President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – April 2017

I come from a line of strong women. The men were bold in their endeavours such as the brothers who came from Japan in the 1800’s, and two of the brothers would settle in Cumberland on Vancouver Island. This was the Canadian beginning of my family on my mother’s side. My maternal grandfather worked in the coal mines, the mills, and as a faller, but his passion was for baseball, and he was recruited to play for the Vancouver Asahi. I have a few newspaper clippings of my grandfather as a Vancouver Asahi baseball player. My grandmother who was skilled in the culinary arts, pattern making, sewing, gardening, and playing the koto, was a woman of many talents, but none that would feature her in the newspaper. She was dedicated to making sure her family would survive and thrive.

Seventy-five years ago, when the government declared all Canadians of Japanese ancestry to be enemy aliens, and forced their uprooting, dispossession, and incarceration, my grandmother was determined to look after her young family. At the time, it was six children, the youngest a baby, and eventually it would be ten children who survived.

I think not enough is written about the women, especially the mothers who struggled to make sure their children had food, clothes, and were protected when the adults had no idea what was to come. My mother as a young girl survived those harsh times, and then had to call upon her resilience again, when many years later, as a young mother, she became a widow. She learned how to drive and got a job at Woodward’s [department store]. She ensured her children had enough to eat, warm clothes, a safe home, and love and support so they could survive and thrive. [Thanks mom.]

We owe so much to our mothers, grandmothers, and the women in our families. When you acknowledge the 75th anniversary of the internment/incarceration this year, take a moment to recognize the women in your lives. We honour those who came before us, and we will continue their work so all will have safe, welcoming, thriving communities.

The GVJCCA is planning a number of events for the 75th anniversary including a walking tour on May 13, reflecting on Japanese Canadian life and work in the Powell Street District, and a sharing stories event on May 20, discovering the stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey through prose, a play and other creative formats, and learning how to use poetry to share family stories with our special presenter Surrey Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar. We are also looking at an intergenerational event, and a forum later in the year. As we firm up details, we will post all information in future editions of The Bulletin / Geppo, and on our website,

In preparation for the May 20th event, we are asking you to share your stories, experiences, and family histories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey. Please email or phone 604.777.5222 for more information. Selected stories will be published in The Bulletin (if received before mid-April), and also on display at the Surrey City Centre Library in the week leading up to May 20th.

By the time you read this, we should have a researcher/writer in place who will be helping us search and find stories from the City of Surrey archives.

Also, we applied for the Canada Summer Jobs Grant for three summer student positions. It has been approved, and the GVJCCA will be hiring for the positions to start in May 2017. We will be looking for an Event Coordinator whose primary responsibility is organizing our major fundraiser, the GVJCCA Wild Salmon BBQ and Musubi food booth, at the 2017 Powell Street Festival, an Archival Assistant who will be helping us go through our historical information and digitize our archives, and a Communications Administrator who will be helping with our communications, producing content for our website, social media, and organizing and maintaining our online community calendar. All three positions will also help with our special events that take place during the summer.

The eligibility requirements include being a full-time student with plans to return to full-time studies in the upcoming academic year and being legally entitled to work in BC. Please see the complete eligibility requirements and job descriptions in the job postings in this edition, and on our website. If you are interested in applying for a position and meet the eligibility requirements, please email a resume and covering letter outlining your suitability for the position to GVJCCA President at


The Annual General Meeting of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association (GVJCCA) took place on March 12, 2017. Thank you for your continued support. Our current board members are committed to continue our work, and were acclaimed.