JCCA President’s Message
In a place that is better known for the annual Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) every summer, over 200 people showed up at the end of April for the unveiling of four Hastings Park 1942 signs. Over 70 years ago, over 40 times that number were imprisoned there in deplorable conditions and not knowing their fate. Hastings Park was the detention centre for over 8,000 Japanese Canadians, most from outside of Vancouver, and they stayed there until they were eventually shipped out with the rest of the 22,000 Japanese Canadians to internment camps in the interior of BC and work camps across Canada.
The four signs are now a permanent fixture in the park sharing images and quotes that reflect the stories of some of the Canadians of Japanese ancestry who lived there. Some of the images may be familiar, rows of beds with no privacy, sheets and blankets hanging as makeshift curtains between the animal stalls.
When I have talked to anyone who had to live there, they comment about the lack of privacy and the horrible food that made them ill. The government served over 1.5 million meals at a (raw food) cost of nine cents per meal. My mother’s experience as a young girl may be the reason why she refuses to eat cereal today.
“They gave us cold porridge. It was hard and lumpy… My mom used to go to a small store nearby. She used to buy us an orange and a doughnut… for breakfast.” – Mae (née Doi) Oikawa.
“The food served in tin plates and bowls was terrible and due to unsanitary conditions everyone in the park suffered with severe cases of diarrhea…” – Tom Tagami
People also talk about the smell, the stench of manure and urine. You couldn’t escape the smell and it was hardest for the women who with their young children had to stay in the Livestock Building. Families were separated. Men and older boys stayed in the Forum, and boys aged 13-18 stayed in Rollerland.
“It occurred to me as a child that there was a fence and I wasn’t allowed to go past it. It was a moment of sadness. I envied those people being able to play golf and what they had… which was freedom.” – Kaz Takahashi.
Whether you are familiar with the stories or you are hearing them for the first time, please take the opportunity to visit the signs in Hastings Park. They are bright green and you can’t miss them, near the Forum, Rollerland, and two (one freestanding and one on the building) at the Livestock Building.
This signage project was the result of a collaboration by Japanese Canadian community groups including the GVJCCA, the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, Tonari Gumi, Powell Street Festival, and the Vancouver Japanese Language School, with the support of funders and individuals. We are looking forward to sharing more information with the forthcoming launch of the website www.hastingspark1942.ca and we have ideas for another phase of this project which we will start to explore.
May was Asian Heritage Month, and it was another opportunity to share the history and celebrate the achievements of Asian Canadians. In the past month, GVJCCA was on Global TV, CBC TV and Radio, and Vancouver Co-op Radio to share information about the Hastings Park 1942 signs. GVJCCA took part in an Asian Heritage Month event in New Westminster which included a panel discussion with members of East and South Asian Canadian communities, screening of short films about the contributions of Asian Canadian workers, and some sampling of various Asian cuisine. During the panel discussion we shared examples of the importance of our individual work on the sharing of our stories, our fight for human rights, and how we can work together and support each other to combat racism.
We didn’t discuss our messages beforehand, and yet our messages connected to a commonality on how harmful legislation can affect all of our communities. We spoke about the solidarity needed to speak out about the threat of Bill C51. It is called an anti-terrorism bill, but it is an unnecessary bill that will allow the widespread targeting and unjust detention of people. I shared how it parallels the experience of Canadians of Japanese ancestry who were targeted by fear mongering and imprisoned by their own government using the War Measures Act during the Second World War. Bill C51 is a scary déjà vu for Japanese Canadians.
Bill C51 has gone through three readings in Parliament, and is in the final stage of being reviewed by the Senate as this edition of The Bulletin Geppo is being produced. This is an opportunity for Senators to show they can provide sober second thought by voting against this bill. This is also the opportunity for citizens to speak up and let the Senators and the elected people know that it is not acceptable to dismantle our country’s rights and freedoms.
Summer is approaching fast, and our thoughts are turning to our major fundraising efforts so that we can continue with the work of preserving and sharing our Japanese Canadian history, and protecting our rights and freedoms. I hope to see you on June 14th for the 3rd Annual Tonari Gumi and Greater Vancouver JCCA Golf Tournament. If you haven’t signed up, there may be a few spots left open, please call Tonari Gumi at 604.687.2172. You will be supporting seniors and the “Making It a Home Fund” and get a chance at some exclusive prizes. Major prizes include $5,000 for a Hole-in-One, and all golfers will be entered to win a trip for two to the Masters in Augusta. And then on August 1st and 2nd enjoy delicious food, and support The Bulletin Geppo and GVJCCA at our Wild Salmon Barbeque and Musubi (Spam Sushi) food booth at the annual Powell Street Festival. Also, please drop by our community booth. More information will be coming out in the next edition of The Bulletin Geppo. If you can’t wait and/or want to find out about volunteer opportunities please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604.777.5222