Reconciling Several Pasts

December 20, 2010

The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recently announced a conference to take place in Vancouver (March 2 – 4, 2011) to discuss the proposed National Research Centre on Residential Schools. I recently visited the Nikkei Place / Japanese Canadian National Museum (JCNM) in Burnaby whose funds partially came from the reparations awarded for the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II. I wonder if the Research Centre on Residential Schools will take their cue from the JCNM, which aims to be a site for both the sharing of information as well as the creation and fostering of a strong Japanese Canadian community.

Raymond Nakamura gave me a tour of the exhibit on the internment and we discussed some of the similarities between the Japanese Canadian experience and the Indian Residential Schools. A few months ago, I posted a short excerpt from Thomas King’s short story, “Coyote and the Enemy Aliens,which draws connections between these two histories. It seems fitting to post it again here:

“I know the story of the Japanese internment in Canada. I know it as most Canadians know it.

In pieces.

From a distance.

But whenever I hear the story, I think about Indians, for the treatment the Canadian government afforded Japanese people during the Second World War is strikingly similar to the treatment that the Canadian government has always afforded Native people, and whenever I hear either of these stories, a strange thing happens.

I think of the other.

I’m not suggesting that Native people have suffered the way the Japanese suffered or that the Japanese suffered the way Native people have. I’m simply suggesting that hatred and greed produce much the same sort of results, no matter who we practice on.”

Model of Japanese Canadian Internment Camp in Lemon Creek, BC

Image at Internment Exhibit

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