by Lorene Oikawa
Time flies and I don’t just mean the one hour we moved forward. A year has passed since I was elected to be president of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association (GVJCCA), and I am honoured now, as I was then, to have your support and to be able to have the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people including the board, the committees, The Bulletin-Geppo editors, and all of our volunteers. I also appreciate the opportunity to work for all of you, our members.
As I start my second term, we are looking forward to completing a number of projects including the publication of a book, based on the internment stories from our Honouring Our People conference with survivors and their families, an updated human rights guide, and a new website for the GVJCCA.
At a visioning session held earlier this year, the board reviewed the work we do including on education; sharing Japanese Canadian history; producing The Bulletin-Geppo; providing social supports and advocacy; working on human rights and social justice; speaking out for Japanese Canadians and being a lead for other organizations; and being an ally to Aboriginal peoples. Our work which emanates from our purpose, goals, and vision informed our mission statement. “The GVJCCA is a non-profit organization that builds communities, and advocates for social justice primarily for people in Canada of Japanese heritage, and their families.”
Leading a non-profit society provides a unique opportunity to contribute to the community and work with the community. There is also the unique challenge of fundraising to keep our work going.
We have been fortunate to have tremendous support and we look forward to that continued support. We wrapped up another successful Bowl-a-thon in February, and we are already planning ahead for our third annual Bowl-a-thon in February, 2017. On June 12th, the GVJCCA and Tonari Gumi team up for our annual golf tournament. On July 30th and 31st, we will have our delicious wild salmon barbeque and musubi food booth at the 40th Powell Street Festival. All of the funds we raise from donations and events go directly to the running of the GVJCCA and the production of The Bulletin-Geppo.
In May, we will celebrate Asian Heritage Month, and this year all eyes are on the Japanese Canadian community. The Asian Heritage Month Society chooses a community to focus on each year and it’s our turn to highlight our arts, culture, music, food, and the creative talents in our community. Look for the explorASIAN programme guide coming out later this month which will list events from a range of Asian communities. Also, you can check out the events which will be featured in The Bulletin-Geppo.
Mark your calendars for the Asian Heritage Month opening at 10am on Saturday, April 16th at SFU Downtown. It’s free for all. On June 11, the Recognition Gala, a major fundraiser for the Asian Heritage Month Society, will be held at Nikkei Place.
During the month of May, the GVJCCA will be popping in to support some of the events put on by Japanese Canadian and other Asian organizations, and we will also be busy organizing two of our own events.
On May 7th, join Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs and me for a history walking tour in the Powell Street district around Oppenheimer Park. Geoff and I will be talking about the history of Japanese Canadians, their work in the district, and the role of the labour movement during those times.
Please also attend The Legacy of Redress Forum which takes place on May 14th at Nikkei Place. We will be looking at the forced relocation of 22,000 Canadians of Japanese ancestry from the BC coast, and how past injustices are acknowledged such as the provincial government’s apology to Japanese Canadians in 2012. We are inviting survivors and their families to offer their ideas for what reconciliation should look like.
We had our AGM last month and it gave us the chance to welcome our nominees to the board and share a little bit about the work we’ve done, and what to expect in the coming year. Besides myself who is returning as president, we have the following board directors who are returning: Chika Buston, Judy Hanazawa, Gary Matson, Yuji Matson, Jack Matsushita, Susanne Tabata, and Grace Eiko Thomson. We bid farewell to board directors Angela Kruger, Rachael Nakamura, Rutsu Shikano, and Kathy Shimizu. In addition to their director duties, Angela and Rachael did a tremendous job with taking the lead for the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders Vancouver committee. Rutsu helped with our Bowl-a-thon as well as managing our phone messages. Kathy did an outstanding job with our administration, helping with our events, and generally filling in wherever we needed her. They are truly dedicated people who will be moving on to new challenges and we will miss them. However, their spirit of giving will continue, and in the case of Kathy with the assistance of Angela and former board director May Hamanishi, we owe them additional thanks as they will continue to help us with some administrative duties for a while. Our volunteers are amazing!
Every year we mark March 21st International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to raise awareness and to call out for the end to racism. Racial discrimination doesn’t happen just one day each year, and we must work together every day to speak out. It’s one of the reasons why the work of the GVJCCA is so important. We are sharing the history of Canadians of Japanese ancestry to remember, learn, and foster understanding. Our history is used to promote welcoming, safe, and inclusive communities for all. We must use education and history to stop the racial discrimination and racism that happens today.