President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – December 2017

December is here in a blink of an eye.

2017 was another busy year, especially with our events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the internment of Canadians of Japanese ancestry.

We did our unique walking tour of the Powell Street area, sharing stories of workers and personal connections, including Grace Eiko Thomson’s recollections of growing up in the area, and the story of my grandfather who was one of the Vancouver Asahi baseball players.

In May, we discovered the stories of Japanese Canadian pioneers in Surrey, and through stories, a play, and poetry we learned about the perseverance, resilience, and hard work of our ancestors who settled in the area. The highlights of the event were documented in a short film which will be officially launched in Surrey in the new year.

Last month, we organized another Legacy of Redress forum, which has become an annual event to share the stories of our Japanese Canadian community, the stories of First Peoples, and the connections to what is happening today. We are creating safe spaces for dialogue so that we can plan on what action we need to take as individuals and groups to overcome the hate.

This year we were honoured to have speakers who shared openly and honestly the pain of what families endured. Mary Kitagawa shared how her father was taken away, and how the family survived the internment. Chief Leanne Joe / Sxwpilemaát Siyám shared the heartbreak of residential school. Itrath Syed shared the experience of Canadian Muslims who are being targeted like how the Japanese Canadians were targeted 75 years ago.

Racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and the divisive actions of some, are not new, and we need to know our history to prevent the mistakes of the past. The Canadian Muslim community is the most recent major target for some of the hateful actions from people who have been emboldened by the current US president and his government’s rhetoric. The hate did not start in the US, and it is not limited to south of the border, and it has become more visible lately. Our work in events such as our forum is one of the ways in which we can come together and collaborate to build the welcoming, inclusive society we desire.

Another way we are getting the message out is through the power of film. For the past few years, we have been working with the Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF) and hosting film screenings. This year for the 75th anniversary of internment, we were able to have an all Nikkei film festival. As you read in the last month’s Bulletin we screened the Vancouver Asahi, about the baseball team, The Orange Story, about Japanese American internment, and we previewed Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey, highlight our event earlier this year.

We are working with other cultural groups through initiatives such as Anniversaries of Change to work to end discrimination. We are continuing our work on Hasting Park 1942, by collaborating with teachers to develop a resource guide to be used with students, and researching names of detainees for an interpretive exhibit. We are working with other Japanese Canadian individuals and groups on initiatives such as the Legacy Committee, and the 75th Anniversary Sub-Committee which is working on signage for internment camp areas. And our work and the stories from our community are being reported in The Bulletin / Geppo.

In 2018, our work representing and working with the Japanese Canadian community, and initiating and coordinating events and programs will continue.  We are also looking for opportunities to highlight the 30th anniversary of Redress.

Thank you for your continued support and donations so we can continue our work. Also, special thanks to all of our volunteers who help us manage our growing workload.

On behalf of the GVJCCA Board, I wish you and yours the best of the holiday season. We hope that 2018 will bring you good health, happiness, and opportunities to create wonderful memories with your loved ones.

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January is fast approaching with our annual New Year’s celebration with our Japanese Canadian seniors at Keirokai, on Saturday, January 20, 2018.

Please mark your calendar, and check our events section on the GVJCCA website for more information. Also, another important event to note on your calendar is our annual Community Bowl-a-thon which we are planning for Sunday, February 25. Stay tuned for more details.