National Association of Japanese Canadians

The National Association of Japanese Canadians is a non-profit incorporated community organization in Canada that represents the Japanese Canadian community. Formed in 1947, the NAJC focuses on human rights and community development.

The NAJC successfully negotiated the historic Redress Settlement on behalf of all Japanese Canadians who suffered injustices at the hands of their own government during and after World War II when they were dispossessed, forcibly relocated and interned. On September 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and NAJC President Art Miki signed the redress agreement acknowledging the wrongs committed against Japanese Canadians.

New Denver: Our Spiritual Furusato

New Denver needs our immediate support!

The Kyowakai Society of New Denver originally conceived and managed the former internment camp site that was officially opened in 1994. Due to the aging membership of the Kyowakai Society and declining volunteer pool, the Village of New Denver took over the management of the site; they being the legal owners of the site. This year marks the 20th anniversary and plans are underway for celebrations to take place on Saturday, August 9th in New Denver.

In my President’s Message of June 2011, I wrote the following comments about the New Denver Internment Memorial Centre (NIMC):

“…..two busloads of Nikkei (a large number being Nisei), took part in the May 1987 first internment camp tour organized by Reverend David Murata. The miles that we travelled allowed the Nisei to step forward and tell their stories over the bus PA system. I recall remarking to my seatmate—a Nisei lady—that coming from Ontario devoid of majestic mountains, of the majesty of the Rockies and the dark beauty of the surrounding forests. She said that the beauty of the landscape only amplified the ugliness of what happened to our community. Many of the camps have disappeared but the most memorable was the former camp in New Denver.

Continue reading New Denver: Our Spiritual Furusato

December Message

On Forgiveness

On the evening of October 5th, I had the personal pleasure of being a speaker on a panel titled The Practice of Forgiveness: Questions and Challenges in Pursuit of Reconciliation and Justice. The other members of the panel were Donald Sanderson – Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law (University of Toronto) who is also a member of the Cree (Opaskwayak) First Nations; Vera Schiff – Holocaust survivor and author; and Samantha Lawler- Forgiveness Project Story Contributor. The moderator was Cat Criger, Traditional Aboriginal Elder for the University of Toronto and a member of the Cayuga (Guyohkohnyoh) of the Six Nations Iroquois. The topic was part of a series of panels on the over-arching topic of forgiveness organized by the Equity office of the University of Toronto. The role of forgiveness in the healing process has not been fully explored in our community.

Continue reading December Message

November message

September was an extremely busy month, so much so that it prevented me from submitting a report for the October issue of The Bulletin. Here is a summary of some of my activities:

NAJC AGM (September 20-21)
31 delegates and alternates from 13 of 14 member organizations attended the weekend annual general meeting held in Toronto. In addition, we hosted the second concurrent Young Leaders conference. Thanks to the Kobayashi clan for their help in organizing the excellent Friday evening hospitality room. Special thanks go to all those who took time away from their busy schedule to attend and their desire to continue to make the NAJC a viable organization. The 2014 AGM will be hosted in the city of Vancouver.

Symposium on Japanese Canadians Redress (September 20)
The Symposium was a joint conference organized by the Sociology Department of Ryerson University; OISE Equity Department of the University of Toronto; NAJC National and Greater Toronto Chapter of the NAJC. The symposium dealt with the topics: How Japanese Canadian redress was achieved and the lessons for today; Political activism today; Human and Civil rights in Canada and what can be done to close the current gap. Thanks to Ren Ito, Dr. Pam Sugiman and Dr. Roland Coloma of the planning committee and to the panelists: Art Miki, Judge Maryka Omatsu, Jen Matsunaga, Gerry Weiner, Dr. Karen Mock, Andrew Cardozo and Dr. Winnie Ng. Appreciation to the Department of Sociology, NAJC Endowment Fund and the Toronto NAJC for their funding support of this symposium.

Continue reading November message

With Aloha

On July 24th, 12 members of the first NAJC Hawai’i Heritage Tour began their tour of the Island of Oahu. One of the main objective was to connect with and to learn about the history and the challenges faced by our Japanese American cousins. It was timely that this year was also the 25th anniversary of the Japanese American and Japanese Canadian Redress Settlements. As I have noted in my previous articles, President Ronald Regan’s signing of the Civil Liberties Act HR 442 on August 10 1988 contributed to the Canadian redress settlement on September 22, 1988.

On our first full day in Paradise, the group visited the Japanese Cultural Centre of Hawai’i jcch.com. Guided by doyen Derrick Iwata (Volunteer Directory/Education Assistant), we were given an in-depth history of the Nikkei pioneers to Hawai’i through their current exhibit: Okage Sama De: I Am What I Am Because Of You. We were made aware that many Nikkei pioneers to Hawai’i came from the same prefectures as those who settled in Canada; in particular the prefectures of Hiroshima and Wakayama. The exhibition was professional, highly informative and enhanced with numerous cultural artifacts. Afterwards, JCCH volunteers Betsy Young and Marilyn Higashide made a Power Point presentation of the Honouliuli Internment Camp that was located just north of Honolulu (see Terry Watada, May 2013 Bulletin) that held about 300 detainees at any one time during the war. At the time of the Pearl Harbour attack, 40% of Hawai’i was of Japanese ancestry, making it impossible for the authorities to detain half of the State’s population. Consequently community leaders, language school officials, commercial fishermen, newspaper editors as well as Buddhist and Shinto priests were interned. Tour members shared personal reflections about Canadian internment experiences with our hosts and the visit that was originally scheduled for one hour became a highly informative three hour visit. Mahalo nui loa to Derrick, Betsy and Marilyn for your time, hospitality and aloha.

Continue reading With Aloha

Charter of Quebec Values

The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) is concerned about the proposed “Charter of Quebec Values” and in particular the measures to prohibit public servants from wearing conspicuous religious symbols.

Ken Noma, President of the NAJC stated that “We support the Quebec Government’s goal to defend equity between men and women and to encourage equity and harmonious relations among all peoples but we do not believe that the proposed ‘Charter of Quebec Values’ is the means to accomplish these goals.”

The NAJC sees this proposed Charter as a violation of human rights, which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom to manifest one’s religion.  We must remain open to the diversity of cultural and religious expression if we are to remain an open and welcoming Canada.

The National Association of Japanese Canadians celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement on September 22nd and with the acceptance of this agreement, our community made a tacit agreement to be vigilant in our commitment to the civil and human rights for all Canadians.

Contact:
Ken Noma, President
National Association of Japanese Canadians
national@najc.ca 204.943.2910

City of Vancouver to Apologize

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by Tosh Kitagawa

On September 24th of this year, the City of Vancouver will introduce a motion to apologize for the racist motion that was passed in Vancouver City Council in 1942 by Alderman Halford Wilson and seconded by Alderman George Price. This motion was intended to remove all Japanese Canadians from the Pacific Coast to central parts of Canada. It was also designed to instill fear in the hearts of the general public that all Japanese Canadians were a threat to the security of BC and removal was desirable and essential. It will be voted on Sept. 25th and we will have three members of our community speak to the motion. Upon passing (we have every reason to believe that it will), Ken Noma, President of NAJC will accept on behalf of the community.

The following excerpts from the original motion illustrate the venom and hatred that Alderman Halford Wilson and Alderman George Price had for the Japanese Canadian people.

……WHEREAS the concentration of approximately 25,000 residents of Japanese racial origin on Canada’s Pacific Coast constitutes a potential reservoir of volunteer aid to our enemy, Japan, in event of raids or an invasion by the armed forces of that nation;

…..And Whereas, citizens of Canada’s Pacific Coast look upon this enemy alien population as a potential menace and feel that in the interest of National security, their removal to central parts of Canada is desirable, where a just and reasonable care for their livelihood be provided by the Federal Government.

The new motion by the City of Vancouver will formally apologize for its complicity, its inaction, and for failing to protect her residents of Japanese ancestry. The motion will be introduced by Mayor Gregor Robertson and seconded by Councilor Kerry Jang Sept. 24th and voted on September 25th. We anticipate this motion will pass as it has the complete support of the mayor and his council.

In the last issue of The Bulletin, I erroneously mentioned that you could reserve a seat in the Vancouver City Council chambers to witness this memorable event. I have been informed that this is not possible and spectators will be seated on a first come basis. Since council chambers can only accommodate around 75 people, it is recommended that you arrive early to be seated. Additional seating will be available in the main reception area where television monitors will be installed for viewing of the proceedings.

We will provide additional information regarding the specific time that the motion will be introduced on Sept. 24th and the voting on the motion on Sept. 25th. Reception at the Japanese Language School will follow at the conclusion of the meeting on September 25th. We will have a short program and provide refreshments. Additional information will be posted as soon as we are apprised of specific times. The Vancouver City Council will inform us about the particulars of the agenda for the meetings in mid-September which leaves us very little time to inform the public. We will post new information on the JCCA and NAJC website as events unfold. Since many of our seniors do not have access to computers and are unfamiliar with the internet, we are asking their children, relatives or friends to keep them informed.

If you require additional information, contact me at: 604.943.3195 or malaka2@telus.net

Lessons of Nishga Girl

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by Ken Noma

On Monday, July 8th at the NAJC Winnipeg office, an agreement was reached between the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Nyce family and the NAJC to return the gillnet boat, Nishga Girl, to the new Canadian Museum of History.

In attendance were Chief Harry and Deanna Nyce; Sigimnak’ Angaye’e Shirley Morven (Chair, Council of Elders, Nisga’a Lisims Government); Mark O’Neill (President and CEO of CMC); Chantal Schryer (VP, Public Relations, CMC); Terumi Kuwada (NAJC past president) and myself. Sim’oogit Sagaw’een Chief Nyce, in the full regalia of a Nisga’a hereditary chief of the Laxsgiik – Eagle Clan, said words of welcome and led the group in a prayer to the ‘Great Spirit’ for guidance.

In the opening remarks, Chief Nyce spoke of the important role played by Nishga Girl in providing a good quality of life to his family and how the boat gave his family the means to pursue educational opportunities. He spoke of the long and respectful relationship between the Nyce and Tasaka families that began with his grandfather, Eli Gosnell and “Judo” Jack Tasaka. It was his grandfather who advised the Nisga’a not to purchase any Japanese Canadian fishing boats seized by the Canadian authorities. Both men fished the mouth of the Skeena River and Eli shared his knowledge of boat building with Judo Tasaka. It was Eli who helped the Tasaka family regain their financial independence after the internment. The Chief also revealed that there was a small, over-gown Japanese graveyard on Nisga’a land which dates back to the cannery days of the Hudson Bay Company in the late 1800’s. Professor Richard Garvin, UBC Okanagan Campus, has taken a picture of the monument found in the Japanese plot of Gingolx Cemetery and has promised to provide me with more information after he consults his field notes.

Continue reading Lessons of Nishga Girl

Nishga Girl to be presented in future Canadian Museum of History

Gatineau, Quebec, July 10, 2013 — Following a meeting with the donors of the Nishga Girl and representatives of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has determined that the Nishga Girl will have a place at the future Canadian Museum of History.

Commissioned in 1967, the Nishga Girl is one of more than 200 fishing vessels built by master Japanese-Canadian boat builder Judo “Jack” Tasaka. A traditional wooden gillnetter, it is over 10 metres long, 3 metres high, approximately 3 metres wide and weighs several tons.

The Nishga Girl was donated to the Museum in 1998 by Nisga’a Chief Harry Nyce and his wife, Deanna, who owned and operated the boat out of Prince Rupert for nearly thirty years. It was substantially restored by the Museum before becoming a key part of the West Coast Communities exhibit in the Canada Hall in 2002.

“In addition to bringing to life the role the salmon industry played in the development of the West Coast, the Nishga Girl also tells the moving story of how two communities helped each other during difficult episodes in our history,” says Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “After Monday’s meeting with the donors and the representatives of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, we have concluded that the story of the Nishga Girl will continue to be told in the new Canadian history hall but in the broader context of the histories of the Nisga’a and the Japanese-Canadian communities.”

Continue reading Nishga Girl to be presented in future Canadian Museum of History

President's Message

  • New Denver: Our Spiritual Furusato
    New Denver: Our Spiritual Furusato

    Growing up in Japan, I was surrounded by traditional children’s songs and nostalgic songs that harkened back to my youth. The song, Aka Tombo (Red Dragonfly) transports me back to the open field where I happily tried to catch them with a huge net made by my maternal grandfather. [...] Read more →

Community Features

  • City of Vancouver to Apologize
    City of Vancouver to Apologize

    by Tosh Kitagawa

    On September 24th of this year, the City of Vancouver will introduce a motion to apologize for the racist motion that was passed in Vancouver City Council in 1942 by Alderman Halford Wilson and seconded by Alderman George Price. This motion was intended to remove all Japanese Canadians from the Pacific [...] Read more →

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