On February 18, 2014 I attended the Opening Night Reception for Images of Internment: Oil Paintings by Dr. Henry Shimizu. The reception was held at the Consulate General of Japan. It was an informative and delightful evening. In 1999, Dr. Shimizu created a series of oil paintings based on his life as a youth in the New Denver Japanese Internment Camp from 1942 to 1946. The paintings depict the activities and lifestyle of the internees in the camp.
In the August 2012 edition of the Bulletin, John Greenaway wrote an article on the awarding of an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Dr. Shimizu by the University of Victoria. The award was bestowed on him at the spring convocation ceremony on June 14, 2012. In honoring him, the University of Victoria began its tribute to Dr. Shimizu with the following words: “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.”
At the reception on February 18th, Dr. Shimizu repeated some of the points he made in the address he gave at the University of Victoria. He recounted the experience of Japanese Canadians during World War II with the loss of their property, livelihoods and human rights and the subsequent fight for justice which culminated with the Redress settlement of 1988. He also touched on the bittersweet nature of the New Denver years. He spoke nostalgically of life in the camp which fostered close human relationships. These relationships would bring joy to daily communal activities. Dr. Shimizu’s detailed accounts of life in the camp were wonderful to listen to. He provided marvelous anecdotes such as those about obon ceremonies held in the camp, and the role of sports, especially baseball, in bringing the community together.
In thanking Dr. Shimizu, Consul General Okada spoke of his own interest in the history of Japanese Canadians. With this year’s celebration of 125 years since the establishment of a Japanese Consulate in Vancouver, Consul General Okada is making praiseworthy efforts to reach out to the past, present and future of Japan’s relationship with Japanese Canadians. He has taken the initiative to retrieve the records of Japanese Consulate reports to headquarters in Japan for the past 125 years. By doing so, he expects to gain a better understanding of how his predecessors viewed Canada and to be better informed on positions taken by them during their time here. We are very fortunate to have Consul General Okada in Vancouver with us during this special commemorative year.
My own year of service (actually almost two years of service) as president of the GVJCCA will come to a close on March 15, 2014 at our Annual General Meeting. I am stepping down as president at the AGM but will continue as a director of the GVJCCA. I am positive about the future of the GVJCCA. I feel that reinvigoration is taking place. Our anticipated new Board will be the biggest it has been since I first became a Board member. It will be made up of good people with diverse viewpoints. I think diversity should be encouraged. At the same time, I urge that the voices of diversity act in concert with others with the aim of achieving positive results for the overall community. Let’s all work together for the betterment of the Nikkei community and for our society as a whole.
Gary Matson, President, GVJCCA