President’s Message December 2016

The results of the presidential election in the USA were shocking to everyone including, I think, the president-elect. The political pundits have been providing their versions of an analysis, but one thing is clear to me, we must stand together and call out the racist attacks and raise our voices against discrimination and hateful behaviour.

I am deeply concerned about the dark landscape unfolding for our American family and friends. We have also seen the darkness creeping into Canada: News reports of racist graffiti, racist posters in Toronto, a racist confrontation aboard Calgary Transit, and racist flyers being distributed in Richmond. The election results have emboldened some who believe that their hate, and (misplaced) blame for their complaints and fears are now sanctioned.

For most Canadians, we share our values of kindness, caring, politeness, and wanting a welcoming, inclusive country for all.

For Japanese Canadians who have endured many racist incidents from individual attacks to historical injustices such as the 1907 anti-Asian riots (which included attacks on Chinese Canadians) , and the forced uprooting, dispossession, and incarceration during the Second World War, we share the stories so we may learn. We did not suffer in isolation. There are also the stories of Residential School where Indigenous children were not only taken from their families, they endured physical, emotional and sometimes sexual abuse. The exclusionary policies of the Canadian government who denied the Komagata Maru from docking in Vancouver, and prevented British subjects of Indian descent from entering the country, and there are many more stories.

When we fail to know or learn our history, the suffering continues not only for ethnic communities, but for all us when hate has us turning on each other and destroying all communities.

Nearly 75 years after internment, Americans and Canadians who are Muslim appear to be one of the targets of choice today. We saw it after 9-11 and Americans and Canadians of Japanese ancestry spoke out. The injustice is being repeated despite the historic government apologies and the pledge that it would never happen again. It’s 2016 and we hear the Trump Administration citing the need for national security suggesting the justification for lack of due process and the stripping of rights.

Trump’s security plans include a registration process for Muslims. Muslims are presumed guilty and just as the government did with anyone of Japanese ancestry, they are targeting Muslims.  And just to be clear, a Trump surrogate referred to the Japanese American internment as a model, a precedent, for attacking Americans who are Muslim.

It’s déjà vu for Japanese Canadians. The injustice started with registration cards. My grandparents and their children had to have the cards on them at all times in case they were ever questioned. This was before the incarceration. Carding was also put in place for Indigenous people. South Africa’s apartheid was based on the Canadian Indian Act and what the Canadian government did to Indigenous people.

In the midst of the bleakness there were some bright spots such as the election of the first Indo-American woman to the US Senate and the first Indo-American woman elected to the House of Representatives, and a record number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders elected. Also, there is greater mobilization and organizing of progressive people, and voices speaking out, unlike during the Second World War when there were few voices.

The Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association commits to moving forward with our work to effect change to create a more inclusive society. Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia and any other form of hatred has no place in our society. We will continue to promote understanding and appreciation of diversity so we build bridges not walls. We will share the history of Japanese Canadians so people learn from the historical injustice and it is not repeated. We will add our voices to those who desire a just and equitable world. Together we are powerful and we will build resistance to the hate and violence, and stand together for our rights and freedoms.

On that hopeful note, and on behalf of the GVJCCA Board, I would like to wish everyone the best of the season. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and good health, good food, and good times for you and your loved ones in 2017.

I had the honour of meeting Santa Ono, the new president of the University of British Columbia, and, I believe, he is the first Japanese Canadian president of a Canadian university. One of his many talents is his ability to connect with people in person and through social media. Twitter is where I first met him (@UBCPrez).  Look for an interview with President Ono in an upcoming Bulletin and on the GVJCCA website some of my social media from the installation ceremony at UBC where President Ono was officially welcomed as the 15th President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia.

Mark your calendars for some upcoming events including Keirokai, our annual celebration of our Japanese Canadian seniors, which takes place on Saturday, January 21, 2017. Shinnenkai New Year’s Celebration is on January 14, 2017. Please check our events section and the GVJCCA website for more information on registration.  Also, our annual Community Bowl-a-thon will be taking place in February so stay tuned for more details when we have confirmed the date.

Lorene Oikawa