Limelight: Dr. Henry Shimizu
On June 14, 2012, during spring convocation ceremonies, the University of Victoria bestowed upon Dr. Henry Shimizu the honorary degree Honorary Doctor of Laws.
Dr. Shimizu was among five recipients of honorary degrees selected from nominations to the university senate, chosen for their extraordinary achievements and their ability to inspire graduates.
“Dr. Henry Shimizu was among the first Japanese Canadian medical doctors, enjoying a distinguished career as a clinical professor and plastic surgeon. In retirement he has provided outstanding voluntary service to a number of organizations, including the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation, which he chaired from 1989 to 2001. A gifted artist, Dr. Shimizu’s work has been shown across Canada.
“Born in Prince Rupert, he and his family were interned 70 years ago in New Denver. After their release, the family moved to Edmonton where Dr. Shimizu earned his medical degree at the University of Alberta. In 1978, he was part of the first team in North America to perform a successful limb re-plantation. Dr. Shimizu lives in Victoria and is the author and illustrator of Images of Internment: A Bitter-Sweet Memoir in Words and Images.”
In his address to the graduands, Dr, Shimizu recounted the experience of Japanese Canadians during World War II, the loss of their property, livelihoods and human rights and the subsequent fight for justice, which was achieved with the Redress settlement of 1988.
In his address, he stressed the importance of education to the young people in the camps, despite the actions of the government: “This government action was taken against the advice of the military and the RCMP of that time. Thus, my family and I spent four years in the internment camp in New Denver which is in West Kootenay, BC. Within a year after internment all of our properties and businesses were being sold at “fire-sale” prices to insure that we did not return to the West Coast. The one bright spot was my education. The government provided elementary schools, but refused to provide secondary schooling. This lack was soon filled by religious groups. In New Denver, the Sisters of Notre Dame des Anges established a high school. They taught a basic but full curriculum, heavy in the humanities. I owe these sister/teachers a debt of gratitude for the thorough scholarship I received. I believe that their efforts played a major role in my being accepted into Medicine at the University of Alberta, four years after leaving the internment camp in 1946.