Reconciliation Appreciation Event
by Lorene Oikawa
Member, GVJCCA Human Rights Committee
Members of the JCCA Human Rights Committee were honoured to participate in Reconciliation Week and then the appreciation event that took place on October 29, 2013, in Vancouver, traditional Coast Salish territory.
A crowd started to gather at the registration table for the appreciation event and as each person signed in they received an envelope. Inside the envelope was a striking red card with a black and white design, and the words “”Namwayut” and “We are all one.” As people opened their cards, they saw a small brightly coloured tile inside.
“The tile you receive today has been decorated by children from across B.C. as they learned about our vision of creating a future in which all children – regardless of race or religion – achieve their highest potential. By receiving this gift today, you are participating in the Aboriginal tradition of witnessing – accepting responsibility to carry forward the message of Reconciliation into your lives, families and communities.”
Drumming and singing brought the crowd in from the foyer into the large hall for the start of the event.
The appreciation event was hosted by Dr. Robert Joseph, Karen Joseph and Reconciliation Canada to thank the individuals and organizations who participated in not only the Reconciliation Week events, but also the Reconciliation Dialogue Workshops and Community Outreach which took place throughout BC in the lead up to the historic week.
Japanese Canadian elder Grace Eiko Thomson was one of the facilitators for a Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop which brought the Japanese Canadian community together with the Aboriginal community as well as some allies.
Mary Kitagawa was one of the members of the JCCA Human Rights Committee who attended the workshop. She says, “After taking part in the Reconciliation event at the Buddhist Church at which Chief Bobby Joseph was present, we felt a strong relationship with the First Nations people. My family’s relationship with the people of the Blackfeet Nation just outside of Cardston, Alberta gave us an understanding of the injustices they suffered.”
Reconciliation Week events included a sacred fire ceremony, a historic All Nations Canoe Gathering including 60 traditional First Nations canoes in False Creek, and the final event, the Walk for Reconciliation. A massive crowd of tens of thousands of people witnessed the ceremony, heard Dr.Bernice King speak, and walked in support of Aboriginal peoples.
Members of the JCCA Human Rights Committee participated in the walk along with other members of the Japanese Canadian community. Lily Shinde, a Human Rights Committee member, attended the walk and recalls one of her Aboriginal friends who said, “the sky is crying today for the survivors, but it is a healing rain.”
Tosh and Mary Kitagawa committed to staffing a JCCA Human Rights table for the walkers to learn about the injustice of the incarceration of Canadians of Japanese ancestry when they were deemed enemy aliens in World War II. Despite the pouring rain, Kitagawa says, “It was important for Tosh and me to rush home from Toronto the night before to take part in the Education tent on the assembly ground.”
At the appreciation event, a slide show of images from the walk brought smiles to the faces in the audience. “Look there’s auntie.” People commented as they recognized their friends and relatives. The slide of Dr. Bernice King elicited many comments about her inspiring speech and memories of her father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Karen Joseph shared many stories of those from the community who helped and the organizing required to make the events happen during Reconciliation week.
JCCA Human Rights Committee member Harue Kanemitsu says she “is grateful for the enormous efforts that had gone into bringing the Aboriginal issues to the forefront this past year . . . Reconciliation Canada has shown us that community action is effective.”
Former JCCA president and current Human Rights Committee member Ron Nishimura reflected on the appreciation event and says, “Reconciliation week was a truly a wonderful event full of an inspiration for continued future relationship building within all ethnic boundaries for all who have suffered wrongs committed against them whether it be abuses, racism, bullying or any injustice committed upon us by people of higher authority.”
Chief Robert Joseph addressed the crowd and gave heartfelt thanks for everyone who took part in helping “realize a dream.” He said there was an incredible momentum and this is not the end, it will continue.
As people slowly left the hall, many lingered for a conversation and the foyer was soon filled with laughter and chatter and the healing spirit of Reconciliation.