History of The Bulletin Part IV
In the June Bulletin, we looked at the period from the end of 1984 to the end of 1986. During this period, the “new” Bulletin began to forge a new direction, playing a greater role in highlighting the achievements of community members—both past and present. In this issue we look at the years 1987 and 1988, a pivotal period in the history of The Bulletin and Canadian Nikkei community.
Two articles in the January 1987 issue highlight the two primary preoccupations of the Vancouver Nikkei community—the struggle to achieve a negotiated Redress settlement, and the drive to build a multi-purpose Japanese Canadian centre in the Great Vancouver Area.
In the Redress News section, there is a report on a public meeting organized by Nikkei seniors for Japanese-speaking members of the community to share information: The meeting was initiated by Mrs. Haruko Kobayakawa, one of five Senior members of the Greater Vancouver JCCA Redress Committee.
Mrs. Kobayakawa told the meeting that prior to 1942, she and her husband had a farm in Cumberland, with over 100 cows. She feels that Issei have a responsibility to support Redress, and she is very thankful that there are young people who are involved in the quest for justice.
Mrs. M. Tagashira, also a Senior member of the Redress Committee, echoed Mrs. Kobayakawa’s sentiments. She also spoke of the losses suffered by her husband and herself, and that until he passed away, her husband was concerned about the lack of redress. She said she is moved by the younger people’s involvement, and feels that by attending the Redress Committee meetings, she can lend support.
Roy Miki spoke about the aims of the NAJC Redress movement and the latest information. The NAJC Strategy Committee has met with the Honourable David Crombie, the latest Minister to have taken on the portfolio, and the most receptive to date. Mr. Crombie has indicated that he will be making a recommendation to the Prime Minister and Cabinet about the elements of a redress package and a procedure to arrive at a settlement. NAJC representatives will be meeting with him prior to his making the recommendation.
The Nikkei Centre News announces that a new committee has been struck to find a suitable location for a planned multi-use facility to meet the social, cultural and recreational needs of the Japanese Canadians in the Greater Vancouver area. It is also notes that it may be possible to acquire some of the land on the Expo 86 lands, specifically at the site of the Folklife Pavilion on the edge of False Creek. The new centre is to include a health care facility and housing for seniors.
While the Redress and Nikkei Centre issues will dominate the news for the next several years, the January issue also highlights the fact that there is much more going on in the community. Indeed, it is a time of energy and change. Included among the other features is an announcement that the recently-formed dance company, Kokoro Dance, will be presenting its premiere performance at the Firehall Theatre on Cordova Street. The company, formed by Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget, will present an expanded version of Rage, a piece based on the wartime experience of Canadians and Americans of Japanese descent. The piece was initially performed as a duo at the 1985 Powell Street Festival and has been expanded to include the drummers of Katari Taiko—Canada’s first taiko group, now in it’s eight year. The issue also contains a feature on a trip to Castlegar by Katari Taiko to perform for the Doukhobor community there. As the piece notes, there is an historic connection between the two communities as the Doukhobors, another persecuted minority, were one of the few groups to support to the Japanese Canadians interned in the Kootenays during the war. The performance is significant in that Doukhobors, famous for their a capella choirs, do not allow musical instruments on their stage but have made an exception for the taiko group.
THE FEBRUARY 1987 ISSUE CONTAINS A REVIEW of Kokoro Dance’s Rage, along with reports on the annual Keirokai and the meeting between Minister of Multiculturalism David Crombie and members of the Vancouver Nikkei community. The feature story covers the launch of the campaign to build a Nikkei Centre in Vancouver. On January 10, 500 guests attended a gala evening at the Holiday Inn Harbourside. The event, sponsored by the Greater Vancouver JCCA, raised about $20,000. Among the guests were representatives from all three levels of government including John Fraser, MP and Speaker of the House of Commons: Mr. Fraser, who was born in Yokohama, Japan, was particularly moving in his reminiscences of a life-long association with Japanese culture and the Nikkei community: The ‘tremendous contribution and sacrifice’ made by Japanese Canadians was impressed upon him at an early age when his father, following a Remembrance Day service, made a special trip to Stanley Park to show him the Memorial to the Issei soldiers who had given their lives in W.W.I. This awareness was strengthened in 1980 when he heard the stirring presentation by the NAJC to the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee, and again in 1985 when he participated in the re-lighting ceremony of the WW I Memorial in Stanley Park. In his final and affectionate tribute, Mr. Fraser said . . . “you have gone through so much, you have been so far away and it is time to welcome you back.”
THE MARCH 1987 ISSUE CONTAINS THE FIRST OF A three-part piece by educator Ted Aoki called Reflections of a Nisei Educator. The article looks at Aoki’s experiences as a Japanese Canadian teacher within the context of the Canadian school system, and how his own ethnicity impacted his experience.
THE APRIL ISSUE CARRIES A PIECE by Mickey Terakita on the Asahi baseball team. The story outlines the club’s importance to the prewar community on Powell Street. It is a story that will continue to resonate years later and told through books, films and exhibitions. As the piece concludes: Today, not one Japanese Canadian baseball team exists anywhere in Canada; and unless there is a large influx of Japanese immigrants into an area, there will be no more Nippon or Taiyo or Mikado or Yamato or its equivalent. And most certainly no more Asahi with their panic brand daring baseball that thrilled and delighted its countless fans.
To be an Asahi was the height of achievement for any Nisei youngster who ever gripped the seams or choked a bat during those dim days of the 20’s and 30’s when our future was bleak and our goals were limited. The Asahis were the community heroes, their names were household, indeed, they were the toast of Powell Street.
More than 30 years have gone since they stole their last base or made a double killing. But the Asahis are more than a nostalgic memory of a fading past, they are a valid Part of our unique history that should be cherished and remembered.
THE MAY ISSUE PAYS TRIBUTE TO MASUMI MITSUI, the last living Nikkei veteran of World War One who passed away in Hamilton on April 22, 1987 at the age of 99. Mistui was born in 1887 and immigrated to Canada in 1908. He took part in the battle for Vimy Ridge and five months later led 35 men into battle at nearby Hill 70, where he was one of only five survivors. The memorial piece begins with a quote from Mitsui himself: The French Army tried but they couldn’t do it. Next, the English, they could not get over. Then the Canadians went in. We took Vimy Ridge. (War Heroes Dishonoured, McLeans Magazine, May 20, 1985)
IN A SPECIAL JUNE ISSUE there is a feature on the NAJC Conference in Vancouver in which the NAJC announces the decision to reject the latest government offer: In a letter to the NAJC, dated March 27, Minister of Multiculturalism David Crombie offered to resolve the redress issue by an official Acknowledgment of the injustices suffered by Japanese Canadians during and after WW II, a review of the War Measures Act to insure that such injustices would never happen again, and a $12 million Community Foundation, under the banner of the NAJC.
After two days of deliberations, the NAJC Council, made up of 14 nation-wide centres, decided to reject the government offer. Reading from the letter of response to Mr. Crombie, NAJC Chairman Art Miki said the organization was “shocked” by the offer of $12 million for the loss of property and the deprivation of the civil rights of some 22,000 Japanese Canadians over a seven year period. The letter went on to point out that the amount, which works out to about $50 per affected individual in 1945 dollars, “. . . belittles the significance of the issue.”
The letter also reiterated the NAJC’s firm commitment to its own redress proposal which, amongst other issues, calls for $25,000 in compensation for each surviving victim of the wartime uprooting and a $50million fund to rebuild the Japanese Canadian community. Emphasis was placed on the fact that this proposal was based on extensive consultation with concerned individuals and organizations, a national poll of Japanese Canadians, and the Price Waterhouse study which set the economic losses, excluding violation of human rights, at $442 million.
The letter ended with a request to Mr. Crombie for assistance in arranging a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and for the continuation of negotiations.
The conference also featured a workshop on coping with aging in a community dispersed, an area of increasing concern within the Nikkei community. The report shares the findings of Dr. Victor Ujimoto, Professor of Sociology at Guelph University of his nation-wide research project on the aged in Asian Canadian communities: His findings in the Nikkei community supported the national trend in the aged population – by the year 2000 a 55% Increase in those 65 and over and a 75% increase in those 75 to 84 years old. However, because of the wartime dispersal, Japanese Canadian elderly have added difficulties. For example, his research showed that, in comparison to other groups, nikkei seniors have an extremely low number of hours spent with visiting relatives and that the Japanese Canadians are especially deprived of the latest information on voluntary or free services. The Issei, he said, are still plagued with problems of language and culture. Those from Kyushu with its tradition of Samurai stoicism, find it especially difficult to express their innermost feelings in regard to pain and this problem is compounded if the Issei husband has to translate for his wife—very little of the discomfort will be communicated to the doctor or nurse. Dr. Ujimoto also mentioned the difficulty in obtaining research and support grants since the population of Nikkei elderly is statistically insignificant. The current redress campaign, he said, may serve to bring focus and remedy for the special needs of elderly Issei and Nisei.
The same issue contains a report by Tamio Wakayama chronicling the Bus Tour of the Interior that took place May 19-22. It is a poignant piece of writing, accompanied by photographs, that documents the emotion-filled journey. Writes Wakayama, The journey began, as it did 45 years ago, in the heart of Vancouver’s Nikkei community. It was known as Little Tokyo then and, less than a year after Pearl Harbour, that vibrant pre-war community, along with all the other Nikkei settlements up and down the BC coast, had vanished as nearly 22,000 Japanese Canadians were stripped of their possessions and sent off to either road camps, sugar beet farms in the Prairies and Ontario, or to hastily built internment camps in the interior of BC.
In the early morning of May 19, eighty-nine of us gathered at the old Japanese Language School to embark on a four-day bus tour that would retrace the wartime exodus that we or our families had undergone. We had come from all parts of the country, from as far away as Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to remember and be re-united with our past. For some it was a time to rekindle friendships that had been severed by the uprooting and the tear-filled hugs and handshakes in the bright, spring sun would be repeated throughout the towns and villages of the Interior.
The article goes on to chronicle the four-day journey, including many reminiscences from the participants.
THE SEPTEMBER 1987 ISSUE CONTAINS a piece by JCCA President Dan Tokawa on the debate surrounding a proposed plaque at the PNE commemorating the Japanese Canadian incarceration at Hastings Park in 1942. The wording on the plaque, a federal initiative of the Canadian Historic Sites and Monument Board, is being debated by the NAJC, who want stronger wording, and the PNE Board, who feel the wording is too strong, objecting, among other things, to the use of the word “discrimination”.
The issue also carries a feature on a show that was held at Robson Square Media Centre Gallery called Twelve Nikkei Artists, featuring the work of Masato Arikushi, Taiga Chiba, Mas Funo, Hosea Hirata, Sadashi Inuzuka. Fumiko Kiyooka, Kiyo Kiyooka,Grace Murao, Linda Ohama, Setusko Piroche, Takao Tanabe and Ruby Truly.
THE OCTOBER ISSUE CONTAINS NEWS that The US House of Representatives has passed a bill offering Redress to Japanese Americans: On the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives, passed a bill offering $1.25 billion in compensation and an apology for the internment of some 120,000 Japanese Americans during WW II. The bill describes the wartime uprooting as a “grave injustice”, caused by “racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”
The legislation authorizes a payment of $20,000 to each-of the 60,000 survivors and an additional $50 million for educational programs on the internment which Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat described as “Perhaps the most-egregious violation of our Constitution in the 20th Century . . . “. The Speaker later added, “I can think of no finer way to celebrate the signing of the Constitution than to rectify this wrong.”
Following a lengthy and emotional debate, the House voted 243 to 141 in favor of Bill 442: The Civil Liberties Act of 1987, named in honour of the 442nd Army Regimental Combat Team of Japanese Americans which fought in Europe and was the most highly decorated unit in American military history.
The Bill was forwarded by two congressmen, California Democrats Norman Mineta and Robert Matsui, who were themselves interned as children. They and other supporters of the Bill say the financial settlement is only token, symbolic restitution but the amount does show a serious commitment by the Government to insure such injustices are never again repeated.
Speaking on behalf of the Bill, Rep. Mineta said: “We lost our homes. We lost our businesses. We lost our farms. But worst of all, we lost our most basic human rights. Our own government has branded us with the unwarranted stigma of disloyalty, which clings to us still.”
THE DECEMBER 1987 ISSUE of The Bulletin carries the Westcoast Edition of the inaugural Nikkei Voice, a new national magazine serving the Nikkei community. Subtitled A National Forum for Japanese Canadians, the Nikkei Voice portion contains news of the formation of a National Coalition for Japanese Canadian Redress, a citizens’ group of Canadians who support the NAJC-driven Redress movement. The group includes prominent figures including Margaret Atwood, June Callwood and Thomas Berger. A commentary on the US Redress bill notes that the US action reaffirms the NAJC stance on a negotiated settlement and individual compensation.
A small item notes the appointment of Beverley Oda as commissioner for the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Oda is the first member of a visible minority to be serve in this position (editor’s note: Oda is currently a member of the minority Conservative government in Ottawa).
A piece reprinted from the Globe and Mail looks at the controversy regarding the erection of a plaque at the PNE: Because the proposed memorial suggests that the mass arrests, property confiscation and lengthy internment were discriminatory and unjust, the fair directors told the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada that it could not be mounted on PNE grounds.
“It was a tragic time . . . there was real panic and fear,” Donald Bellamy, a PNE board director and city alderman said. “But as far as using those words, racism and discrimination and so forth – it’s not true . . . The whole world was crazy then.”
For the Japanese Canadians who still seek an apology and redress from the Federal Government for the violation of their civil rights, the plaque row has been insulting and unsettling.
In October, Vancouver City Council defused the issue by agreeing to erect the memorial on its own land near the fair. But the incident has convinced many city leaders that anti-Asian racism remains strong in Canada’s gateway to the Pacific Rim.
THE JANUARY 1988 BULLETIN LEADS OFF with two stories by Editor Tamio Wakayama—one hot and one cold. The cold one recounts a New Year’s Day dip in English Bay with seven others in their own private polar bear swim, Nikkei-style (i.e. involving the drinking of hot sake immediately after the swim). The other story involves a “hot” computer. The days after the polar swim, Bulletin staff are devastated to learn of a break-in at the Vancouver Japanese Language School, where the Bulletin office is located. Among the missing items is a state of the art Japanese-language Fujitsu computer that had been donated to The Bulletin a year earlier. What follows is a humorous story involving undercover operations, Powell Street style (See reprint on page 31).
The issue also carries part one of a four-part piece by Michiko (Midge) Ayukawa, Nikkei Pioneer Women. The series is an eloquent testimony to the huge role that Nikkei women played in the development of a Canadian Nikkei community.
Writes Akukawa: This has been a labour of love, an attempt to record some of the experiences of a generation of Japanese pioneer women in Canada in the first few decades of his century. Dreaming of trees laden with leaves of gold, most came with high expectations to this country as picture brides to join their “stranger” husbands. Many were greatly disappointed but stayed on and set up good stable homes for their husbands and their children, the Nisei. Their lives, harsh beyond our imagination, cry out to be recorded. Most of the published studies of the earliest Japanese-Canadians have been about the male population; about racism these men encountered as fishermen, labourers, labour movement leaders and business men. The-women’s stories have yet to be told. It was with the arrival of the women and the subsequent birth of the second generation that the Japanese Canadian community was formed.
The determination of the women and their demands for stability and homes for offspring developed the farms of the Fraser Valley, the businesses on Powell Street, and the drycleaning and alteration shops in the Vancouver area. Had the women not come to Canada it is possible that—with a few exceptions—the single men might all have returned to Japan. In the lives of these Japanese women pioneers is an important chapter of the history of Canadians of Japanese ancestry. I have endeavoured to present a portrait of their lives.
THE FEBRUARY 1988 ISSUE carries a review of Roy Kiyooka’s Pear Tree Pomes.
dear pear tree
it’s taken me 56 winters to cry real tears . . . .
how long do you think it’ll take me to learn
to die, clear-eyed?
From Pear Tree Pomes
By Roy Kiyooka
Illustrated by David Bolduc
Coach House Press, 1987
THE MAY BULLETIN CHRONICLES a mass rally and forum in Ottawa, with 500 Japanese Canadians from across Canada gathering to urging the government to settle the Redress issue.
It is also reported that the Japanese Canadian Health Care Society has been granted charitable status, allowing the society to begin fundraising in earnest to build a health care facility for Nikkei seniors.
THE APRIL 1988 BULLETIN marks the 30th Anniversary of its publication and contains an interview with founding editor Mickey Tanaka (nee Nakashima) and art editor Setsuko Takemoto.
THE JULY ISSUE CONTAINS THE following: Michiko (Midge) Ayukawa (nee Ishii) of Sooke, BC, who recently received an Honours B.A. in History from the University of Victoria, has been awarded the Alvin G. Poettcker Fellowship for 1988-89. The award of $10,000 per year will be made initially for one year, and is renewable for a second year in the Faculty of Graduate Studies towards a Master’s Degree, and for third year in the case of a Ph.D. program.
A trip to Japan in November, during which Midge was appalled her lack of knowledge of the country from which her parents had come precipitated her studies Japanese History. An early paper entitled, “Two Japanese Village Families: Personal Reflections the Immigrant Experience in Canada,” was printed in the spring of 1986 in “The Ascendant Historian,” a publication of the University of Victoria. Her third year honours paper on “Japanese Pioneer Women in Canada” has appeared in four instalments in the Greater Vancouver JCCA Bulletin. The enthusiasm with which Midge has tackled the arduous research involved in hunting for bits of information, largely available only in the Japanese language, and authenticating what is there with other archival documents, has been impressive as it has involved her in learning to read Japanese with some fluency to begin the task.
IN THE AUGUST 1988 BULLETIN, IT IS announced that the House of Commons has unanimously passed legislation to replace the War Measures Act, the act that was used to intern Japanese Canadians following the bombing of Pearl Harbor: “This is a very momentous day for Canada,” Defence Minister Perrin Beatty told the Commons, saying that never again will the country have a situation where Canadian citizens were interned on the basis of their racial ancestry as happened during the Second World War.
“Never again . . . will there be the ability to use the War Measures Act to knock on the door in the dark of the night, to sweep up our citizens, to hold them without charge and without the right of habeas corpus.”
THE SEPTEMBER 1988 BULLETIN HAS A SMALL REDRESS SECTION, but it includes an important piece of news as outlined in an article by Roy Miki: “Redress Settlement for Japanese Americans”: On Friday, August 5th, President Ronald Reagan endorsed the Civil Liberties Act of 1987, a Redress bill that brings to a successful conclusion the justice struggle by Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. It’s been a long and intense and at times almost a despairing campaign by the Japanese American Citizens’ League (the JACL). but the political lobbying finally bore fruit after more than a decade of hard work and determination. The Civil Liberties Act calls for an official Acknowledgement of the injustices, an education fund of $50 million, and compensation of $20.000 to each of the estimated 60,000 survivors whose civil rights were violated during World War II.
The victory by Japanese Americans is a major victory for human rights. For Japanese Canadians still engaged in our struggle for justice, the American settlement is a precedent that the Canadian government will find difficult, if not impossible, to ignore. Now the responsibility rests with our government to follow the example set by the United States.
A lot of Canadians are still not aware that Japanese Canadians were more severely mistreated than Japanese Americans. In Canada, properties were confiscated and sold without consent to force Japanese Canadians to pay for their own internment. This didn’t happen in the United States where the American government paid for the internment. Japanese Americans were allowed to return to the West Coast by January 1945. Here we had to undergo dispersal and deportation policies that prevented us from returning to the coast until April 1, 1949—which is to say, the abuse of our rights lasted four years longer.
On August 5th, I was in the B.C. interior, in Kaslo, when the news of President Reagan’s endorsement was announced. What a relief that was! What a reason to celebrate!
The same issue contains a notice of upcoming Redress elections; an ad for a Redress coordinator; a piece on Kaslo, where the Langham Cultural Centre has erected a plaque recognizing those who were interned in the BC interior; and a short update on negotiations with the Government through new Minister of Multiculturalism Gerry Weiner. The article urges Japanese Canadians to continue pressuring the government to negotiate a just settlement. It points to the American settlement and the upcoming Canadian federal election as positive signs for the Canadian Redress movement.
With the headline, Dream of Justice Achieved, the cover of the October 1988 Bulletin says it all. Seemingly out of blue, a settlement has been achieved.