Letters to the Editor
I have been invited to attend the September conference in Vancouver called, HONOURING OUR PEOPLE: Stories of the Internment. After reading the brochure, I now clearly understand that the Greater Vancouver JCCA Human Rights Committee is focused on the surviving niseis who went through the evacuation. They are not expecting a presentation by researchers. That is fine by me. We, Mika and Yusuke are looking forward to hearing unheard voices.
However, it might be a good idea for all of the participants to hear what happened in January and February 1942 when the War Measures Act was invoked. My Issei interviewees and contributors (30 to 40 People) are mostly deceased. I wonder who will tell their unheard stories to the younger generation at the Honouring Our Past event?
One of the problem of listening to the stories of surviving relatively younger Niseis is that many of them tend to think that they were contented and life in the ghost towns were enjoyable. In other words, they were young enough to be well looked after by their older siblings and carefully protected by their parents.
I am translating a book titled, Teaching in Canadian Exile, written by the ghost town teachers’ committee. In reading this book, I was moved by the tremendous effort those older Niseis and parents made for the younger Niseis during the time of the ordeal.
On the other hand, whenever I hear comments from 70ish Niseis who say that their memories of the ghost towns were positive or that the evacuation released us from the ghetto and pushed us into the mainstream society, I feel troubled. When I hear that it was a blessing in disguise, I feel like telling them to think of their parents’ struggles in trying to hide the misery of their lives from them. Although I am an Ijusha who did not experience the evacuation, I know how difficult it is for the Isseis to settle and raise children in a foreign country.
I am willing to be a facilitator or a panelist and will help in any way.
Managing Editor, Nikkei Voice
Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor
and Empress of Japan
c/o Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver
800-1177 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC, V6E 2K9
July 9, 2009
Your Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan,
We are writing to you as some representatives of groups of Canadians that make up the rich diversity of this country: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and European. We hope you enjoyed your visit to Eastern Canada, and we would like to extend you our warm welcome to Vancouver, Canada’s gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.
With so many immigrants from all parts of Asia, we believe that Canada is an ideal place from which to promote peace and understanding among the Asia-Pacific nations. For example, Japanese-Canadians, along with people from other cultural heritages, have been working to raise awareness of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Here in Vancouver, one of the first Article 9 groups outside of Japan raised funds to send Canadian delegates to the world’s first Global Article 9 Conference held in Chiba, Japan.
As Canadians with Asian connections, we also work together to heal the wounds of Japanese aggressions in the Asia-Pacific region before and during the Second World War, and to learn from the history of devastating wars to create a peaceful future together. For example, every year a group of Canadian educators travels to China and Korea to learn about the history of the Asia Pacific War (1931-1945), including the Nanjing Massacre and Japan’s military sex slavery system. A group of Canadian students also travels to Japan every summer to learn about the history of atomic-bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and these educators and students share their learning with the wider community when they return. Our aim is never to foster bitterness toward a specific country or group of people; instead, our goal is to create an environment for open-minded learning that transcends national borders and cultural differences.
While our educational activities have been well-received among communities in Canada, Asia and beyond, we have witnessed many non-reconciliatory responses from Japan to the global community’s efforts to help bring healing and justice to the war crime victims of this tragic chapter of history. The Japanese Parliament has yet to pass a resolution that fully admits and apologizes for Japan’s responsibility for the loss and suffering of the victims of the Asia-Pacific War, or to pass laws that stipulate compensation to those victims.
Canada is among the nations that are concerned with these issues. On November 28, 2007 the Canadian House of Commons unanimously passed a motion urging the Japanese government to take full responsibility for the involvement of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the system of forced “comfort women”, to offer a formal and sincere apology to these women, and to continue to address those who are affected in the spirit of reconciliation. Although Canada as a nation has not been perfect in addressing its own past wrongdoings, one of Canada’s achievements in this regard has been the compensation of Canadians of Japanese ancestry who were interned during the Asia-Pacific War. We would also like to see such redress offered Japanese government to the Canadian POWs captured in the Battle of Hong Kong and to the victims of China, Korea, the Philippines, and all the other countries and regions where Japan’s military committed war crimes. We would also like to see Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution remain as it is, as we and many people in Asia see Article 9 as Japan’s pledge to the world never again to engage in wars of aggression.
Your Imperial Majesties, we are aware and appreciative of how much you have demonstrated a commitment to peace and history issues. For example, your paying tribute to the Korean victims’ monument when you visited Saipan in 2005 was considered a gesture of reconciliation. When you visited China in 1992, you also expressed regret for the suffering that Japan brought to China during the Asia-Pacific War. Your words were a positive step toward healing a historical wound. Your 1993 visit to the Okinawa sites where tens of thousands of civilians died in the war was also appreciated by many people throughout Japan and beyond. We would like to appeal for your continued efforts to help bring healing and justice to the victims of atrocities committed by Japan before and during the Asia-Pacific War, and for your for support of the endeavours to keep Article 9 intact in the spirit of peace.
Thank you for your attention to our letter, and again, we would like to sincerely welcome you to Canada’s West Coast. We hope you will enjoy the beautiful sunshine, ocean and mountains of our land, and the rich and dynamic communities of our multicultural society.
(Signed by the following organizations)
Co-chair, Canada ALPHA (Association for Learning & Preserving the History of WWII in Asia)
Member, Human Rights Committee of Japanese
Canadian Citizens Association
Fernando P. Salanga
President, Philippine War Veterans
& Ex-servicemen Society of BC
Founding Director, Peace Philosophy Centre
President, Women’s International League
for Peace & Freedom, Vancouver
Chair, Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights
Director, Korean Drama Club Hanuree