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










Opening Statement

War on Iraq is a crime against peace

Sixty years ago, war was ravaging the world.  In Europe fascism exacted a terrible toll.  In Asia, peoples from Indonesia to China, from Vietnam to Korea confronted Japanese imperialism in conjunction with their allies.  During this inferno, that actually began with Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, millions perished.  And, in the course of the war, the Japanese imperial forces committed a great number of crimes against humanity.  Many of the survivors of those crimes have yet to achieve redress for their suffering. 

Unfortunately, the hands of the victors were not entirely clean either.  Racism in Canada led to the displacement and internment of Japanese Canadians.  The Unites States, in developing the concept of total war, deployed atomic weapons against civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first use of this particular weapon of mass destruction. 

We have convened this conference in order to learn from the lessons of the Asia-Pacific war.  Given what is happening today, the conference seems tragically timely. 

As we open this conference, the governments of the Unites States, Great Britain and Australia are engaged in an invasion of Iraq.  They do so without the sanction of the United Nations and we believe that they are therefore committing a crime against peace. 

We urge all peoples to understand the dangerous precedent this war represents for the Korean peninsula and call for measures to halt any destablization in that area so that peaceful reunification of the peninsula can be achieved. 

The United States government is waging this war despite the fact that world opinion stands clearly against them.  They can do so only with covert support from other governments–we note with great regret that the Japanese government supports the war against Iraq despite the opposition to the war of most of Japan’s people. 

It is not enough to criticize the U.S. and other governments and then revert to a “bystander” status.  We pay tribute to the world wide peace movement, including the anti-war activists, and join with them in calling for a halt to the war.  We urge all people to join the anti-war actions scheduled for Saturday, March 22. 

Jean Chretien and the Canadian government have taken a courageous stand in keeping Canada out of this war, as we kept out of the U.S. war in Vietnam.  We encourage the government to hold to its position, and to help organize the forces of peace by calling for the convening of the U.N. General Assembly to deal with the current crisis. 

This conference begins on March 21, 2003, the 40th Anniversary of the U.N.

Declaration for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  We cannot accept that the invasion of Iraq represents a struggle of “civilization” against “evil”.  In part, the war has taken on the colour of a  crusade”, a reimposition of colonialism that is specifically prohibited by the United Nations declaration against racism. 

We make this statement because of the extraordinary circumstance we are faced with.  We do so with respect and know that there will be differences of opinion.  The challenge of this conference is to learn from the past in a constructive and mutually beneficial way so that we can banish war and eliminate crimes against humanity.  We owe this to the survivors and to our children. 


Thekla Lit, Canada Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia

Tatsuo Kage, Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association, Human

            Rights Committee

John Price, Canada Asia-Pacific Resource Network


March 21, 2003

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