Session 7: Reconciliation as Intention, Reconciliation as Practice

Reflections on the Impact of Japanese Canadians’ Reconciliation

Aya Fujiwara

Japanese Canadians are one of the first groups to reconcile with the Government of Canada for the wartime policies that relocated them from the west coast of British Columbia and interned them coercively. The government’s apology and the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement signed in 1988 was the result of long-term activism, initiated by Japanese Canadians and their advocates with ministers of State for Multiculturalism. At the same time, it was also motivated by the Asians’ anti-racism and equity movement, which challenged the initial policy of multiculturalism for simply addressing cultural and linguistic rights of ethnic groups. Thus, the federal policy of multiculturalism undoubtedly created the momentum to challenge norms and views by which Canadians had written or commemorated their history. While the government’s official apology and compensation, as a major agent that orchestrated this wartime violence against people of Japanese descent, were powerful gestures which promoted public awareness of wartime injustices against Japanese Canadians committed by Canada, they also had a very complicated impact on the Japanese Canadians as a community in terms of its engagement with Canada’s ethnic diversity. This paper addresses three major issues around official reconciliation, taking the case of Japanese Canadians as an example. First, the official apology ambiguates where the responsibility lies, producing a single body that was involved in anti-Japanese policies during the war. Consequently, it has delayed other organizations, media, and people in recognizing their parts which played a fundamental role in justifying the government’s conduct. Second, while Japanese Canadians’ successful redress movement created the way by which the state responds to its discriminatory actions against other ethnic, racial, and/or religious minorities and indigenous people, the process to gain an official apology was a very complicated one for these marginalized groups. In the case of Japanese Canadians, it caused pain among its members, bringing back their difficult memories, or created conflicts within the Japanese-Canadian community. Finally, the official reconciliation tends to focus public attention to the past, without building a connection to systemic racism and inequality which exist in the current social structure.

Aya Fujiwara received her Ph.D from the Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta in 2007. Her specialty is ethnic and immigration history of Canada with particular focus on Japanese Canadians and Japan-Canada relations. Born in Japan, she began studying Japanese history but developed an interest in Canadian Studies when she attended the University of British Columbia as an exchange student. Since then, her passion has been to promote strong ties between Japan and Canada. She has served as a political advisor and researcher at the Embassy of Japan in Ottawa in 2008-2009. After that time she held the L.R. Wilson Postdoctoral Fellowship at McMaster University from 2009-2011 where she taught both Canadian and East Asian histories. In 2015, she took the position of Director of the Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Teaching and Research, University of Alberta. She also teaches Modern Japan and Ethnic History in Canada.

“Unsettled” Teachings: Thinking Pedagogically about Decolonized Settlement Work

Alexandru Caldararu

This presentation proposes to explore how work done in the “helping” professions can be thought of in a pedagogic light. Professional “helpers” often occupy a role that mirrors that of a teacher in the lives of newcomers to Canada, and immigrant service-providing agencies share knowledge that plays a vital role in the integration of newcomers into Canadian society. However, these agencies receive significant portions of their operating grants from the federal government and are thus expected to engage only in activities that are sanctioned by their benefactors. This raises important questions about what newcomers learn about Canada from state-funded, nonprofit service-providing agencies, and more significantly, what they do not. This presentation would thus provide space for dialogue that examines how current approaches to newcomer support augment the settlement continuum in Canada, and how a new pedagogy of decolonized settlement work can help “unsettle” our conceptions of what it means to be “Canadian.”

Alexandru Caldararu is a Full-Time Instructor and the Program Founder of the Settlement Studies Diploma Program at NorQuest College in Edmonton. Originally an immigrant from Romania, he has spent much of his life involved in social movements dedicated towards socio-economic equity and working in professions that support the integration of newcomers to Canada. He has a Masters in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Alberta, and has a keen interest in working towards the decolonization of the immigration/settlement sector in Canada.