Two Winnipeg city councillors want Mitsubishi Materials Corp. to include Canadian veterans in its landmark apology for using prisoners of war for forced labour in Japan during the Second World War.

St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes and St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Gillingham have drafted a motion calling on the City of Winnipeg to "respectfully request" that Mitsubishi "extend the corporate apology to include Canadian veterans."

Mayes says their motion will be presented when council's downtown development, heritage and riverbank management committee meets on Monday morning.

The Japanese corporation apologized on July 19, almost 70 years after the war ended, for using U.S. PoWs as slaves at mines and industrial plants operated by its predecessor company, Mitsubishi Mining Co.

Some 12,000 U.S. prisoners were shipped to Japan and forced to work at more than 50 sites to support imperial Japan's war effort, and about 10 per cent died, according to Kinue Tokudome, director of the U.S.-Japan Dialogue on PoWs, who has spearheaded the lobbying effort for companies to apologize.

United States Japan Apology

James Murphy, middle right, a Second World War veteran and former prisoner of war, was issued an apology from a senior executive of Mitsubishi Materials Corp. on July 19 for the company's use of U.S. POWs for forced labour during the conflict. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

The motion from Mayes and Gillingham says while Mitsubishi has apologized to former prisoners of war from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands, it has not included Canadian veterans.

The councillors said Mitsubishi has said it does not have evidence indicating that any Canadian PoWs were employed in its mines during the Second World War.

"Canadian veterans have stated that they were forcibly employed in the Mitsubishi mines during WW II but lack photographic or documentary evidence due to the harsh conditions under which PoWs lived," their motion states in part.

Mayes and Gillingham said their motion does have a Winnipeg connection: Many of the Canadians who fought in the war's Pacific theatre had been taken as PoWs during the Battle of Hong Kong — a conflict in which the Winnipeg Grenadiers were a major contributing unit.

"Therefore be it resolved that the City of Winnipeg respectfully request that the Mitsubishi Materials Corporation accept as evidence verbal statements from Canadian veterans and based on such evidence extend the corporate apology to include Canadian veterans," the motion says.


Read the full motion

Whereas the Mitsubishi Materials Corporation of Japan commendably issued an apology in July 2015 to Allied Prisoners of War (POWs) who were forcibly employed in slave-like conditions in Mitsubishi mines under Japanese control during World War II; and 

Whereas this apology was provided to veterans from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands, but not to Canadian veterans;

Whereas Mitsubishi has stated that it does not have evidence that any Canadian POW's were employed in their mines during WWII and therefore has not included Canadian veterans in the apology; and 

Whereas Canadian veterans have stated that they were forcibly employed in the Mitsubishi mines during WWII but lack photographic or documentary evidence due to the harsh conditions under which POW's lived; and 

Whereas this issue is of particular importance to the City of Winnipeg given that many of the Canadian POWs in the Pacific theatre of war were taken during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941 in which the Winnipeg Grenadiers were a major contributing unit;

Therefore be it resolved that the City of Winnipeg respectfully request that the Mitsubishi Materials Corporation accept as evidence verbal statements from Canadian veterans and based on such evidence extend the corporate apology to include Canadian veterans.

With files from The Associated Press