Redress for the wrongs suffered during World War II became an issue in the 1970s and 1980s. Government documents that had been sealed for 30 years were released, arming the cause with vivid histories of the Japanese Canadian wartime. The National Association of Japanese Canadians sought to persuade the federal government to acknowledge the wartime wrongs, to negotiate compensation for those who were wronged and, most importantly, to make changes to Canada's laws to prevent other Canadians from similar suffering in the future(11).
The campaign initially divided Japanese Canadians. One group, centred in Toronto, wanted to accept a token group settlement of $6 million offered in 1984 by the Mulroney government. They saw this settlement as politically realistic and feared retaliation against Japanese Canadians if they asked for anything more. A second group, led by NAJC President Art Miki, saw that offer as a continuation of the wartime attitude that Japanese Canadians could be treated as a weak and passive people on whom any settlement could be imposed(12).
To the leaders of the NAJC, a just process of negotiation was as important as the achievement of redress. They wanted a negotiated rather than an imposed settlement and a monetary acknowledgement that the human rights of individuals had been abused. Between 1984 and 1988, the NAJC held seminars, lobbied and petitioned the government and ethnic, religious and human rights groups. They also distributed studies and press materials to educate politicians, Japanese Canadians and the general public. One study revealed that the economic losses from the wartime property confiscation were $443 million in 1986 dollars(13).
In 1988 the government agreed to negotiate with the NAJC. In July, 1988, the War Measures Act was revoked and replaced with the Emergencies Act, which prohibits discriminatory emergency orders, permits Parliament to override the emergency orders of the government, requires an inquiry into the actions of the government after any emergency and provides for compensation payment to the victims of government actions(14).
Finally, on September 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney acknowledged the wartime wrongs and announced compensation of $21,000 for each individual directly wronged. A community fund to rebuild the infrastructure of the destroyed community was to be established, and pardons issued to those wrongfully convicted of disobeying orders under the War Measures Act. Canadian citizenship was also reinstated for those wrongfully deported to Japan and their descendants and funding for a Canadian Race Relations Foundation was put in place(15).
Since 1988, 16,000 survivors have claimed compensation, community centres have been built in most major centres between Montreal and Victoria, and a variety of cultural and educational and civil rights projects, programs and conferences have been funded by the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation(16).
In seeking reparation, Japanese Canadians have fought for and won the rights of all Canadians to dignity, due process and equality under the law. Never again will Canadians be pulled out of their homes and lives and forced to the margins of society. It is Canada's continuing history that shapes this country, and the private losses of those unjustly treated, who instruct us.
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