Vancouver internment activist weighs in on aboriginal reconciliation movement

It will take another decade before the atrocities suffered by aboriginal people in residential schools become visible in the language of Canadian history, says one of the seminal leaders of the 1980s movement to seek redress for the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

But Roy Miki believes it will happen if scholars and activists continue to speak out about the issue.

The SFU professor emeritus and acclaimed poet was one of 3,000 presenters at the Modern Language Association’s annual convention held in Vancouver on the weekend.

It was the first time the city hosted the world’s largest scholarly meeting in the humanities, which drew an estimated 6,500 language and literature scholars from around the world.

Miki, a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia, said during a talk with University of Toronto professor Smaro Kamboureli, that he is planning to write a collection of essays on how the language of Japanese Canadians can help the Truth and Reconciliation movement.

“It is an enormous issue,� he said, adding that he is encouraged by the amount of academic study done on the issue over the past few years.

“That, in my mind, is still a work in progress and it will probably take another decade before we realize the results of that effort. But it is going to transform us.�

Miki said Canadian history is still very much a “settler history� and more work will need to be done by scholars to make residential schools and other atrocities suffered by indigenous people more visible in the history books.

Once the redress movement was over, Miki noted that the federal government used the movement’s language to set up the recognition program for different communities to show how they contributed to the building of Canada.

“It suddenly made me feel really bad that we unleashed a language that can be appropriated,� he said. “You can’t turn the page on a particular injustice and move on as if nothing happened, and that’s what the federal government is doing with the recognition program.�

Ottawa established the Community Historical Recognition Program in 2008, in a bid to educate Canadians about the experiences of ethno-cultural communities affected by wartime discriminatory measures and immigration restrictions. It provided $13.5 million to 68 community projects.

“They call it reconciling our pasts by making the past right … that’s a big problem for First Nations issues because it makes it seem as if this is a closure rather than an opening.â€�

This is why Miki said it is vital that scholars and activists continue to critique the language of redress and reconciliation.

During Second World War, thousands of Japanese Canadians were forcibly evacuated from the West Coast and interned at work camps. Their assets, including fishing boats and farms, were seized and most of it later sold by the federal government.

In 1988, then prime minister Brian Mulroney announced government compensation in the form of $21,000 to each surviving internee, $12 million to the Japanese-Canadian community and $12 million for the establishment of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

A commission looking into the sordid past of residential schools, and the plight of aboriginals, who were often abused and beaten at the church-run schools, wrapped up four years of hearings last March.

A report is expected from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Justice Murray Sinclair, in June.

ticrawford@vancouversun.com

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Vancouver internment activist weighs in on aboriginal reconciliation movement
http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/Vancouver+internment+activist+weighs+aboriginal/10719276/story.html
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japanese language – Yahoo News Search Results
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