For Immediate Release
June 9, 2020
Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi
Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi was in the House of Commons on September 22, 1988 when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologized and announced Redress for Japanese Canadians. She is the President of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the National Association of Japanese Canadians. Her father Bill Kobayashi was the President of the Toronto NAJC in 1988. Her step-grandfather, Takeichi Umezuki was appointed to the order of Canada in 1978 for his work as the Japanese editor of The New Canadian, which was a communications lifeline for the Japanese Canadian community during the internment years.
Toronto, ON – Premier Horgan’s Sin of Omission
At a press conference on Thursday, June 4th, B.C. Premier John Horgan called on the federal government to lead an anti-racism program.
Premier Horgan stated that B.C. has “challenges with racism going back to the head tax for Chinese-Canadians, the Komagata Maru when it comes to South Asians and Indigenous Peoples have experienced racism from the beginning of settlement here in British Columbia.”
The Premier’s omission of the historical wrongs against Japanese Canadians is stunning. Selective amnesia is a type of systemic racism, a step towards the erasure of a community’s history.
In deleting the injustices to Japanese Canadians from his appeal, Premier Horgan appears to be guided by the demographics of the electorate rather than the importance of reparations and reconciliation in shaping a better future.
Data is being gathered across the country on anti-Chinese and anti-Asian COVID-19 related racism. It has yet to be pooled but anecdotally, it seems that B.C. is at the epicentre. This is no surprise to Japanese Canadians and their descendants in Eastern Canada. In 1942, Pearl Harbour was the excuse to unjustly use the War Measures Act to dispossess, incarcerate, and expel Japanese Canadians from British Columbia. Political leaders from all parties ignored RCMP and military officials who advised that Japanese Canadians posed no threat to Canada. Ultimately, not a single act of sabotage or espionage occurred.
The parents and grandparents of Lynn Kobayashi, President of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the National Association of Japanese Canadians were interned during World War Two and forced to leave the province. Says, Kobayashi, “Both sides of my family ended up in Montreal. My grandfather never returned to Vancouver where he lost his dry-cleaning business on West
4th Avenue in Kitsilano. He died in 1952. My father was forced out of school in grade eight. The B.C. government abdicated its responsibility to educate its young.” The incarceration was paid for by the sale of Japanese Canadian property and possessions. Forced labour mitigated wartime labour shortages.
In 1941 over 22,000 Japanese Canadians were living in B.C. and only 234 lived in Ontario. By 1951 Japanese Canadians were scattered across Canada with more Japanese Canadians in Ontario than in B.C. Premier Horgan should get his own house in order before calling on the Federal Government for a National strategy to combat racism. First things first; the Province of B.C. needs to acknowledge why more than 60% of Japanese Canadians now live outside of B.C. and develop a National strategy to apologize, redress and honour those, like Kobayashi’s grandfather who died as an exile in his own country and Tomekichi Homma, who lost his battle for the right to vote in 1902 and died while incarcerated in 1945.
Over the course of 73 years 170 pieces of discriminatory legislation were enacted in the province including disenfranchisement of Asian Canadians until 1947 with Japanese Canadians the last to be granted the vote in 1949. Segregation measures for Asians in B.C. included limited access to some public spaces like swimming pools, separate sections in movie theatres and segregated schools for Chinese Canadians – giving some reason to refer to the province as the “Alabama of Canada”.
In 1988 the Federal Government apologized for their part in these injustices and provided significant symbolic redress. Research since, has revealed the full extent of the role played by B.C. political leaders like MLA Ian Mackenzie in lobbying the Federal Government to rid the province of the “yellow peril” – “Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the sea” he declared.
Last summer the National Association of Japanese Canadians held community consultations across Canada, including two in Toronto, and recommendations to establish anti-racism initiatives were developed. A report was presented to the B.C. Government in November. As the community waits for a meaningful response a new strain of racism has developed leaving all Canadians to reflect upon what measures might inoculate us from the cruelty of racism and hate. Selective amnesia is not one of them.
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Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi