I was putting the first tray of lemon meringue tarts into the oven when I glanced at my phone. There was a voice mail message. I checked it and it was from April Shimizu, one of the GVJCCA Board Directors. April is the amazing organizer of our volunteer appreciation party. Her message said that the power was out at Nikkei Centre, the location of our party. After a few text messages back and forth, we determined the party was going ahead.
Thankfully the BC storm did not knock out my power and I was able to complete my baking and then make my way to the party. The drive from Surrey to Burnaby wasn’t bad except for a few traffic lights which were out and I had to do some quick manoeuvering to get around some trees and other items blown by the wind onto the road. I can’t complain, because earlier in the day it took me over two hours to drive from Surrey to Vancouver.
When I got to Nikkei Centre, the garage and the building, and even the seniors’ home next door were in darkness. Our volunteer appreciation dinner was shifted to take place in the lobby. Tables and chairs were arranged. One of the volunteers, Carol Yamamoto, had bought some candles and supplies, and arranged the candles on each table. We appreciate Carol’s help. April had picked up the food, a delicious combination of sushi, karaage chicken, chow mein, calamari, sweet and sour, and other popular dishes. The GVJCCA board of directors contributed some desserts including manju, and I brought three dozen lemon meringue tarts. One of our long time salmon barbeque volunteers, Kathy Mukuyama, brought a delicious home-made chocolate cake.
We enjoyed some wonderful food and shared lots of laughs. We passed around a few borrowed flashlights and used the light on our smartphones to get around. Despite the lack of light, there was an abundance of good spirited conversations, and we felt the warmth wrap around us, just like a large family get together. It was a night we won’t forget. Thank you to all those who were able to get to us during the storm, and to all of our volunteers. We can’t do it without you.
The following day, the GVJCCA Human Rights Committee hosted another of our Legacy of Redress Forums. Speakers shared their perspective of what it means to be Muslin in Canada today. The forum featured two speakers, Itrath Syed, who teaches Women Studies at Langara College and Asian Studies at Kwantlen University, and Hasan Alam, who is a supervising lawyer for the Farm Workers Legal Advocacy Program and helped set up the first Islamophobia hotline in Canada. Thank you to both speakers for their inspiring and powerful words.
In the introduction to the workshop, I shared the story of Japanese Canadians in 1942 and how the government targeted them and invoked the War Measures Act to unjustly incarcerate 22,000 Japanese Canadians. Besides taking away their rights and freedom, the government also took away their property. In 1988, the federal government apologized to Japanese Canadians, and we were told it would never happen again.
Japanese Canadians experienced a horrible déjà vu after 9-11; Muslims and anyone who looked like they were Muslim were being targeted as the “enemy” just as Japanese Canadians were targeted during the Second World War.
Racism hasn’t stopped, and the government’s use of the law to target racialized people continues in 2016.
After the introduction, the participants shared their thoughts and experiences, and we discussed what we could do to support the Muslim community and how we could work together for a safe, inclusive society. Ideas included education; Japanese Canadian history in core curriculum so it’s mandatory; working with young people; interfaith dialogue; social media; more visibility of racialized people supporting each other; and building connections between racialized organizations and communities.
During the forum, we heard about the National Security Consultation being conducted by the federal government. Despite promises during the last federal election, the former Bill C51 is now law and it gives sweeping powers to the government to operate in secrecy and without oversight. Hasan commented on how C51 is targeting Muslims with the modification of the “no-fly regime.” Forum participants commented they have seen recent and multiple news articles about people and small children being told they can’t fly and no information is given to the family. There are existing laws to protect our security, and the former Bill C51 is not needed or wanted. There is limited in-person contact for the consultations, but everyone can and should voice their opinion online. More information is on the BC Civil Liberties Association website: bccla.org. Links on how to participate are on their page, Updated: Our National Security Consultation series – A Different Shade of Green Paper
While we seek to preserve and protect our rights and freedoms, we should also give thanks to those who fought, and remember those who died, for our country, Canada. This is the 100th anniversary of the Issei, first generation Japanese Canadians, who served with the Canadian Army in the First World War. Remembrance Day ceremonies will take place at the Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park in Vancouver, and if you get a chance, go and see the Warrior Spirit exhibit at the Nikkei National Museum.
Another upcoming event is Tonari Gumi’s Spirits of Japan fundraiser on October 29th. If you are sampling all the sake, brews, and spirits, please do not drive home. Be safe.
Thanks to everyone who participates in the GVJCCA and other Japanese Canadian organizations’ events. The support ensures our community thrives and you have a great experience connecting with our community.