitution.’
Stemming from discussions held throughout the country during last year’s Centennial festivities, the sub-committee is searching for more than mere financial security. ‘The Japanese Canadian community was destroyed culturally, psychologically, as well as physically, just to appease racist politicians in British Columbia,’ observed Naomi Tsuji, the second of three co-chairmans within the committee. ‘And we never want that to happen again.’
The campaign, although not fully implemented across the country, has yet to find a large sentiment of objection to the idea of reparations, although it was thought that the Nisei community would be opposed to the idea. Responses to the questionnaires will hopefully be recorded and a report made by the end of the summer.
IN THE NOVEMBER 1978 ISSUE, the US Redress campaign is mentioned for the first time, along with the concept of individual compensation: In the United States, the Japanese American Citizens League—beefier brother to our own JCCA—has adopted a proposal to have the Government pay $25,000 to each Japanese American incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. The proposal calls for tax-free compensation, with payments first to the eldest survivors of those evacuated in 1942 from the West Coast.
1978 concludes with a piece celebrating the fact that Sakura-so, a home for Nikkei seniors on Powell Street, has been opened after years of effort on the part of the Japanese Canadian Society. Society President George Oikawa is quoted in the article: Our Society was formed in September 1975 largely as a result of a ‘Needs Study’ which was completed in 1974. This study which was funded by Central Mortgage & Housing Corporation under Part V of the National Housing Act, identified a need for a Home in this part of the city for our seniors. We were very fortunate in locating this property and, thanks largely to the patience and understanding of the Wong Family, the owners of the property, and in particular to Mr. Howard Wong, we were able to purchase this property in July 1976.
THE COMPLETION OF SAKURA-SO sets the stage for the building of Nikkei Place, including New Sakura-so, which would open 20 years later in Burnaby.
The year-end message from the Board of the JCCA reaffirms the sense that the Nikkei community has reached a new level of maturity and self-confidence: After such an active Centennial Year in 1977, the events of 1978 appear to be almost minimal, despite the event-filled early part of the year. At this time then, it is perhaps more appropriate than ever to reflect upon the Centennial and see how this major undertaking can and should be related to our present and future.
Two significant factors emerged from our Centennial. First, by way of the numerous year-long events, we witnessed an enormous amount of intercommunity association. We came to know who is who, who is where and who is doing what. This communication extended not just within the Greater Vancouver area but to all the communities in B.C. and beyond, eastward as far as Montreal. At first glance, this communication may appear not to have a lasting significance. But on reflection, it has been a vital force in our own re-establishment, to see and know that we do indeed have a common denominator in being Japanese Canadians in a country that has taken the first step to recognize and accept its multiracial makeup—that our country is a mosaic rather than the melting pot we once talked about. (Although the melting pot will come in a few generations.)
The second significance of our Centennial is that the acceptance we sensed and the pride we shared in being Japanese Canadians have helped us eliminate many of our past inhibitions of being a minority race with the notable and distinct experience of the Evacuation. Physically, having shed the ramifications of racial discrimination, and, more significantly, mentally, we now move about much more freely. Other than the actual events which took place last year, the meaningfulness of the Centennial is no longer visible or tangible. The true significance has now been transformed into the recognition by each one of us that we can indeed take pride without having to shout, that we can play our role in the larger society without inhibitions, and that while our historical roots are in Japan our living roots are now firmly implanted in the land where we live.
THE BULLETIN, THROUGH THE LATE SEVENTIES and into the early eighties, enters a fallow period. There is plenty of advertising—both English and Japanese—which generally outstrips editorial content fairly heavily. With the opening of Sakura-so, JCS (Sakura-so) News becomes a regular feature, as does a recipe corner, with many recipes reprinted from the Kokuho Rose Cookbook or Treasured Recipes by the Nisei Women’s Club of Toronto. The odd historical piece continues to pop up here and there, amid items on Japanese trends and news, and the annual JCCA Picnic and Keirokai. One trend that takes root is Nikkei reunions, and there are regular announcements of reunions for Mission City, Ocean Falls, Lemon Creek, Tashme, Lillooet, Maple Ridge, Haney and other pre-war and wartime Nikkei centres.
One piece of significant news in the June 1980 edition is that delegates to the Ninth National JCCA Conference, held May 16 – 19 in Vancouver, have voted to adopt a new name, the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC). With the slogan “toward a new direction” the delegates write that, the objective of the NAJC is to establish a closer link between the Japanese Canadian communities and actively pursue their consensus of the present day challenges, and thus becoming a truly representative national organization of the 40,000 plus Japanese Canadians.
One of the NAJC’s first items of business is advocating for an amendment to the Canadian Constitution, to ensure the irrevocable entrenchment of a Charter of Human Rights in a Canadian Constitution. In a presentation in Ottawa on November 26, 1980, the NAJC, represented by spokespersons Gordon Kadota of Vancouver (NAJC President), Roger Obata of Toronto, and Dr. Art Shimizu of Hamilton, express the concerns of Japanese Canadians to a Joint Committee examining the proposed Constitution of Canada.
The following excerpt is from the December 1980 issue of the Bulletin: Obata expressed his desire for ‘. . . some guarantee of human and civil rights . . . in light of the experience of Japanese Canadians. A Charter of Rights entrenched in the Constitution to prevent what we have gone through, is the least Canada can do to make amends for what has happened to us, and to ensure that such injustices will never be repeated.’
IN THE SEPTEMBER 1982 EDITION of The Bulletin, a full-page notice from the Japanese Canadian History Preservation Committee, a committee of the JCCA, calls for diaries, letters, photographs, negatives, movies, tape recordings and other materials in the possession of senior citizens (and anyone else). Donations of archival material are to housed by the Special Collections Department of the University of British Columbia, under the stewardship of Mr. Tsuneharu Gonnami. The committee will over time transform into the present-day Japanese Canadian National Museum.
APRIL 1983 MARKS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY of The Bulletin. The issue contains several messages acknowledging the occasion along with a notice about the Vancouver Urasenke Tea Ceremony, the Vancouver Bonsai Club Spring Show, the Surrey Japanese Women’s Association, and the Sakura Singers. It also carries news on the upcoming second Pan American Nikkei Association Convention in Lima, Peru, as well as an article on the Canadian Jewish Congress, whose National Executive has passed a resolution in support of restitution for Japanese Canadians. The resolution states that, the Government of Canada should make ‘full moral and material restitution to the Japanese Canadians for the wrong inflicted during World War II. The injustice done to our fellow citizens cries out for redress. Not to do so would leave a stain on the honour of Canada.’
It is a half-page article on page 11 of the April issue, though, that proves to be the opening salvo in a war of words that will come to dominate The Bulletin’s editorial pages over the next year. In a piece titled, Then and Now – A Comment, the issue of the Redress movement is brought to the fore for the first time in the Bulletin’s pages, despite the fact that the movement has been under way for some time.
The Japanese Canadian today, with divergent interests and preoccupations, cannot easily be influenced to arrive at a consensus, as some of our community leaders are undoubtedly discovering in their search for a solid voice of support for their current reparations campaign. Japanese Canadians just don’t fit into the mold (sic) of 25 years ago when life generally was a little simpler in terms of individual interests and problems of the day usually affected the majority in similar ways. Our community leaders, especially those preoccupied with the current reparations issue, must take this situation into account in seeking a consensus. Otherwise, they tight just find out that, in their earnest effort in the popular media to convince governments and liberal-minded friends of the rightness of their cause, they lost the support of their own community.
The casual reader would be justified in wondering what issue the comments are referring to, and the next few issues do nothing to illuminate the situation. By the August issue, however, the Redress issue has reached a point where it can no longer be ignored and The Bulletin is forced to confront it full on with an announcement that the JCAA will be holding a series of public meetings and a call to members to send in their thoughts. The meetings will attempt to gain a consensus regarding individual compensation vs. group compensation for the losses, both emotional and financial, suffered by the Nikkei community during the years 1942-1949.
THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE contains a schedule of public meetings in Vancouver, Steveston and Burnaby, along with a letter from a couple in support of individual compensation. Among the points made by the writers is that foundation would do nothing to help the rural issei: Individual redress speaks to the needs of isolated, scattered Issei who live in places that are too small to support large-scale projects such as senior citizens’ homes or cultural centres. They may be too proud to demand redress for themselves, but if they were awarded individual redress, they would then be in the position to leave inheritances to their children and their children’s children. This is a matter of self-respect and pride for the Issei and cannot be addressed via a foundation or administered trust. In this respect, individual, redress is the only form of redress that will benefit the many Issei who do not live in large cities or population centres.
By November, The Bulletin’s pages are dominated by letters, arguments and counter-arguments as it becomes clear that the issue of Redress has polarized the community. A letter from a Vancouver nisei captures the problem succinctly:
It would appear that for those of us who are concerned about the question of Redress, the practically only available discussions of the subject comes from the New Canadian and the Canada Times of Toronto newspapers. After the apparently disastrous Labour Day meeting, these two newspapers ran articles referring to petty and sensational details which were not particularly informative. Except for some very intelligent articles that are periodically submitted and addressed to the whole issue, these papers seemed to be reporting the progress of the individuals who monopolized the affair there.
As an interested observer, I can see the rage and frustrated paranoia of the Eastern representatives of the Canadian Japanese that erupted after the first discussions with those in the West. Since communication with the Western Japanese Canadians had been difficult until recently, the Easterners have zealously pursued Redress by themselves.
Thus, the West and the East worked separately, and now that attempt have been made to join forces, we discover our approaches to Redress differ greatly.
Traditionally Niseis were taught not to bring shame on their families. We do not take many chances and voice our opinions in public. We tried not to make any mistakes and kept quiet. I hope we will not prove to be victims of our own personalities. I believe that we have matured by now.
A few frustrated individuals have overreacted and thus, failed to confront the whole issue of Redress in an orderly, concise manner. Unless we get leadership that can display conviction, the scattered multitude of the Japanese across Canada will never get together to confront Redress.
Communication is vital for the education of the Japanese Canadians with respect to Redress. Only then, can we obtain a majority consensus. The leaders must agree on the Redress “options” and bring them to the public to digest. And, leaders cannot afford to remain neutral for long. To remain neutral is not going in any direction.
Like the saying goes, only united can we take a stand and be heard. Divided as we are, the fire of the Redress issue will burn out before it has a chance to catch on. Let’s not bicker over divisions of the first, second or third generations. This is an overall racial issue that can occur over again. Where is our leadership and direction? This should not be a personal issue for anyone. It is a National concern for every Canadian with a conscience of what Justice is all about.
DESPITE THIS PLEA FOR REASON, THE FIRST few issue of the New Year contains bitter accusations and arguments between the JCCA Board and vocal members who oppose the Board’s approach to, and position on, Redress.
And then things come to a head. The April 1984 issue contains a notice of the JCCA Annual General Meeting and by June, a new board is in place (after some confusion regarding eligibility of some Board members to sit). By voting in a new slate, the JCCA is now dominated by an activist Board. The June issue contains a cautionary letter from outgoing Chairman Ken Matsune:
The history of the Canadians of Japanese ancestry and the Japanese Canadian community is unique. I suspect that due to the unique experience of our people the Nisei have an important part to play, often very challenging and even difficult. In all societies, the culture, customs and traditions perform the major role in the survival of a given people. We learn to respect the teachings of those who have spent many years building the foundations of the community, those people who have paid their dues many times over. We cannot ignore or discount the wisdom of our elders since they have lived through many experiences and survived. These individuals are our richest resource. At the same time, I have heard on many occasions from our elders that they will leave the work to us. “Nisei to Sansei ni maka shi to ku”; however, with this mandate come words of caution which go something like this: “haji ga ko nai yo ni shite ki na sai”. I have been very mindful of the thinking behind this caution. We must be allowed to make some mistakes in order to grow, but we should not be foolish in our pursuits.
ONE OF THE FIRST ORDERS OF BUSINESS of the new Board is the creation of a JCCA Redress Committee, as reported in the August 1984 issue. The issue also contains a report from NAJC President Art Miki on the dissolution of the National Redress Committee, formerly under the direction of Chairperson George Imai. These two events, taken together, signal the beginning of a concerted effort to achieve a Redress settlement with the concept of individual financial compensation as its central tenet.
To that end, The Bulletin becomes one of the primary sources of news on the Redress movement, a profound shift in focus that will have a lasting impact on both its content and appearance.
In September, Gordon Mayede, citing personal reasons, resigns after eighteen years as Publisher of The Bulletin, marking the end of an era. Several of the volunteer office staff tender their resignations as well, leaving the future of The Bulletin up in the air.
A temporary steering committee is put in place to ensure that The Bulletin can continue uninterrupted, with guidance from Gordon Mayede and Mary Oishi, former office secretary.
The October 1984 issue appears in a new format and under new management, with the JCCA taking over as Publisher. Adopting a more conventional magazine format, the new Bulletin has a fresh new look that presages the current format.
It is with the November issue, though, that the “new” Bulletin really comes into its own. Tamio Wakayama is installed as Managing Editor and Sumio Koike comes aboard as Japanese Editor, while Fumiko Greenaway becomes Office Manager.
With a cover photograph by Tamio Wakayama of the Japanese Canadian Cenotaph in Stanley Park and the headline, Lest We Forget, the issue sets forth a bold new direction with expanded content. Along with the standard editorial and letters to the editor, there are reports on Tonari Gumi, which is setting up a foundation to deal with a shortfall in funding, and the Japanese Canadian Health Care Committee, which is looking at setting up a multi-level care facility for Nikkei Seniors. Another article features an apology from the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada, which had unwittingly benefited from the seizure and sale of Japanese-owned property.
In what will be a regular feature over the next four years, there is an extensive Redress report and related articles. New content includes poems by Joy Kogawa and Roy Miki and a review of Katari Taiko’s Fifth Anniversary concert at the Vancouver Playhouse, a benefit concert for Tonari Gumi. The cover story is a piece on the Japanese Canadians who fought in World War One and Two, accompanied by a story by Frank Kamiya on a proposal by the JCCA Centennial Committee to restore the Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park and relight the cenotaph light that was extinguished with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the expulsion of Japanese Canadians from the coast.
The Bulletin is changing with the times, and over the next few years, it will play a vital role in the struggle to achieve Redress and the continuing evolution of the Nikkei community.
Next Month: Part III Redress and Beyond