The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) and Japanese Canadians join with Japanese Americans and allies who are denouncing the racist acts and rhetoric following the US election.
The election of Donald Trump appears to have emboldened many to speak and act on their belief that differences in race, ethnicity, and religion are to blame for whatever is wrong in the world. The attacks provoke a chilling déjà vu for those of Japanese descent in the USA and Canada. Just as Japanese Canadians and Japanese Americans were targeted in the 1940’s and smeared with the “enemy alien” label, we see Muslims being targeted today. A surrogate for the president-elect has made the connection very clear by using the example of the internment to suggest a precedent for actions the new government can take against Americans who are Muslim.
Let us be very clear. The racist act of incarceration must not be repeated or used to support unfair targeting such as registering all Muslims or threats of violence or other hate crimes. In Canada over 22,000 innocent children, women, and men were forcibly uprooted, dispossessed, and incarcerated without any evidence or due process. These Canadians were unjustly targeted because of their ethnicity.
Canadians must not be complacent. Racism is not new or limited to south of the border. Across Canada we have seen the attacks on women wearing hijabs, racist graffiti, and flyers in Toronto and Richmond BC promoting the so- called “alt-right” and its racist messages.
We see the racist tone in politics and public policy. We have a Conservative leadership candidate who appears to be emulating Trump and has proposed screening immigrants and refugees for “anti-Canadian values.” We also have Bill C51 which became the Anti-terrorism Act through fear mongering and threatens Canadian civil liberties and freedoms with unchecked sweeping powers for the government. Following a US model, Canada has adopted a no-fly list which includes the names of over 50 young children with no explanation for the families and a suspicion that racial profiling is at play.
Fear and discrimination must not determine our policies or our actions. We, as citizens, must take every opportunity to speak up and act to protect our rights and freedoms. Even the simple act of making an informed choice and voting can be powerful, and we must not take our right to vote for granted. Our families were denied the vote until four years after the Second World War.
The voices to challenge the government’s attack on its own citizens in the 1940’s was missing. We have an opportunity to join a loud chorus of voices to reject the current calls for hatred and division. We will stand together to face the uncertainty and ensure that the historical injustice our families endured is not repeated.