Apology to Japanese Canadians leaves 'great legacy'

The apology and redress that Japanese Canadians received 25 years ago this week has cleared the way for similar settlements for other cultural groups, says a former president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians.

Federal government issued formal apology and redress 25 years ago

Many Japanese Canadians were uprooted from their homes along the West Coast and relocated to internment camps in the B.C. interior and across Canada during the Second World War. (Tak Toyota/National Archives of Canada/Canadian Press)

The apology and redress that Japanese Canadians received 25 years ago this week for what they endured in the Second World War has cleared the way for similar settlements for other cultural groups, says a former leader in the Japanese-Canadian community.

Following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, about 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forced out of their homes on the West Coastbranded as enemy aliens.

Art Miki, who was president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians from 1984 to 1992, says the federal government's apology and redress in 1988 has formed the basis for apologies and settlements for other ethnic groups, including survivors of native residential schools. (CBC)

Some were placed in internment camps and farms across the country, while others were deported to Japan.

Art Miki says his family was forced to sell its successful berry farm in British Columbia in 1942 and move to Manitoba, where they lived in deplorable conditions and did back-breaking farm work.

"My grandfather died just a few years after this and basically he had nothing. Everything he owned was gone," Miki told CBC News in Winnipeg on Monday.

The struggle of Japanese Canadians continued after the war, as they fought for an apology and redress for their loss.

Then on Sept. 22, 1988, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney issued a formal apology in the House of Commons for "the past injustices" against Japanese Canadians.

Miki was in Ottawa for that apology, as president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians.

He also signed a redress agreement that paid $21,000 to each surviving internee, $12 million for a Japanese community fund, and $24 million to create a Canadian race relations foundation.

At the time, Miki called the apology and $300-million compensation package "a settlement that heals."

Formed basis for other settlements

Twenty-five years later, Miki said the agreement has formed the basis for apologies and settlements for Chinese and Ukrainian Canadians, as well as for survivors of Indian residential schools.

"In some ways, it's a great legacy to have," Miki said.

In June 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons and formally apologized to former students of residential schools for how they were treated in "a sad chapter in our history."

The federal government also provided compensation to residential school survivors and launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

However, former day school students say they have been left out of the settlement agreement because they were not forced to live at the schools.

About 10,000 former day school students are taking part in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government.

"We should be in the same boat and … we should be treated the same way," said Ray Mason of Spirit Wind Canada.

Mason said the Canadian government must recognize the abuse that day school students faced if it wants to be known as a champion of human rights.

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