2005年 03月 02日
"Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice"
After a public attempt for redress failed in 1947, Japanese-Canadians had been determined to become "model citizens": hardworking, compliant, and invisible.
Books: Redress, by Roy Miki
By hal wake
Publish Date: 10-Feb-2005
Raincoast Books, 361 pp, $34.95, hardcover.
In 1984, after decades of refusing to admit the wrong in uprooting Japanese-Canadian families from their homes, breaking them apart and dispersing them across the country, confiscating their property and interning many individuals illegally, the federal government made an offer. As Roy Miki's Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice tells us, this moment is the crux of a dramatic story about the remaking of the Japanese-Canadian community and the reshaping of our national identity.
After a public attempt for redress failed in 1947, Japanese-Canadians had been determined to become "model citizens": hardworking, compliant, and invisible. Then almost out of the blue came an offer of $5 million to be shared by all Canadians but no apology, just an expression of "regret". Suddenly a silent community unused to political activity, with a leadership at war with itself, was forced to engage in very public and political negotiations with a government that had smashed it apart 40 years earlier. An offer, as inadequate and insulting as it was, was on the table, and the clock was ticking for many of the community's elders.
Miki is a Governor General's Awardwinning poet and a professor at SFU. He became active in the redress movement in the early '80s, and his brother Art, as head of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, was instrumental in the lengthy negotiations that ensued. The book's mixture of history, memoir, and postmodern analysis is sometimes confusing, and the academic style often diffuses rather than heightens the drama inherent in the story. But I think Miki wants to go beyond the events to find a deeper understanding of identity.
The Canadians of Japanese descent did not succumb to the pressure to accept an inadequate settlement. They honoured principles that were simply hollow slogans for the government: truth and justice. Until we acknowledged the truth that there was no justification for the abuses suffered by the Japanese-Canadians, none of us would be whole. Unless there was compensation for individuals who were wronged and for the entire community, and a commitment that it would never happen again to any Canadian citizen, there could be no justice. Through their courage and efforts they were successful and our country is the better for it.