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Hormidas Fredette, who currently lives in New Minas, was 23 years old when he was captured in Hong Kong on Christmas Day in 1941. (CBC)

Japan's apology to the Canadian veterans who suffered brutal treatment in prisoner of war camps during the Second World War is too late to be of significant meaning, says one Nova Scotia veteran.

Hormidas Fredette, who currently lives in New Minas, was 23 years old when he was captured in Hong Kong on Christmas Day in 1941.

"They beat us. I was not well at the same time, I had a fever and a cold and it went on for a while," he told CBC News.

Officials gathered in Tokyo on Thursday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, a disastrous campaign in which hundreds of Canadian soldiers were killed or wounded.

Japan's parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs Toshiyuki Kato apologized for the mistreatment of those soldiers who survived the battle and spent years toiling in labour camps.

The declaration was delivered to an audience that included Canada's Veterans Affairs Minister, Steven Blaney.

Fredette, who spent three years in a camp for prisoners of war, has only one memento of those days — a rosary he carved from fruit pits.

He said the apology from the Japanese government doesn't mean much to him.

"I don't accept the apology," the 94-year-old said.

"Not now, from the people living these days."

Some 1,975 Canadian troops were hastily sent to reinforce Allied troops defending Hong Kong, a British colony on China's southern coast, as Japanese forces massed near the border in 1941.

The Battle of Hong Kong began Dec. 8, 1941, and lasted until Christmas Day. The Allies surrendered after almost 18 days of fighting in which 290 Canadians were killed and 493 wounded.

Those who survived were held prisoner until Japan's surrender in 1945. Aside from the battle casualties, another 267 captured men died in prison camps where they were subjected to what Canada calls "deliberate and systematic mistreatment at the hands of their captors."

Many of the PoWs who survived and returned to Canada suffered serious disabilities as a result of their experiences in Hong Kong, and many died prematurely, Veterans Affairs said.

Fredette said the war still isn't over for him.

"You can't forget because if you try to forget in the daytime, you dream about it at night," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press