Japanese Canadians across the country are meeting to discuss how an apology by the British Columbia government could be backed by meaningful action for those who were placed in internment camps or forced into labour because of racist policies during the Second World War.
The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against “enemy aliens” after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941 but the president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians said British Columbia’s apology in 2012 did not involve the community.
Lorene Oikawa said the association is working with the provincial government to consider how it could follow up on the apology to redress racism. The majority of about 22,000 interned Japanese Canadians lived in B.C. before many were forced to move east of the Rockies or to Japan, even if they were born in Canada.
“We weren’t informed about the apology so it was a surprise to us,” Oikawa said about B.C.’s statement, which, unlike with the federal government’s apology, did not go further to resolve outstanding historic wrongs that saw families separated and property and belongings sold.
“We accepted the apology but we just want to have that follow-up piece that was missing so that is what the current B.C. government has agreed to and started with this process of having community consultations,” she said of the redress initiative funded by the province.
Consultations began in May and by the end of July will have been concluded in Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and seven other communities in British Columbia. Online consultations are also being conducted before recommendations will be forwarded to the province this fall.
So far, some participants have asked that school curricula include racism against Japanese Canadians as well as initiatives to educate the general public about the intergenerational trauma that families have experienced, Oikawa said.