The Importance of the GVJCCA to the NAJC
by Ken Noma
President, National Association of Japanese Canadians
Vancouver subscribers of The Bulletin will have already have heard through the grapevine that Gary Matson, President of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens Association, has decided not to seek another term. I wish to thank Gary for having managed the affairs of the chapter while juggling a challenging job as a lawyer; meeting his familial obligations and dealing with critics – all with an engaging sense of humour and humility. Our community has its share of ‘arm-chair quarterbacks’ who are quick to dispense unsolicited criticisms from the comforts of their abode to the volunteers who do the work in the trenches. The great neo-Confucian, Wang Yang-Ming (1472-1529), correctly wrote that it was through simultaneous action that one gained knowledge. Gary and a small core of volunteers in the GVJCCA have done an exemplary job on behalf of Nikkei in Vancouver and at the same time helping to fulfill the mandate of our national organization. I also wish to acknowledge Judy Hanazawa, outgoing Chair of the GVJCCA Human Rights Committee, who has led this important committee for many years. Judy’s dedication to human rights issues is without question and her support of the NAJC has been unwavering. I am relieved to hear that both Gary and Judy have decided to continue to serve on the GVJCCA Board.
The Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens Association and the Human Rights Committee, has often been in the vanguard of speaking on behalf of Canadian minority groups. The GVJCCA has worked to insure that our history was accurately recorded and past injustices acknowledged and resolved. The Council of Vancouver’s apology last September is a fine example of their work. In the province that interned the majority of our people, the role of being our conscience has fallen onto the shoulders of our largest member organization. The monthly publication, The Bulletin, is the gem on their crown.
The central pillar of the NAJC is human rights and it is important that we remind ourselves regularly in order to resist attempts to divert or dilute us from this mission. In an effort to muzzle charitable organizations, the Conservative Government is now looking at environmental groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation to prevent them from speaking out against the Government’s poor record on environmental protection and the Government’s support of the pipeline project. Will Japanese Canadian cultural organizations be next on the Government ‘muzzle list’? Finance Minister Jim Flaherty – without providing any evidence – has stated that some charitable organizations are a front for terrorists. As a political organization, the NAJC cannot issue tax receipts and at the moment is immune from such bullying tactics by this Government.
Most people are not comfortable even with the terms anti-racism and discrimination as they see it as confrontational and not ‘nice.’ The approach involves having to face bigots and systemic institutional discrimination. Many opt to go the route of ‘song, dance and food’ multiculturalism that I believe only reinforces and perpetuates ethnic, racial stereotypes and fails to engage many of our youth. Surely after five generations in this country, we can move towards a more inclusive Canada.
If you sincerely believe that racism and discrimination has been eradicated and there is equity in Canada, then the NAJC and other anti-racist organizations do not need to exist. I invite you to view this link that was referred to me by Mary Kitagawa and draw your conclusions. <schemamag.ca/2014/02/11/the-winnipeg-art-gallery-and-the-yellowface-peril> Due to pressure from the local community, this event was cancelled.
Until we arrive at a state where diversity is respected, it is critical to the well being of the NAJC that the Greater Vancouver JCCA and its Human Rights Committee continue to function as an autonomous and independent organization providing leadership and a strong voice for human rights in British Columbia.
GVJCCA is an important partner of the NAJC as it moves forward by expanding its programs in the areas of social service and the engagement of our young leaders. Since 2010, when I assumed the Presidency, the NAJC has grown to include three new member organizations and our sustaining fund has grown appreciably. It bears repeating that we are the only national Nikkei organization uniting over 15 communities across this beloved country.