Teacher Participants' Testimony
Bill Bradley, Central Elgin Collegiate, St. Thomas, Ontario
I was fortunate enough to be selected to join the 2005 Peace and Reconciliation Tour in July 2005.
I consider myself honoured to be a member of this very worthwhile tour of China.
Although I was fairly knowledgeable of the history involved in Chinese/Japanese relations in WW2, I realized that there was a lot that I was unaware of.
300.000 people massacred in Nanjing alone, biological warfare, sex slaves, and forced labour camps are unbelievable atrocities that the Chinese people suffered at the hands of the Japanese army.
For the Japanese government not to acknowledge and offer compensation for these horific crimes is a terrible crime itself I feel.
Every Canadian history teacher could benefit immensely by having a similar tour that I attended in July 2005.
I am much more qualified and knowledgeable to accurately discuss the Japanese atrocities that were committed against the Chinese and Korean people in WW2.
Many of my colleagues are very interested in joining similar tours in the future to bring back the real truth to their classrooms.
Judy Brune, Southwood Secondary School, Waterloo, Ontario
As true global citizens, we must all learn from history in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. Until the world, including the educational community within North America, comes to a full understanding and appreciation of the Japanese atrocities perpetrated during their War of Aggression against China, we are failing to learn of history. And thus, we leave ourselves open to a reoccurrence. Through interviews and in my class, I will endeavour to convey the truth of what took place. Only in that way will we all learn and grow.
Nick Brune, Iroquois Ridge High Scholl, Oakville, Ontario
It is difficult, if not impossible, to put into words the impact that the 2005 Peace and Reconciliation Tour has had on me. In fourteen days, we had the unique privilege of hearing and learning from an array of individuals – a comfort woman survivor, victims of Japanese biological and chemical warfare, two survivors of forced labour, as well as noted activists, lawyers, and historians. All these people confirm our collective sense of humanity and responsibility. We all, through whatever means available, must teach the truth as to what happened in Asia between 1931 and 1945.
Leslie Graham, Sir George Ross Secondary School, London, Ontario
In Ontario schools, too little attention has been paid to the complex and staggering effects of Japanese aggression in China and other Pacific Rim countries. During the tour, we met with the survivors of brutality, the Nanjing Massacre, biological warfare, military sexual slavery, and enforced labour. Listening to the survivors, often in their own homes and villages, and to their advocates - professors, students, lawyers, and activists - was a deeply moving, inspiring, and humbling experience. I will always remember our visits to the sites where the war crimes and atrocities took place (e.g. “comfort” stations, villages decimated by biological warfare), and to the museums, memorials, and cenotaphs devoted to the war.
I have greatly benefited from this tour, and my students, as well, will benefit and learn from my experience. I highly recommend this tour to others.
James Knihniski, Southridge School, Surrey, BC
The Peace & Reconciliation Teacher’s Study Tour was an amazing experience. It allowed us to investigate a part of history that is really not well known in North America. I must admit that even I did not know of some the issues that surrounded the tour, such as germ warfare. That is why this tour was and is so important. It gives teachers a first-hand opportunity to investigate real history and how it affects us in today’s world. For me personally, to actually meet and hear the testimonies from the survivors of germ warfare or the Nanking Massacre was the highlight of the tour. I learned so much from them and as a result, I feel that I am much more comfortable in teaching this chapter of history in my classroom.
Robert Lato, Sunnybrooke Hospital Psychiatric Unit, Toronto, Ontario
I was a participant in the 2005 Peace and Reconciliation Study Tour to China. I found this to be an extraordinary experience in terms of its intellectual and emotional challenges and provided me with an opportunity for exceptional growth both professionally and personally.
Most compelling for me was in bearing witness to the suffering endured by so many innocent civilians who were victimized by the Japanese military during WWII. Moreover, their willingness to forgive their captors in exchange for a simple apology is a remarkable testament to their virtue. Sadly, because such apologies have been so grudgingly offered, if at all, their victimization has never been closed. It is lamentable that innocents repeatedly pay the price for military and political decision-makers with lifetimes of suffering and forbearance.
Carel McDonald, West Langley Elementary School, Langley, BC
The Asia Pacific Peace and Reconciliation Tour 2005 has been a forever life changing experience that I would enthusiastically recommend for Teachers who share the vision of world peace and the injustices of the World War Two in the Asia Pacific. The extent of the Asian Holocaust was vividly and historically authenticated personally while hearing the painfully trembling testimony of a former Korean Comfort Woman only beginning to share orally after these many years. Viewing the unhealed wounds of victims of biological and chemical warfare in the villages of the Rotten Leg People was shocking. Touching the weapons in the Nanjing War Memorial Museum that brutally massacred 350,000 unsuspecting civilians now lying in mass graves will haunt humanity. Being welcomed into a village home of a former Japanese prisoner of war victim who recounted the brutality of the working and living conditions he sustained humbled the most privileged audience. A snapshot of an event in history not to be forgotten and an opportunity for Teachers who experience the tour to keep the memories of the victims alive through oral recollections, teachings and presentations to those we can impact the most our colleagues and students.
Cindy Patten, North Oyster Elementary School, SD 68, Nanaimo, B.C.
As a teacher I encourage my students to be the best people that they can be to themselves and to others. In the long run, my wish is to help them acquire the information, skills, and attitudes necessary to identify and combat such atrocities from occurring in the future. My hope for my students is that they can actively contribute to making the world a better place and to lead by example.
It has never been so evident to me why this is important. I still hear the survivors’ stories in my mind; I see their faces struggle with emotion at the unspeakable memories that they have been plagued with for 60 years. I am stunned that their wells of forgiveness run so deeply for the people who wronged them. All 3 survivors stated that they would forgive the Japanese military when the apology comes; none of them blame the general Japanese population for what happened to them.
Daniel Royer, Argyle Secondary School, North Vancouver, BC
This study tour has surpassed my expectations in terms of its impact on me. I thought I’d learn about history and I did. But I learned so much more. I learned about the strength of the human spirit, the power of determination, and the grace of forgiveness. There is a serenity to these survivors that moves me deeply. I came here to improve as a teacher and I leave here, instead, improved as a human being. I will bring what I’ve learned to the classroom certainly, but what I’ve learned will also colour all aspects of my life from now on.
Daniel Shiu, LA Matheson Secondary School, Surrey, BC
As a participant of the Peace and Reconciliation Study Tour, I have been humbly enriched and moved by the emotional stories of the survivors. Their individual experiences of tragedy and triumph are not only an inspiration but a testament to the strength and perseverance of the human spirit. In the process, I was no longer an educator but a student, learning and listening to "living history". The study tour has been a most rewarding and memorable experience in which this chapter in history should not and cannot be forgotten.
Judy Toy, Centennial Secondary, Coquitlam, BC
Traveling to China for two weeks in the summer with the ALPHA Study Tour is an insightful and memorable approach to learning about a piece of largely forgotten WWII history. For the vast majority of Canadians we have little or no knowledge of the atrocities committed by the Japanese during their occupation of China from 1931 – 45. For educators with a keen desire to learn and teach about this specific time period, as well as promote social responsibility, human rights, justice, and global peace, this tour is an ideal personal and professional development opportunity.
I visited historical sites representing Japanese aggression and memorial museums established to commemorate the victims. Informative sessions were conducted with distinguished scholars, historians, writers, a lawyer, and a chief plaintiff. Most importantly I have heard the voices and stories of the victim survivors. Together, they have greatly enlightened me of the actual events that occurred and of the disturbing outcomes.
As a participant, the experience was indeed profound and poignant. The knowledge gained from the study tour will provide me with motivation and valuable first-hand information from the Asian perspective to share with my students and colleagues.
Amy Yeung, George Harvey Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Ontario
The ALPHA Peace and Reconciliation Tour was an amazing experience. I met survivors whose incredible courage and strength have inspired me to seek justice for wrongdoings of the past, as well as prevent injustices of the future. As a teacher, I am motivated to share their stories with my students, so that they understand the brutality of war and importance of peace. It was a great pleasure to be able to share my ideas and teaching strategies with other Canadian teachers who shared the same interest and passion for the subject. The tour was well-organized and well-balanced. I learned a lot about the history of China, the experience of the Chinese in WWII and I also enjoyed visits to major historical sites like the Great Wall and Tienanmen Square. Overall, the tour educated me intellectually and emotionally about China, the war, and humanity as a whole.