Why does Japanese Canadian history matter today?
To me, Japanese Canadian history matters because it is my history. My family’s history. My great-grandparents moved to Canada and because of that decision, three generations later I call myself Canadian. I carry the language, culture, and legacies of my ancestors inside me.
To the community, Japanese Canadian history matters because it is a history that shaped the country we know today. World War II dispersed Japanese Canadians throughout Canada and exiled many to Japan, changing the population and location of the community drastically. We continue to see the after-effects of the war in enduring trauma. Loss of language. “Japantowns” that are no longer, or significantly smaller than in pre-war years. Confusion, when it comes to questions of identity. And lots of silence. Why isn’t this history discussed more in schools? Within families?
To society in general, remembering historical racism is important because it allows us to draw connections between enduring systems that continue to oppress. White supremacy. Colonialism. Patriarchy. We remember so that we do not repeat. When we as Japanese Canadians remember what happened to our ancestors and family members, we remind ourselves to practice patience and self-forgiveness when we cannot speak the language perfectly or notice gaps in our cultural knowledge. Understanding our own history also allows us to sympathize with other communities who face(d) oppression. In remembrance we grieve and we acknowledge, and we come together through that pain to grow stronger.