Canadian Conference on
Preventing Crimes Against Humanity:
Lessons from the Asia Pacific War (1931-1945)

March 21-22, 2003 University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


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A Canadian Conference on

PREVENTING CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY:

 LESSONS FROM THE ASIA PACIFIC WAR (1931‑1945)

Friday, March 21 ‑ Saturday, March 22, 2003

First Nations Longhouse, University of British Columbia

 

Closing Statement

Integrating the movement for historical redress and reconciliation with the anti-war movement in Canada and abroad

 

The voices of past and present have resonated at this conference.  We have learned that how we address past injustices, including crimes against humanity, speaks volumes about the challenges the world faces today. 

We offer our deep appreciation to the survivors of crimes against humanity present at this conference including Grandmother Hwang Geum Joo, a Korean survivor of Japanese military sexual slavery; Xu Jiaxie and Yang Dafang, survivors of Japanese germ warfare; Kinuko Laskey, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb; Mary Kitagawa, a survivor of Japanese-Canadian internment; Suh Sung, a victim of torture and 19 years’  imprisonment and now a leading activist for peace and human rights in Asia; and Don MacPherson, a Canadian Hong Kong veteran, as well as other former prisoners of war and residential school survivors.  (Thank you so much)           

We who gathered here on the 40th anniversary of the U.N. Declaration for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, affirm the following:- 

War and racism are a lethal mixture, one reinforcing the other, leading to peripheralization, demonization, or dehumanization, which create the basis for crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.  The recent practices of racial profiling and the passage of the Canadian “Anti-terrorism” Act constitute a wake-up call for Canadians–we must halt the erosion of civil liberties generated through the politics of fear in the wake of September 11th.  

The past and the present are intimately connected.  The United States government, for example, could have largely stopped international biological weapons development in the 1940s when it learned about the atrocities committed by the Japanese imperial army as a result of wide-scale deployment of biological weapons in China during the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945).  Instead, the U.S. government offered immunity to the Japanese perpetrators of these atrocities in exchange for their scientific data, soaked in the blood of victims.  Similarly, the system of sexual slavery imposed by the Japanese military should have been held up as a war crime, thereby acting as a disincentive to the practice of rape, whether in peace or war.  That it was not held up as a war crime reflects the sexist bias of the male judges and soldiers at the time. 

Genocide is a part of crimes against humanity and we acknowledge that Aboriginal people in Canada have been victims of genocide as defined by the U.N. Genocide Convention, including Article II (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and II (e) forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.  We must stop all aspects of genocide.  Support for the Innu, First Nations, and Metis in their quest for justice represents a central task for the people of Canada. 

Liberal democracy is no guarantee against crimes against humanity.  Both in the past and present, we see that racism, sexism, and classism can undermine our causes.   Legal instruments and international bodies including the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and others, can offer important venues to promote our causes but they require careful preparation so that issues such as sexual slavery are not submerged by other important but distinct crimes such as forced labour. 

This conference has some immediate results.  We welcome an initiative arising at the conference to develop an international network to investigate and support the movement to lift the veil of secrecy that has too long covered the use of biological weapons in China during the Asia-Pacific War.  We warmly support the call for the City of Vancouver to organize a world peace forum in the year 2005 and urge that the organizers of such a conference include a strong historical component so that we can continue to hear the voices of survivors of crimes against humanity.                                                           

The efforts of the Chinese and Japanese Canadian communities, Aboriginal people and the support of the Canadian labour movement, among others, were instrumental in making this conference a success.  We would like to particularly acknowledge the important contribution of the First Nations Longhouse, which has been a sanctuary where survivors feel safe, and participants from diverse communities feel spiritually supported in dealing difficulty issues.  We look forward to further collaborative efforts in the struggle for justice and peace.   

We note for ourselves and for others that some people in communities that have been victims, past or present, are at times understandably hesitant to fully participate in broad-based movements because of lingering fears that they will be victimized again.  Overcoming this fear requires step-by-step solidarity building and outreach by mainstream organizations. 

At the beginning of this conference, we suggested that the invasion of Iraq constituted a crime against peace.  After two days of discussion there have been no dissenting voices.  Indeed the bombing of Baghdad only strengthens our view.  We joined in the international anti-war protest on Saturday, March 22, and will continue to work to help integrate the movement for historical redress and reconciliation with the anti-war movement in Canada and abroad.  When this war ends, we believe that perpetrators of war crimes, whether victors or vanquished, should be taken before the International Criminal Court.  The activities of the US -- the current sole superpower -- have given birth to a renewed movement for peace and social justice throughout the world. This world public opinion shall prevail.   

The spirit of the survivors of crimes against humanity, past and present, stands as a candle of hope in these troubled times.  To them we commit our determination to support the survivors’ demand for redress, to prevent crimes against humanity and to achieve justice and peace. 

By:

Canada Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA)
Canada Asia Pacific Resource Network (CAPRN)
Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens' Association (JCCA), Human Rights Committee
UBC First Nations House of Learning
UBC Women's Studies and Gender Relations
UBC International House

 

March 22, 2002


Contact Information

Asia Pacific Lessons Conference
c/o International House
1783 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
Tel: 604-822-4904
Fax: 604-822-5099
Email: bcalpha@shaw.ca