What is August 15 for Japanese Canadians?
Ladies and Gentlemen:
As a member of the Japanese Canadian community I am very pleased with the announcement that August 15 is designated as the day of Peace in the Pacific.
What was and is the meaning of the Asian Pacific War for us? . The war started when the Japanese imperial army invaded China, triggered by the fabricated Manchurian Incident in 1931. For most Canadians it must have seemed to be a conflict between nations of a foreign land: Canada’s trade relations with Japan was maintained throughout the 1930’s and most Canadian missionaries kept on staying in China.
This state of “business as usual” totally changed in 1941 with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Many Japanese Canadians must have felt that it was the beginning of a disaster: Indeed, Japanese Canadians were regarded and treated as enemy aliens even though the majority was Canadian citizens either by birth or naturalization. Within a period of a few months almost all the members of the community was uprooted and incarcerated
Without exception all Japanese Canadians remained loyal to Canada, as Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister officially admitted in 1944. However, Japanese Canadians must have had ambivalent feeling. Shinji Sato in Manitoba expressed his uneasiness at the time:
“When I have dwelled on the fact that we are taking arms against the land of our origin, I have uneasy moments… In my opinion, our war against Japan is not a war to abolish the Japanese civilizations, but to protect it from the fascist doctrine…”
Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945 did not bring a happy ending for Japanese Canadians, i.e., the end of the war-time hardships. For some members of the community it meant that their “deportation” became imminent. In fact during the following year the expulsion of about 4,000 of them to war devastated Japan took place.
Many Canadians of the post-war generations may not be able to believe that the government policy of removal and incarceration of Japanese Canadians was continued for four more years, until March 31, 1949.
In many ways the trauma of the war has still not healed even after 55 years. At present over 40 cases of compensation lawsuits have been filed in Japanese courts by war victims from the Asia Pacific region. Unless these cases are settled with some satisfaction to the plaintiffs, we are not able to wholeheartedly celebrate peace and the prospect for a better world where people can live in spirit of reconciliation and harmony.
Our joint efforts are still needed to bring about Peace in the Pacific in the true sense of words. I believe that it is achievable as the awareness of people about global citizenship has been growing and the national borders and geographical distance are not any more insurmountable barriers with the development of the latest communication technologies. Thank you very much.