New Canadian Media

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 

From a machine gun wielding high school girl-yakuza boss to time travelling samurai; from sexual awakening in the final devastating days of WWII Tokyo to the true story of “the Japanese Schindler”, Canadian and Japanese audiences enjoyed yet another cultural feast at the 5th annual Toronto Japanese Film Festival.

The Festival ran for two weeks in June in the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC), located at Don Mills Rd. and Eglinton Ave. It screened more than two dozen Japanese movies to over 10,000 audience members from all over the GTA. 

“Our 2016 line-up again reflects the films that resonate with Japanese audiences, critics and Japanese Academy Award judges, providing a thorough cross section of the very diverse Japanese film industry. In our first four years we attracted large and diverse crowds and much positive reaction to the films,” says Gary Kawaguchi, President of JCCC. 

The 70th anniversary of the Second World War

A lot of films came out the end of 2015 that marked 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. These include Nagasaki – Memories of My Son, which centred around a mother who lost her son when the atomic bomb was dropped; and The Emperor in August, a powerful political drama that tells the little-known story of Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War.

There was also Persona Non Grata, the story of Ghiune Sugihara, known as the “Schindler of Japan” for saving 6,000 Jewish people from the Holocaust; and When I Was Most Beautiful, a story of Japanese people’s lives in the summer of 1945 when the war is drawing to a close. 

The Festival ran for two weeks in June in the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC).

James Heron, Executive Director of JCCC, says that 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War is quite significant in Japan, particularly because many of the people involved in the war are at the end of their lives.  

“We saw a lot of the films from different perspectives. There are consistent anti-war films, mostly about the people who were trapped,” he continues. “Average Japanese people feel like they were trapped between the military government that started the War and the gigantic response from the Allies powers. The films are made for domestic markets, so they tend to look at things from Japanese perspective.”

Internment and Japanese persecution in Canada

“Last year we showed the film Asah, which was all about the internment of Japanese-Canadians. The film was made entirely in Japan but was about a Japanese-Canadian baseball team that really played for the pride of Japanese Canadians. The team was ended when Japanese Canadians were put into camps,” says Heron.

Japanese-Canadians had to suffer internment after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that Japanese-Canadians were to move into prisoner of war camps. Their possessions were confiscated and their belongings were sold. 

Heron, who spent 11 years living and working in Japan, speaks fluent Japanese. His wife is also Japanese. “One of the reason the Festival and the Cultural Centre exists is many Japanese-Canadians feel that they were persecuted in the Second World War because people didn’t understand them and Japanese culture. Because Canadians didn’t understand, they were afraid of the Japanese, even the Japanese-Canadians who were born here, “ he explains.

Their possessions were confiscated and their belongings were sold.

By having the Cultural Centre where they could introduce Japanese-Canadian and Japanese culture, the organizers hope there will be better understanding and that persecution will never happen again to Japanese-Canadians.

Aftermath of the Festival 

When the audience enjoyed sushi and Japanese sake at TJFF’s closing ceremony, Dr. Sandra Annett, an assistant professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, announced that Being Good, a movie on raising children and having compassion, received the Grand Prize Jury Award for Best Film. 

A coming-of-age story, Flying Colors, won the Kobayashi Audience Choice.  

Toronto resident Shiming Fei, 29, particularly enjoyed The Magnificent Nine, which featured one of her favourite Japanese actors, Eita.

As a young Chinese person who came to Canada to study ten years ago, Shiming says she experiences Japanese culture through food and TV dramas. This is why Festivals like TJFF are so important to her.

 “I come here for the food and movie, maybe make a couple of new friends,” she giggles, renewing her search for her favourite hors-d’oeuvre at the closing reception of the Festival. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in History

by Matt D'Amours in Montreal 

About 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal, in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Quebec, there is a remote plot of land where at least 16 people are believed to be buried. Many of the wooden crosses that once stood to mark their graves have fallen, and overgrowth covers much of the 35 by 25 metre cemetery.

Those buried there all shared a common experience, stemming from a dark chapter in Canadian history that remains as hidden as their final resting place: they were all captives of a Canadian internment camp called Spirit Lake, operated during the First World War for prisoners of war and immigrants designated “enemy aliens” by the government.

“A lot of historians who specialize in the First World War, for the longest time, refused to discuss, or even admit, that Canada had concentration camps,” says Myron Momryk, a historian and retired archivist. “The fact that Canadians had camps with barbed wire doesn’t quite fit with the image [we] have of ourselves.”

Between 1914 and 1918, 24 internment camps were opened across Canada, and the vast majority of the civilians incarcerated were of Ukrainian origin. One of those camps was Spirit Lake in Quebec, where 16 internees are said to lie buried in a small cemetery that was carved out of the surrounding forest. 

Almost 100 years later, an organization called the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) is trying to bring the cemetery out of the shadows of history. They’re appealing to the federal government to have the cemetery restored and reconsecrated, and to have it designated a national historic site.

The history of Spirit Lake Camp

The Spirit Lake camp was opened on January 13, 1915, less than five months after the passage of The War Measures Act, which made it possible to deprive those designated as “enemy aliens” of their civil liberties. Among those designated were immigrants with Austro-Hungarian passports, including Croatians, Serbians and mostly Ukrainians.

“There was never any evidence that any of these Ukrainians, or other Europeans, were guilty of any wrongdoing — they were simply rounded up because of who they were and where they came from,” explains Lubomyr Luciuk of the UCCLA. 

“The fact that Canadians had camps with barbed wire doesn’t quite fit with the image [we] have of ourselves.”

He continues, “The fact remains that the government of the day knew that these people weren’t necessarily pro-Austrian in terms of the war effort … but then the combination of wartime hysteria and pre-war racism changed the attitude, and a whole series of measures are taken that subject these people to different kinds of state-sanctioned repression.”

Internees were kept behind barbed wire under armed military watch. Women and children were housed separately, while men were forced to work on a farm for the profit of the Spirit Lake jailers and businessmen from the nearby settlement of Amos.

Many of the people rounded up and sent to Spirit Lake were members of Montreal’s Ukrainian community — a community that, Luciuk says, was “decimated by the internment operations.”

Demands for recognition

Among the Ukrainian Montrealers to be imprisoned was the late Mary Manko Haskett, who was only six-years-old when she and her family arrived at the camp. Her daughter, 81-year-old Fran Haskett, recalls how in 1988, Manko Haskett came across a Globe & Mail op-ed co-written by Luciuk of the UCCLA about Canadian internment camps.

Wanting to share her memories of an experience that was mostly absent in the history books, the former internee reached out to Luciuk to share her story. 

“She was very tenacious,” Manko Haskett’s daughter Fran recounts. “She wanted the recognition that an injustice had been done to her family and many others during that time.”

"They were simply rounded up because of who they were and where they came from.”

That recognition became official in 2008 when the Harper government established the Endowment Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund. The fund was setup to locate and restore internee cemeteries across the country and to educate Canadians on their country’s internment history.

However, the Council has been unable to restore the cemetery at Spirit Lake because, in 1988, the land was sold to a farming couple who have since refused any plan that would give limited public access to an area on their property. 

New appeals for restoration

Within its mandate, the Endowment Council cannot lobby on this matter, which is why the UCCLA sent an appeal to Mélanie Joly, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to intervene. 

Minister Joly's office was unable to provide comment at press time.

“The desire is to say to [Minister] Joly, ‘do the right thing’, because there at least 16 people buried in this cemetery, which the Federal government should be morally responsible for,” Luciuk says. 

“She wanted the recognition that an injustice had been done to her family."

“Let’s not get bogged down in legalities … mothers had to bury their kids [here], and then one day, say goodbye to that gravesite and never get there again.”

While the UCCLA waits for a response from Minister Joly, Manko Haskett’s daughter underlines the importance of restoring the Spirit Lake Cemetery for the Ukrainian community. “These people died in the camps, and they shouldn’t even have been there in the first place,” she says. 

“So they should be honoured in death — they certainly weren’t honoured in life.” 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in History
Tuesday, 21 July 2015 14:24

Understanding My Ukrainian Grandparents

by Michelle Loughery (@mlougherymurals) in Vernon, British Columbia

Thousands of Canadians originating from Eastern Europe were imprisoned within the barbed wire fences of internment camps across Canada between 1914 - 20. For decades, their stories have been buried under fear and shame.

As a testament to their strength and resilience, I decided to paint the Sunflower mural to honour First World War Canadian internees.

My first human rights mural depicts a Ukrainian immigrant standing next to a 150-foot sunflower and a twisted barbed wire fence. He was arrested and interned in Calgary and moved by cattle car to the Vernon camp. His crime? Being an unemployed immigrant looking for work.

Like many Eastern Europeans that came to Canada with the promise of opportunities, he had responded to an invitation by the Canadian government. At the man’s side in the mural is a woman who represents the women who were forced to enter internment camps with their children. “With this mural, I feel like generations of people are speaking through me,” she says. “I didn’t understand my Ukrainian heritage before. I didn’t understand why my Ukrainian grandparents were so harsh. Now I understand.”

“With this mural, I feel like generations of people are speaking through me... I didn’t understand my Ukrainian heritage before. I didn’t understand why my Ukrainian grandparents were so harsh. Now I understand.”

Drawing inspiration

I drew inspiration from my great-grandfather, Michael Sanyshyn, who was interned in the camps with his son, Stephen. When he finally returned from the camps, he was ill and couldn’t work, making it impossible to clear the land as promised to the government under its immigrant invitation.

As a descendant of internees, I heard stories of my grandfather spending his entire life looking for his brother who had been working in a camp and then disappeared. While researching a heritage mural in Vernon, I found a letter to my grandfather in response to his inquiry about the location of his brother.

The response was he was last seen in an immigrant construction camp in Vernon. My great uncle was finally found in a document, Roll Call, as POW#47 interned at Banff/Castle Mountain, Alberta: among the harshest of camps.  It is not known what happened to him after he was sent there. And my grandfather never found him.

Social issue murals

This mural is the first of my series of social issue murals, which consists of a number of paintings across Canada that will draw on the same theme but will focus on injustices endured by all nationalities.

The murals, which will combine multi-media, traditional and digital art storytelling as well as historical photographs and personal video stories from the families directly affected, are slated to appear in the affected communities across Canada over the next several years.

My team plans to provide educational workshops in each community. These events, focused on information and story collection, will engage all generations and affected groups within the community. The goal of each workshop will be to share the cultural history of the people featured in the mural, and to create opportunities for societal healing and the turning of human wrongs into human rights.

All of my murals are created with help from youth artists who have encountered some form of barriers, in a unique skills and “Learn to Work” employment program that bridges youth and their communities together. Each mural will include the stories of the local people affected.

Inclusive healing

But my murals are more than just a painting on the wall -- they are an inclusive effort to heal the wounds of past and present injustices.

I have spent 25 years painting murals in  communities, including mural healing work with First Nation families who have survived residential schools. The fact that my own family had been marginalized makes this project a personal journey to help educate future generations about the past failings on Canadian soil. As it is only in learning from the past, using art to equalize all nations, can we wear the wings to a better future.

This Community Art is only the start of a conversation. Through the Sunflower Project Murals, my charity is making efforts to bring Canada’s dark chapter in history into the school curriculum. The average Canadian and youth still know very little about immigrant internment in Canada’s history.

While historic injustices are not a proud point in Canada’s history, I hope that through art people can learn about each other and through similar artistic journeys come together as a nation.

Our Canadian workforce is diverse in every way. Employees come from many backgrounds that cross ethnic, generational and economic differences.  Community art projects provide opportunities for employees to become more familiar with their co-workers. Art is a tool to bring diversity and inclusion programs to communities, companies, and education and skills institutions.

While historic injustices are not a proud point in Canada’s history, I hope that through art people can learn about each other and through similar artistic journeys come together as a nation.

I hope to bring artists together to help Canada heal and bring all nations together in reconciliation, as Canada is a multicultural community and the combined strength of all nations are the first people of today. Let’s hope we can not only learn from past injustices, but also celebrate our cultural differences.


Michelle Loughery is an award winning international artist and art educator who has been creating large scale community art for 25 years.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in History


We, the undersigned, are profoundly dismayed by the lack of a meaningful portrayal of Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914 to 1920 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

The Estonian Life

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Published in History

by Amira Elghawaby (@AmiraElghawaby) in Ottawa

Yurij Fojczuk immigrated to Canada in 1912 and set up a homestead. He would come to be known as George Forchuk.

Two years later, in 1914, Forchuk was arrested under the War Measures Act for no other reason than his Ukrainian heritage. He was sent to Jasper Internment Camp where he was forced to perform heavy labour under awful conditions. After months of brutal treatment, he ran away, guards in hot pursuit and bullets whizzing past his ears.

Forchuk hid until the war’s end. When he returned to his homestead, he discovered that the government had given away his land to someone else. He had to start anew.

His granddaughter, Marsha Skrypuch, shared his story with New Canadian Media, recalling how the experience affected him for the rest of his life. “The shame of his unjust internment stayed with him until his dying day,” she said.

But those memories are bittersweet today as 100 plaques are unveiled across the country at 11 a.m. (local time) as a “wave of remembrance, hallowing all victims of Canada’s first national internment operations”.

Dubbed “Project CTO”, bilingual plaques commemorating Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920 have been installed in parish halls, cultural centres, museums, and archives. The first internment operations affected not only Ukrainians, but German, Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian and Armenian communities, according to the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation. The Foundation is spearheading the commemoration with the support of the federally-funded Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.

“I am thrilled about the 100 plaques being unveiled across Canada in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Canada's WWI internment operations,” said Skrypuch. “Canadians do need to recognize and acknowledge injustices of the past because what we don't acknowledge, we are bound to repeat.”

“Canadians do need to recognize and acknowledge injustices of the past because what we don't acknowledge, we are bound to repeat.”

Skrypuch, author of 19 books, three of which are set during Canada’s WW1 internment operations, is releasing a new book at one of today’s ceremonies. The book explores the experiences of a group of people who fled the Ottoman Empire to her hometown of Brantford, Ontario, “only to be interned as enemies,” she said. The book is titled, Dance of the Banished.

It is estimated that over 8,500 “enemy aliens” were rounded up and imprisoned during the First World War. They were unconnected to the conflict. They worked on public projects including the country’s railways.

“The way that I have dealt with my grandfather's unjust internment is to write about it,” explained Skrypuch. “My theory is that dark secrets left alone will fester, but those that are aired out will be better understood.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in History

 

On Tuesday, 29 October 2013, at 1:30 pm, a commemorative plaque recalling the internment of Ukrainians and other Europeans during the First World War was unveiled at the Lethbridge Exhibition. One of 24 camps set up during Canada's first national internment operations, most of the prisoners were civilians who had immigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The camp was in operation from 30 September, 1914, to 7 November, 1916. Other camps remained open until the spring of 1920. Internees were forced to do heavy labour for the profit of their jailers and suffered other state-sanctioned indignities, not because they had done anything wrong but only because of who they were and where they had come from.

 

The commemorative plaque was placed by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, in cooperation with the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation. This is the 22nd such plaque placed by UCCLA. Just two more First World War-era internment camp sites remain to be memorialized: Montreal and Halifax. -- UCCLA news release

 
Published in Top Stories
 
On the 99th anniversary of the start of the First World War and Canada’s first national internment operations, a permanent memorial to the civilian internees of the Lethbridge internment camp will be officially unveiled at the southwest Alberta city’s Exhibition Grounds on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 1:30 p.m. (MT).

 

UCCLA and city officials will unveil a trilingual (English, French, Ukrainian) plaque on the site where, between Sept. 30, 1914, and Nov. 7, 1916, hundreds of civilian internees cycled through following arrest and detention. Lethbridge was one of 24 such sites in Canada. The camp operations in total housed more than 8,000 men, women and children during the First World War and for two years following, simply for being born or for having parents who were born in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

 

“UCCLA is steadfast in its commitment to mark each of the two dozen ‘concentration camps’ that dotted this land between 1914 and 1920,” said UCCLA’s chairperson R.W. Zakaluzny. “Thanks to the City of Lethbridge, Exhibition Park, the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation, the placement of this memorial plaque in Lethbridge means our work in permanently memorializing every site is nearly completed. - UCCLA news release

 

 

 

Published in Top Stories

by Marika Washchyshyn

Even before its planned opening in 2014, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba has had its share of critics. They insist that the museum fails to adequately address certain aspects of its avowed aim to educate, promote awareness and increase dialogue about human rights.

One of the issues raised is that the Holocaust is being given undue prominence in deference to the Aspers, a wealthy Jewish family whose late patriarch Israel [Izzy] Asper launched the CMHR in 2003 as a private initiative. In 2008, an act of Parliament made it a national museum. At the centre of this controversy are the “genocide” galleries, which include information on the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Armenian massacre and the Ukrainian Holodomor famine of 1932-33 during which millions died.

A section of the Ukrainian community has been the most vocal on the issue, garnering major media attention and critical analysis of the museum’s contents. Roman Zakaluzny, chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA), said Canadians will not get to see a fair representation of all such atrocities in the museum despite the fact that their tax dollars are now largely funding the project. [As of December 2011, Global News reported the total budget for the building and its exhibits was $351 million, with approximately $200 million of that coming from taxpayers.]

“This isn’t a private museum. Donations shouldn’t reflect content in a national museum,” said Zakaluzny. “No one community should have pride of place over another. The museum hasn’t provided enough evidence that all genocides will be treated equally. This isn’t just about the Ukrainian community.” To emphasize this, the UCCLA launched a postcard campaign showing people of various ethnic backgrounds fleeing the museum.

‘No hierarchy of genocides’

Angela Cassie, the director of communications and external relations at the CMHR, was quick to shoot down the accusation.

“There is no hierarchy [of genocides] here, and any suggestions of that is a gross misrepresentation of our intentions at the CMHR,” Cassie said. “Those comments divide, when our goal is to bring people together to recognize the humanity in others and take action for human rights.”

Cassie stressed that human rights violations and “reliving the past” were not the focus of the museum, but that the CMHR serves as an educational vehicle to promote understanding of human rights issues and draw lessons. She also said violations are not emphasized, and the museum is not a memorial or institution for comparing genocides.

“Even in our examination of the Holocaust, we’re looking at that broader concept, at all groups who were affected by the Nazi regime,” said Cassie. “We’re looking at what we can learn from these stages of genocide, and there are some very relevant stories for us to learn.”

New Canadian experience

The museum is much more than a display of crimes against humanity, and also contains content examining the experience of New Canadians, contends Cassie. The internment of Canadians during the First World War, including the Italians, Ukrainians, Poles and the Japanese, are some of the galleries the museum is commissioning to show Canadians these black marks in their nation’s history and how far removed they are today from those shameful episodes.

Cassie also noted the museum has worked with the Ukrainian community in bringing special guest lecturers from Ukraine to the museum, resulting in a memorandum of understanding between the CMHR and Ukraine’s National Holodomor Museum in Kiev last July.

“We are moving things forward in a very positive fashion with the Ukrainian community,” she said. “It’s about working in collaboration with these communities to make sure their stories are properly represented, and to make sure they understand exactly what a human rights museum is.”

Cassie highlighted the different ways Ukrainian content was integrated into the museum, including an inaugural feature film on the Holodomor. First World War internment, an interactive study table containing primary-source information on the Holodomor, the struggle by the Ukrainian-Canadian community to gain parliamentary recognition for the mass deaths and an analysis of Stalin’s “techniques of genocide” are among at least seven other exhibits displaying Ukrainian stories.

Not just Ukrainians

The Museum’s PR offensive has borne some fruit. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) decided to work with the CMHR after it resolved with the museum apprehensions about how the Holodomor was going to be covered. The UCCLA, however, remains unconvinced.

Other Canadian immigrant groups are also calling for more inclusive action by the CMHR. The CBC reported on March 4 that the Palestinian-Canadian community has become the newest group to take up issue with the museum.

“This proves that it’s not just Ukrainians who are unhappy with the museum’s content and layout, but Canadians across the country,” UCCLA’s Zakaluzny said. He cited a July 2012 Nanos Research poll (paid for by Canadians for Genocide Education and UCCLA) which showed 60 per cent of the approximately 1,200 people polled were in favour of a “one exhibit/all genocides” approach versus a “one gallery highlighting a particular genocide permanently” approach.

The UCCLA, in the meantime, has won another of its battles by securing a deal with the Government of Canada, Parks Canada and the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition fund for a permanent exhibit in the immediate vicinity of an internment camp for Ukrainians in Banff from 1914-1917. This recognition came after around 25 years of lobbying, when Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney acknowledged the need for restitution in 2008. - New Canadian Media

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in National

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