President: Lorene Oikawa
Board Member Biographies
Lorene works for the Province of British Columbia. She is a director on a number of boards including West Coast Environmental Law and the Canadian Labour International Film Festival. She was the first and only Asian Canadian executive vice president for the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) for three terms from 2005 to 2014.
She is the founder of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance in BC. Lorene has authored articles and been a spokesperson on a range of topics including women in leadership, human rights, migrant workers, social media, and labour history.
Lorene is a yonsei, fourth generation, British Columbian whose family migrated from Japan in the 1800s and 1906.
Born in Japan to a nissei mother and Japanese father, my family moved to Vancouver when I was four. Leaving Japan and leaving my Japanese heritage is what I thought would be the best way to fit into Canadian society. I eventually learned that we can have the best of both worlds and our unique Japanese-Canadian culture and history is something to be very proud of. I’ve been a member of the GVJCCA board since 2011.
April was born in Vancouver and raised in the Strathcona neighbourhood. She graduated from Britannia Secondary School, and in 1973, was one of the first employees hired by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. After eleven years of service with ICBC, she left her position as a planning assistant to raise her family.
As her children were growing up, among her most enjoyable family activities was attending the Japanese Canadian Citizens Association picnics and parties. Her husband Ken’s family are long-time JCCA members. Over the years, especially as the children became older, the family became increasing active and regular volunteers for JCCA events. April thoroughly enjoys participating and contributing to the organization and to the community, and in 2006, she joined the Greater Vancouver JCCA board. She especially enjoys fund-raising for annual JCCA events, such as the salmon barbecue sale at the Powell Street Festival and the Keirokai celebration for our beloved seniors.
April also serves as a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of B.C. and the Yukon, participating with Ken in several events annually. April has found volunteering to be very rewarding, and as a bonus, she has met and befriended many wonderful people. In her spare time, April enjoys activities with her family and friends, trips to Hawaii, dancing, and spectator sports, especially football and hockey.
Chika is a hapa issei of mixed Japanese and Euro-Canadian heritage, born in Kyoto and raised in Burnaby BC, where she currently works as a library/administrative employee. Over the years, she has been an active participant in the JC community, namely with the Powell Street Festival, the Nikkei Museum & Cultural Centre, and as a musician at the Tonari Gumi’s Coffee House Jazz Nights. She became involved with the JCCA out of an interest in human rights activism, cultural development strategies, and in the history of Japanese-Canadian internment and redress. She is pleased to be working with the executive board at this juncture in the JCCA’s development, and looks forward to connecting with the broader membership.
Judy Hanazawa is nissei Japanese Canadian who was born in Merritt soon after her family moved from their internment site at Bridge River. When restrictions were lifted, Judy’s father resumed his occupation as a commercial gillnetter. Judy was raised in eastside Vancouver, and retains fond memories of a childhood in the downtown eastside Strathcona area. Upon receiving redress in 1988, Judy obtained a masters degree in social work, focusing on Aboriginal child and family services program development in the Squamish Nation. She also began her volunteer community service in the Japanese Canadian community, being inspired by Squamish leaders, especially the women with whom she worked, who devoted themselves to the well-being of the Nation’s children and families. Judy’s focus in the Japanese Canadian community has been on social justice and human rights related issues. Today, she enjoys semi retirement, her family life, and being a grandparent.
Gary’s interest in things Japanese began in 1969 when he entered UBC and took courses leading to a B.A. in Asian Studies. In 1982 he graduated from UBC with an M.A. in Modern Japanese Literature. A UBC law degree followed in 1985. Gary became a lawyer in 1986. He has a general solicitor’s practice serving mostly Japanese clients. Since 1986, Gary has served on many boards with a connection to Japanese or Japanese Canadians. Prior to joining the Board of the GVJCCA, Gary served on the Board of Tonari Gumi for six years. He has served on the Board of the GVJCCA for the past several years.
Yuji Matson was born in Hiroshima but grew up in Vancouver. Japan has always been a big part of his life. He earned a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Asian Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2002. While an undergraduate student, he spent one year studying abroad in Japan at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He enjoyed his time in Japan so much that, after graduating, he went back to teach English on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme for two years in Saitama. Upon returning to Canada, he pursued a Master of Arts degree in Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Victoria. He specialized in Modern Japanese Literature and Film. Following the completion of his Master's degree in 2007, he entered law school at the University of Victoria. After receiving his Juris Doctor degree in 2011, he completed his long academic career by spending one more year in Japan at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, earning a Master of Laws degree in International Economic and Business Law in 2012. In doing so, he was able to tie his academic background in Japanese studies with his future career in the legal profession. Yuji was called to the bar in British Columbia in 2014. He currently practices immigration law at DLA Piper (Canada) LLP (formerly Davis LLP), a law firm with a long history of serving Japanese clients.
Yuji first became involved in the local Japanese community when working at Tonari Gumi as a summer student many years ago. Now that he has finally settled in Vancouver, he hopes to become further involved in the community through membership in such organizations as the GVJCCA.
Nominations to the GVJCCA Board of Directors are being accepted.
At this time, we are especially interested in recruiting board members with skills and experience in governance, financial management, community outreach, public relations, and fundraising.
Expressions of interest should include a cover letter describing your interest in our organization as well as a resume and be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org Attention: GVJCCA President by February 5, 2018.