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Rebuilding and Revival

RCMP inspecting documents of Japanese Canadian fishersReconstructing lives was not easy, and for some it was too late. Elderly issei had lost everything they worked for all their lives and were too old to start anew. Many nisei had their education disrupted and could no longer afford to go to college or university. Many had to become breadwinners for their families. Property losses were compounded by long lasting psychological damage. Victimized, labeled "enemy aliens", imprisoned, dispossessed, and homeless, people lost their sense of self-esteem and pride in their heritage. Fear of resurgence of racial discrimination and the stoic attitude of "shikataga nai" (it can't be helped) bred silence. The sansei, (third generation) grew up speaking English but little or no Japanese. Today, most know little of their cultural heritage and their contact with other Japanese outside their immediate family is limited. The rate of intermarriage is very high - almost 90% according to the 1996 census. Some well known Japanese Canadians include: Joy Kogawa, David Suzuki, Tom Shoyama, Raymond Moriyama, Jon Kimura-Parker, Takao Tanabe, Richard Ikeda, Irene Uchida, Marika Omatsu, and Linda Ohama.

With the changes to the immigration laws in 1967, the first new immigrants in 50 years arrived from Japan. The shin issei came from Japan's urban middle class. The culture they brought was different from the peasant culture brought by the issei. Many of the cultural traditions - tea ceremony, ikebana, origami, odori - and the growing interest of the larger community in things Japanese such as the martial arts, revitalized the Japanese Canadian community. At the same time, gradual awareness of wartime injustices was emerging as sansei entered the professions and restrictions on access to government documents were lifted.

1980s - Redress Movement

Marchers on OttawaThe redress movement of the 1980's was the final phase within the Japanese Canadian community in the struggle for justice and recognition as full citizens of this country. The National Association of Japanese Canadians in January 1984 officially resolved to seek an acknowledgement of the injustices endured during and after the Second World War, financial compensation for the injustices, and a review and amendment of the War Measures Act and relevant sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that no Canadian would ever again be subjected to such wrongs. The community's struggle became a Canadian movement for justice with the formation of the National Coalition for Japanese Canadian Redress which included representation from unions, churches, ethnic, multi-cultural and civil liberties groups. They wrote letters of support and participated at rallies and meetings. A number of politicians also lent their support and advice.

The achievement of redress in September of 1988 is a prime example of a small minority's struggle to overcome racism and to reaffirm the rights of all individuals in a democracy.

I know that I speak for Members on all sides of the House today in offering to Japanese Canadians the formal and sincere apology of this Parliament for those past injustices against them, against their families, and against their heritage, and our solemn commitment and undertaking to Canadians of every origin that such violations will never again in this country be countenanced or repeated.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's remarks to the House of Commons, Sept. 22, 1988