Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Remember well the challenges Canadian Heritage’s historical recognition program uhad in working with the Italian Canadian representatives during my time there, as well as some of the academics who challenged the community narrative (Enemies Within: Italian and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad):

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will issue a formal apology next month for the treatment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War.

The government said in a news release that 600 Italian-Canadian men were interned in camps in Canada after Italy allied with Germany and joined the war in 1940.

Some 31,000 other Italian-Canadians were declared enemy aliens.

Trudeau told the House of Commons Wednesday that his government “will right these wrongs” by issuing a formal apology in May.

In 1988, Canada formally apologized and offered $300 million in compensation to Japanese-Canadians, 22,000 of whom were interned in camps during the Second World War.

Trudeau did not say whether there will be compensation for Italian-Canadians.

He announced plans for the apology in response to a question Wednesday from Liberal MP Angelo Iacono.

“During the Second World War, hundreds of Italian-Canadians were interned for the simple reason that they were of Italian heritage,” Iacono told the Commons.

“Parents were taken away from their homes, leaving children without their fathers in many cases and families without a paycheque to put food on their tables. Lives and careers, businesses and reputations were interrupted and ruined, and yet no one was held responsible.

“Italian Canadians have lived with these memories for many years and they deserve closure.”

Trudeau replied that Canadians of Italian heritage “deal with ongoing discrimination related to mistakes made by our governments of the past that continue to affect them to this day.”

“I’m proud to stand up and say that our government will right these wrongs with a formal apology in the month of May.”

The government’s news release said that in 1939, the Defence of Canada Regulations gave the justice minister the right to intern, seize property and limit activities of Canadian residents born in countries that were at war with Canada.

The regulations clearly targeted Canadians’ fear of “the foreign element,” and not a single person was ever charged with any crime, the release said.

In 2018, the RCMP issued a statement of regret for their involvement in the internment.

The government’s formal apology will pay tribute to and honour the families of each of the 600 interned as an act of respect and an acknowledgment that an injustice happened, the release said.

Canada is home to over 1.6 million Canadians of Italian origin, one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world, and they have made immeasurable contributions to the social, cultural and economic fabric of the country, the release added.

A joint statement from 10 Italian-Canadian members of Parliament, including Justice Minister David Lametti and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said many residents suffered irrevocable harm.

“They may have been Italian by heritage, but they were Canadians first. We as Italian Members of Parliament thank those members before us who brought attention to this injustice and helped bring this apology to fruition for these families in our Italian-Canadian communities.”

Source: Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Trudeau Sr. cabinet opposed payments to interned Japanese-Canadians

Not much new here in terms of the substance of former PM Trudeau and his Cabinet’s position but nevertheless of interest:

The cabinet of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau opposed compensation for interned Japanese-Canadians because they didn’t seem unhappy, say secret documents.

The declassified documents, obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, said the cabinet was concerned about the precedent it would set to give cash to people whose property was seized.

“Any assistance should not be addressed only to the Japanese since other groups were treated badly on racial grounds,” cabinet agreed at a confidential April 18, 1984 meeting.

The National Association of Japanese Canadians had sought for years settlement of claims over the seizure and forced sale of property in 1942.

About 22,000 Japanese, including Canadian citizens, were removed from the BC coast after the Pearl Harbour attack and taken to the interior, Alberta, Manitoba and northern Ontario.

The wartime cabinet invoked the War Measures Act and seizing more than $152.4 million worth of fishing boats, real estate and automobiles owned by Japanese-Canadians.

Then-Multiculturalism Minister David Collenette in a censored 1984 report to cabinet proposed a settlement of claims.

“Many Japanese people who were relocated stayed in the new communities and were not unhappy,” said Cabinet Minutes.

“A nation cannot go back and wipe out the past, it should look forward. A more general approach should be taken, if anything is to be done.”

“All minorities will feel they should have a right to redress. Any resolution in the House of Commons should not be related to a single group.”

Cabinet said instead of compensating Japanese-Canadians, “other ways should be looked at, for example endowing chairs at universities,” said Minutes.

“In concluding, Ministers expressed the wish that the Minister (of Multiculturalism) look at the issue again and have it discussed in the cabinet committee on social development.”

Trudeau, Sr. at the time also publicly opposed any apology or compensation for the wartime internment.

“I’m not inclined to envisage questions of compensation about acts which have maybe discoloured our history in the past,” Trudeau told the Commons.

“I’m not sure where we would stop in compensating.”

The Liberal cabinet lost re-election five months later without settling the issue.

When Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was elected, in 1he 988 formally apologized for the wartime internment and approved $21,000 in compensation to some 6,000 surviving internees.

“All Canadians know apologies are inadequate,” Mulroney said at the time.

Japanese were interned under a 1942 order that demanded “all property situated in any protected area of British Columbia belonging to any person of the Japanese race be delivered up” for sale by federal agents.

Japanese-Canadians did not regain the right to vote until 1949.

Source: Trudeau Sr. cabinet opposed payments to interned Japanese-Canadians

New documentary tells the story of Ukrainians’ role in Canada’s war effort

As one of my multiculturalism files was historical recognition of communities that were either subject to immigration restrictions or wartime internment, found this documentary of interest:

The late Ukrainian Canadian poet Michael Gowda, who in 1907 enlisted in the Canadian Home Guard and sought to create a Ukrainian regiment to serve the British army, once wrote a series of verses addressed directly to his new homeland.

Written from the perspective of an immigrant allowed to live in Canada primarily to colonize the prairie, as 170,000 Ukrainians did between 1891 and 1914, “To Canada” describes these new Canadians as in some sense merely “holders of thy soil.” To be recognized as fully Canadians, their people would have to fight and even die for Canada. It would take a blood sacrifice for their children to one day be “free to call thee theirs,” as the poem reads.

It is an outmoded vision of Canadian citizenship but no less powerful for the cultural change that has occurred since then, as Ukrainian-Canadians established themselves in Canada over many generations, with veterans of every war Canada has fought.

Award-winning Winnipeg filmmaker John Paskievich said this poem “proved prophetic.” The sacrifice was real, and the sense of belonging was finally ensured.

His new documentary, A Canadian War Story, describes Ukrainian Canadians’ contribution to Canada’s war efforts. Working for the Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre, he and other researchers tracked down details of veterans in Legion Halls and various archives, and gave voice to old correspondences.

As a story of racist exclusion giving way to acceptance, the film also offers a chance to reflect on the ethnic diversity of military service, especially from an ethnicity of Canadians who, like Japanese Canadians, were once persecuted as enemy aliens, even interned in work camps.

For Ukrainian Canadians in the late 19th and early 20th century, many of whom immigrated with the promise of title to a quarter section if they could farm it, resentment and suspicion were the norm. The film quotes then Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell referring to the consternation felt by established Canadians as trainloads passed through Ontario on their way west, filled with “disgusting creatures… being bearing human form” but having “sunk to such a bestial level.”

That was the climate in which Gowda tried to create a Ukrainian Canadian regiment as the threat of war grew in Europe. Canada was not interested. On the contrary, Ukrainians were suspected of sympathy for the enemy Austro-Hungarian empire, whence they came. Those who were not naturalized were forced to register as enemy aliens. Others were disenfranchised, and some were interned in forced labour camps.

There were exceptions, and the film describes how Filip Konowal, a Ukrainian Canadian from the allied Russian empire, became the only Eastern European born person to win the Victoria Cross, for “most conspicuous bravery and leadership when in charge of a section in attack.”

The second wave of Ukrainian immigration in the 1920s was similarly met with broad racism and exclusion. By the end of the 1930s, the reasons for enlisting were similar to other Canadians — patriotism, duty, excitement, lack of other work — but with that added cultural sense that Gowda’s blood sacrifice had not yet been paid.

The film quotes veterans such as Joseph Romanow of Saskatoon, who described an awareness that Ukrainian Canadians mustn’t be seen as second-rate citizens, and one way to do that was to fight for their country.

John Yuzyk of Rhein, Sask., said the economic climate was also so bad that “guys joined up because it paid and you could get three square meals a day.”

Ann Crapleve of Ladywood, Man., who would later participate in reconstruction efforts after the war, said: “I was a Canadian and wanted to do my bit for the country.”

The film ends with a description of Ukrainian Canadians assisting in this effort to rebuild Europe, and sometimes finding Ukrainians in camps for displaced persons, and facilitating their immigration to Canada rather than repatriation to the Soviet Union.

Source: New documentary tells the story of Ukrainians’ role in Canada’s war effort

German Court May Reject Appeal to Remove Anti-Semitic Relic

Similar to discussions in Canada about statues of former historical figures and leaders. Believe there is a greater risk in removing the ugly parts and aspect of our history and historical figures than not, and having interpretative plaques or adjacent exhibits is a better approach:

A court in eastern Germany indicated Tuesday that it will likely reject a Jewish man’s bid to force the removal of an ugly remnant of centuries of anti-Semitism from a church where Martin Luther once preached.

The Naumburg court’s senate said, at a hearing, that “it will maybe reject the appeal,” court spokesman Henning Haberland told reporters.

“The senate could not follow the plaintiff’s opinion that the defamatory sculpture can be seen as an expression of disregard in its current presentation,” Haberland said.

The verdict will be announced on February 4.

The so-called “Judensau,” or “Jew pig,” sculpture on the Town Church in Wittenberg dates back to around 1300. It is perhaps the best-known of more than 20 such anti-Semitic relics from the Middle Ages that still adorn churches across Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Located 4 meters (13 feet) above the ground on a corner of the church, it depicts Jews suckling on the teats of a sow, while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther was added.

Judaism considers pigs impure and no one disputes that the sculpture is deliberately offensive. But there is strong disagreement about what to do with the relief.

Tuesday’s hearing was the second round in the legal dispute, which comes at a time of mounting concern about anti-Semitism in Germany. In May, a court ruled against plaintiff Michael Duellmann, who wants the relief to be taken off the church and put in the nearby Luther House museum.

Judges in Dessau rejected arguments that he has a right to have the sculpture removed because it formally constitutes slander and the parish is legally responsible.

The relief “is a terrible falsification of Judaism … a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people,” Duellmann says, arguing that it has “a terrible effect up to this day.”

When the church was renovated in the early 1980s, the parish decided to leave the sandstone sculpture in place, and it was also restored. In 1988, a memorial was built on the ground underneath it, referring to the persecution of Jews and the killing of 6 million in the Nazi Holocaust.

Pastor Johannes Block from the Town Church says the church also considers the sculpture unacceptably insulting. However, he argues it “no longer speaks for itself as a solitary piece, but is embedded in a culture of remembrance” thanks to the memorial.

“We don’t want to hide or abolish history, but take the path of reconciliation with and through history,” he says.

In Berlin, the federal commissioner for Jewish life in Germany told reporters he favored putting the relief down into a museum.

“This would be a good contribution by the church to overcome anti-Semitism,” Felix Klein told reporters ahead of the court hearing.

Japanese camp unearthed in North Shore mountains was likely an escape from racism, until internment intervened

Interesting part of our history:

Hidden away in British Columbia’s North Shore mountains are the remnants of a Japanese-Canadian logging camp, shrouded by forest and veiled from memory after it was apparently abandoned because of internment during the Second World War.

Since 2004, Vancouver archeologist Bob Muckle has been visiting and excavating the site; almost everything had been swallowed by the forest and has been gradually and carefully uncovered. There are as many questions as answers, still, but Muckle has a theory that it was an oasis of Japanese culture, on the fringe of Vancouver, decades ago, that was heretofore unknown.

Sherri Kajiwara of the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby, B.C. says there is no record, yet, of anyone remembering living there, or remembering that their ancestors resided there, although there were plenty of Japanese-Canadians in Canada at the time.

“By the 1940s the community was very established and spread across metro Vancouver and the province,” Kajiwara said.

More than 1,000 artifacts have been collected at the site, researchers say.Bob Muckle

Her museum is putting together an exhibit about the history of Japanese-Canadian internment, and one of the main characters is Eikichi Kagetsu, a successful businessman who had logging rights in the area where Muckle found a settlement.

Muckle’s involvement with the camp began as a search for an area where he could teach his Capilano University students about proper excavation. He found one, a logging camp, by the looks of it, since there were bits of saw blades around. But, the excavation soon revealed it “was not really a typical logging camp at all.”

A typical camp, Muckle explained, would have bunk houses and a mess hall for the men working there. This one has 14 locations that were, to Muckle’s eyes, houses. There is also evidence of a shrine, a garden space and a water reservoir system.

“The most significant find is evidence of what may be a Japanese bathhouse,” Muckle noted. “Very few bathhouses have been excavated outside of Japan.”

Though he doesn’t “have the smoking gun yet,” Muckle’s hypothesis about the origin and life of the camp is that Japanese-Canadians moved to the logging camp around 1918, and remained there even after logging activity ceased. He was most recently on-site for several weeks in May and June.

“In the Vancouver area, where we are, in the 1920s and ’30s there was pretty explicit racism against both Chinese and Japanese, so this would’ve been an escape from that.”

Here they lived, with the men commuting into Vancouver for work, Muckle suspects, until February 1942, when they would have left for internment camps, a policy put in place during the Second World War that relocated families from the B.C. coast.

The evidence for the timing, and reason, for the camp’s abandonment, even in the absence of clear artifacts from the 1940s, is that the departure seems to have been reasonably orderly. Everyone there just walked away, leaving behind clocks, watches, pocketknives, dishes and stoves. There are about 1,000 artifacts in total: beer bottles and teapot pieces and evaporated milk cans, suggesting the presence of children.

“I think (internment) explains why we have so many personal items left behind,” Muckle said. “The dishes tend to be in really good condition, which you wouldn’t expect if people were normally abandoning their site.”

And, some items were hidden, such as a valuable stove secreted away off-site and parts of an early-1900s camera that were inside the walls of the bathhouse.

“I’m thinking this is probably my last season there,” he said. “I’m going through the process right now of figuring out what’s going to happen to all the artifacts.”

Certaintly, some of them are going to go to Kajiwara’s museum. For her part, she’s heard from a number of people about the settlement, as it has received more press, including someone from Japan. “It’s really been quite remarkable that the word has gone out sort of far and wide,” she said. “We’re starting to slowly collect names.”

“That whole generation really didn’t talk about the experience for decades and it’s only now, it’s only recently, that the stories have started to be revealed or shared,” she said. “It will be interesting to see if we can track down any of the descendants.”

Source: Japanese camp unearthed in North Shore mountains was likely an escape from racism, until internment intervened

What Japanese American history can teach us about diversity and immigrants in the workplace

Good long interview with U.S. GuideSpark CEO Keith Kitani given how his family was affected by World War II measures against Japanese Americans:


VentureBeat: What’s interesting about Japanese American history is that so many more people than Japanese Americans know about it. They look at the internment and see lessons in it — the constitutional issues, the diversity issues, the human rights issues. The legal history as well. In some ways it surprises me that it’s part of a liberal education about what it means to be an American.

Kitani: It’s interesting to see and think about that. I’ve often started to think about the impact it had, and the people who had to go through it, like my dad. How did it impact me? How did it impact you? It certainly did have an impact on our lives and how things have evolved. I’ve not seen anybody who’s done a study on it, but I know it has. I think about hearing these stories and seeing how my dad acted. It made it a bit clearer. We are the result of our upbringings and our experiences.

VentureBeat: You mentioned your dad didn’t really talk about it. How did you learn about it? Was that from someone else in your family, or did you eventually have conversations with him?

Kitani: I sat down with him and said, “Hey, dad, you’re getting old. It would be great to start writing about this, documenting the things you’ve done through your life.” That’s when he started to really share about it. I don’t know how your dad was, but my dad kept a lot of that stuff to himself. He wasn’t an emotional kind of guy. He kept it all to himself. It took a while to get it out. “Okay, now I understand you better. I wish I’d had this conversation 20 or 30 years earlier.”

VentureBeat: My dad was a little more open. He’d tell me some things that he didn’t mind talking about. There were other things where I got more out of him when I was an adult as well. He would talk about playing baseball in the camp. He was 10 to 15 years old at the time. He said that for a while he hated the U.S. government because they fed him macaroni 30 days in a row. He’d talk about some of the funnier stories.

I went to the National Archives and dug some records out. I asked about some of those things as well. It was an interesting historical exercise. It’s interesting that the Japanese Americans who have dug out some of this history can relate to each other. Among our parents, they always knew each other by what camp your family was in.

Japanese Americans photographed by Paul Kitagaki.

Above: Japanese Americans photographed by Paul Kitagaki.

Image Credit: Paul Kitagaki

Kitani: It’s interesting how they — how different people handled it. For my mom it was a different experience than my dad. But it took a long time for me to get some of those things. He did talk about the sports that they played, some of those things. Only after a little while did he talk about how they weren’t living in the greatest conditions in the world, those kinds of things. That didn’t come out in the first conversation. It’s the stuff that comes out later.

VentureBeat: I don’t know about you, but for me it also helps me understand other people. If I probe a bit and I can learn something about them, I can place them, where they are in this history. If I talk to other people — say, a Vietnamese person, and they say their family came over in 1975 — if you know a bit of your history, you know that was a big year for them, that they probably came as refugees. Just a bit of someone’s history like that tells you a lot about them.

Kitani: Here, there are so many people who have come from other countries. I think everyone has — there are so many different stories that brought them here. Obviously, for us it was a bit different as far as the experiences we had here.

My dad passed away a few years ago, and that made me reflect on it a lot more. Obviously not the best time. It’s better to do it when they’re alive. But it did give me some things to think about. I don’t write a whole bunch of stuff around things like that, but I did write a post on LinkedIn that talked about it in relation to some of the immigration issues that have been happening recently.

VentureBeat: What is the lesson you draw as far as what’s relevant today about immigration?

Kitani: The way I want to think about it, I think a lot of people know about history, but how do you really think about and learn from history to apply it? It’s harder to draw straight lines from all these things, but if I think about some of the policies, it’s more a scenario of — it’s easy to go down a slippery slope of policy. Something happened 75 years ago, and it would be helpful for people to remember about that as policies are being made today. That’s more how I think about it, rather than having strong opinions about what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. It’s important for us as we look at these things to look back at some of the scenarios that happened and try to learn from them.

People learn about history, but they don’t necessarily understand the impact it has on the people that were involved. Until my dad started telling me his stories, it was just visiting Manzanar, as opposed to understanding the impact it had on his life and the carry-over to me and my family’s lives. Those are things that, as you get older and learn more — that was what caused me to think about and comment on it.

VentureBeat: It seems like basic studies can lead you to some strong opinions, strong conclusions about what’s going on today.

Kitani: Yeah. The piece that can sometimes get lost — the people who were impacted, there aren’t as many of them around. We’re the people that need to carry on and think about the actual impact. It’s harder to truly understand that until you can get a few levels below, like you did with your dad and I was able to do with my dad.

VentureBeat: There are people with strong opinions about it who don’t have a grasp of what it means for the people who are directly affected. How you change the course of families for generations. Once they hear some real stories about what happens to people — you can understand where you stand on some things. What is an American? Who deserves these rights?

Kitani: Exactly. There’s reading about it, and then there’s personally experiencing, or feeling like you personally experienced through the people that you know. That’s often the disconnect. We all read about history. But the impact on people is hard to measure on an emotional level, unless you get it from a specific point of view.

VentureBeat: As far as communicating that, I don’t know if there are things you tell your employees, or somehow you carry this on in the management of the company, or your work style?

Kitani: As I’ve thought more about my background and the impact that I had with my family, through my educational background, growing up in a very diverse environment — I only started thinking about it more recently, and I reflected about the company we’ve built. As I prepare for these things — the next thing I do is I look at a set of stats to make sure of where we’re at in terms of a lot of these things. For us, on almost every scale we’re a pretty diverse organization. Our numbers, whether it’s gender or race, match close to the U.S. workforce. Whereas, as you probably know, a lot of Silicon Valley companies and technology companies don’t match that well.

I was trying to reflect on how my upbringing and my philosophies around it — one of our things around here is a value about being yourself. It’s really about appreciating the individual and the diversity of the experience that they bring to the company. That was something we created a number of year ago, when we weren’t really thinking about diversity and inclusion, but really just about individual.

One thing that’s happened, and it’s tied to communication — our team here started to create a program called Humans of GuideSpark. There’s that blog called Humans of New York. Twice a month they come up with a little profile with a personal story of different employees. For one, her parents came over from Vietnam around 1975, like you were talking about. You heard that story about her parents.

What we realized is that with communications and stories, you can really share and appreciate the diversity. It goes deeper than just looking at numbers or a set of people. It’s not just the specific gender or race. It’s also the stories that go behind it. Maybe that’s tied to the discussion we had about the impact of the internment on Japanese Americans, but it’s more than that. It’s the stories behind that and the impact they have.

I certainly feel, as I think about the cultural values we’ve built — we’re pretty diverse. We like to share stories about individuals and where they come from. That’s just happened organically. At our size of company, we don’t have programs. We don’t have any of that stuff. But it happens organically. I think that has a lot to do with who I am, how I was brought up, and the experience I had that shaped that.

That obviously leads into what I talked about earlier. One of the core things we’re trying to do is help organizations communicate better. Whether it’s a program around performance management, or diversity and inclusion, or any number of communications that companies do, the premise is that one-size-fits-all is just not going to work. Companies need to think about how they interact and connect with their employees in a way that starts to appreciate the diversity of that work force.

Again, none of these things were thought of 10 years ago when I started the company, as far as the culture and the products, but they’ve evolved as part of who we are and what we’re trying to do as an organization. It feels a little like it’s come all together somehow, without it being intentional, from what I was thinking. That’s why I think these things have had an impact on who I am and the kind of company and solutions I’m building.

VentureBeat: I think if you understand your people and your history, you’re able to work with them better.

Kitani: Yeah. And we’re obviously — one of the things I think are really powerful as the stories. You do that every day, so you know that. For us, so much of it is business communications, and then the team — we do a lot around sharing stories and their backgrounds. We have something called Our Values, Our Voices, which is a podcast the internal team has created where they tell stories about how people interpret the values of the company. It’s a lot of interesting organic stuff, but you can really see the power of it when it comes to life.

VentureBeat: When Japanese American history comes up, do you find that there’s some division of opinion about it? Is your interpretation different from some people growing up today? Do you find that there are different kinds of opinions about it?

Kitani: I wouldn’t say there are different kinds of opinions? I think I see the differences in the same way that I saw the differences 10 or 15 years ago, when I talked to my dad. I think the difference is, when most people that I know read about it, they don’t talk about it as a positive thing that this country did. Certainly some people understand why it was, and there are slight differences of opinion.

But the difference for me is understanding what it was and how it impacted those people and their families. When my mom’s family had a grocery store and then went through their struggles and ended up moving to California, that’s a pretty big impact on a family. People don’t think about that when they just read about this.

Or my dad, who essentially had to start over, he and his guardian. It shaped how we interacted and what he valued. He would tell me stories of family and the noise of family, how that was something that he treasured in our house, because he didn’t have that. Those are the things that, for me — I wouldn’t say it’s a difference of opinion, but it’s a different perspective that even I didn’t really have.

Source: What Japanese American history can teach us about diversity and immigrants in the workplace

Douglas Todd: Idea of federal apology splits Italian Canadians

For some context. One of the files I worked on under the Conservative government was the historical recognition program which provided funding to communities who had been affected by wartime internment or immigration restrictions (Chinese, Ukrainian, Italian, Indian and Jewish Canadians).

Italian Canadian stakeholders were difficult and in the end, then Minister Kenney, engaged Conservative Senator Di Nino to help steer the discussions regarding projects to be funded. (For more details, see Multiculturalism: The Case of Historical Recognition in my book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias:Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism):

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already offered his apologies to many different Canadian minority groups, some Italian Canadian media outlets have been aroused to express anger that their ethnic group has not yet received one from him.

The Italian-language media, which has 25 different outlets in Canada, has been simmering this summer about Trudeau, who has made it clear he will formally apologize only after the Oct. 21 election for the internment of a relatively small portion of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War.

“Almost 80 bitter years later, the federal government appears ready to apologize to Italian Canadians for the humiliation, suffering, arrest and internments of hundreds in 1940. … While some say better late than never, others wonder why he did not do it right after he came to power,” said Lo Specchio newspaper.

“The fact Justin Trudeau has ‘promised’ just before the fall election to apologize in Parliament for the internment of Italian Canadians … raises questions about the prime minister’s sincerity,” said Corriere Canadese newspaper.

“Anti-Italian prejudice must end,” declared one writer in Il Cittadino Canadese.

Trudeau’s promised apology has become a key political issue in ridings with large Italian and other ethnic groups.

And it’s sparked debate among Italian Canadians and others over whether such an apology is warranted, since the detention of 586 suspected Fascist Italian Canadians was different in many ways from the mass internment of 22,000 Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Andres Malchaski, co-founder of an organization that monitors electoral issues among Canada’s ethnic communities, said many Italian-language newspapers are pushing for Trudeau to say he’s sorry because, like other ethnic groups, they’re “using apology and redress issues to establish their political and cultural identity in Canada.”

Italian Canadians are “particularly aggressive … because they have a history of political participation and leadership and a need to defend that space against other ethnic lobbies,” said Malchaski, whose website,, monitors hundreds of ethnic-language media outlets in Canada.

About 1.6 million Canadians are of Italian ethnicity, including almost 100,000 in Metro Vancouver, 280,000 in Greater Montreal and 490,000 in the Toronto region. Malchaski says many are involved in nomination competitions in ridings which have a changing mix of ethnic voters.

In his four years in office Trudeau became the focus of academic studies for his frequent “apologism,” for the way he regularly, often tearfully, expresses regret for historical wrongs to certain groups, including Sikhs, Indigenous people in B.C., Jews, Inuit and LGBTQ people.

As a result many Italian Canadian media outlets are suspicious about why he’s holding off until after the election to apologize for what occurred in Canada during the Second World War, when Canadian soldiers joined the Allies battling against Nazi Germany, imperial Japan and Fascist Italy.

Part of the reason for Trudeau’s delay could have to do with the uncertainty and controversy that continues to burn among Italians and the wider public over whether to apologize to offspring of the those Italian Canadians detained as suspected collaborators with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s Fascists.

Canada was “not wrong or malicious” to try to protect the country by detaining certain Italians in the country at a time of war, says Patrick Luciana, an Italian Canadian who is a senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Global Cities Institute.

“To have done otherwise would have shown an extraordinary dereliction of duty to Canada and its people …. What government wouldn’t take precautions against potential enemy subversives?” Luciana recently wrote, noting such precautions were the norm among Allied countries.

“How can we as Italian Canadians ask for an apology when 5,000 Canadian men and boys are buried in cemeteries throughout Italy, who died to rid ‘our’ ancestral home of fascism and naziism?,” Luciana said.

“If we want anything, it’s to avoid having this episode in our history forgotten. But that’s in our hands, not the government’s.”

Another prominent Canadian historian, Jack Granatstein, told Postmedia he thoroughly endorsed the views of Luciana, who argued it’s insulting to ask for an apology today from the descendants of Canada’s leaders in the 1940s, who were predominantly Anglo-Saxon.

Historians often make many distinctions between the targeted Italian Canadian arrests in Eastern Canada and the way that, after the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and Pearl Harbour, most Japanese Canadians were removed from the West Coast, had their property confiscated and were interned.

Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, opposed collective apologies in general. And at least two other Italian Canadian scholars – Franca Iocovetta and Roberto Perin, who edited the 2000 book, Enemies Within – have also expressed skepticism about the Italian redress campaign, according to Christopher Moore, a contributing editor to Canada’s History magazine.

“In the 1930s, there were pro-Fascist organizations in most Italian-Canadian communities, often sponsored by Italian consulates loyal to Mussolini’s Fascist regime. The roughly 600 Italian Canadians interned, out of some 112,000 Italians Canadians, were mostly associated with these pro-Fascist organizations,” Moore said.

On the eve of the Second World War, the Italian Canadian population was split by duelling pro- and anti-Fascist organizations, noted Moore, a prolific writer and former Vancouver resident whose father wrote a biography of Angelo Branca, a leading B.C. lawyer, judge and Italian community leader.

Moore says Branca’s standing among Italian Canadians was “eventually enhanced by his determined resistance in the 1930s to the encroachment of the pro-Fascist movements.”

Regardless of whether Canadians support or oppose an apology, Machaski, whose website translates the Italian-language media into English, said the fight of some Italian Canadians “for an apology is more of a fight for political space for the community than a campaign for redress that might kindle old animosities.”

In advance of this fall’s election, Malchaski is on to something when he maintains the campaign to make sure Trudeau says he’s sorry is mostly about trying to conserve a sense of Italian identity among younger generations and to hold onto some political influence.

Source: Douglas Todd: Idea of federal apology splits Italian Canadians

The enduring legacy of Canada’s racist head tax on Chinese-Canadians

A good mixture of the personal and general history regarding the head tax and other forms of discrimination and a reminder that the activists, so necessary for government action, remain somewhat dissatisfied with final result.

(I signed off on many of the individual head tax claims for the ex gratia payment and extensive ATIP requests, as well as being responsible for the related historical recognition programs that provided funding for community initiatives to tell these stories to Canadians):

On June 22, 2006, Stephen Harper formally apologized for the head tax of up to $500 levied on 81,000 Chinese immigrants to Canada from 1883 until it was repealed in 1923—when the Chinese Exclusion Act came into law, preventing Chinese people from moving to the country until 1947. William Ging Wee Dere, whose father and grandfather paid the tax, successfully campaigned to redress those measures: Ottawa has apologized and paid $20,000 in compensation to surviving head tax payers and the spouses of deceased ones.

Retired railroad engineer Dere, 70, was born in Taishan, China in 1948 and immigrated to Canada in 1956 with his mother, growing up in the back of his father’s hand-laundry business in Verdun, Que. He learned of his family’s struggles only after his father died in 1966 and his mother gave him a cookie tin containing his dad’s documents, including a head tax certificate. In 1993, he released the documentary Moving the Mountain to draw awareness to the head tax’s racist legacy and the campaign to redress it. In Being Chinese in Canada: The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging, Dere chronicles the hardships suffered by his grandfather and father, who worked as immigrants in Quebec in the 1920s, the head tax redress campaign and how those experiences shaped his own identity.

Q: You’ve talked about how it’s been a struggle to make people aware of the head tax and the history of Chinese-Canadians. Why do you think there isn’t more awareness around it?

A: I think that is a direct legacy of the head tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act, because our community is very disjointed. It never developed normally because of the separation of families and the exclusion of Chinese from Canada for three decades. Many don’t know the foundation of Chinese-Canadian history—how they lived, how they came and how they struggled and survived here in Canada.

Q: I’m second-generation Chinese-Canadian. My mom immigrated from Hong Kong in 1976, so she was never directly impacted by the head tax. Her group of immigrants and the waves and generations that have come after, like my own, don’t really have much understanding of, or sympathy for, this history.

A: I don’t see too much passion in the young people these days because they’re two, three generations removed from what happened. Maybe they don’t have an organic connection to the past. But I explain to them that that legacy still continues because of the lack of services and the struggle that we’re going through today in terms of getting equality in housing, in finding jobs, especially the recent immigrants who are now coming from China. They’re professionals in order for them to get through the point system to get into Canada. But once they arrive here, they can’t get jobs in their professions and they end up working in factories and sweatshops.

Q: In trying to appeal to younger generations of Chinese-Canadians, how do you make these events that happened so many years ago seem relevant today?

A: On a personal basis, it’s a question of knowing who you are. Do you have an identity awareness or an identity consciousness? If you do, then it’s the first step in standing up for what you are. It’s been a lifelong curse to feel comfortable with my identity. I think if young people come across discrimination, or somebody calls them a name on the street and they feel hurt, they have to understand why. As a person of colour, we will inevitably come across racism because we live in a dominant white society. The burden of fighting against racism is on the shoulders of racialized minorities in Canada and Quebec.

Q: What was life like for your father and grandfather working in Quebec in the 1920s?

A: The only work that they could do was laundry work. They were excluded socially and economically from the larger society. It was a hand laundry—you did everything by hand—so it was a very self-reliant economy. You work hard, you make some money and you’re able to eat and feed your family back in China. My grandfather came to Vancouver in 1909 and first started in the laundry business with a partner. And then he moved to Montreal around 1920. My father and my grandfather worked together for about 30 years. Once they saved enough money, they would take a trip back to China. And that’s when the children would be born. According to the law, they couldn’t stay more than two years in China; otherwise, they would lose their right to return to Canada. The Chinese [in Canada] were non-citizens and they didn’t have the right to vote. Essentially they didn’t have any civil rights in Canada whatsoever. It was only after the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947 that my father got his citizenship and moved the rest of his family to Canada in 1950.

Q: Why do you think the movement and redress took so long?

A: It took 22 years—it was a generational struggle. It took so long because the Canadian government was intransigent in their attitude and approach towards redress. We started off with Pierre Trudeau. Margaret Mitchell [then minister of multiculturalism and citizenship] sent a letter asking for repayment of the head tax. [Trudeau] ignored the situation. Then we went through Brian Mulroney, who did quite well for the Japanese—he redressed the Japanese internment, but he was unable to overcome bureaucracy to redress the Chinese, Ukrainians, the Jewish and others who were affected by exclusionary practices of the government. After Mulroney, it was Chrétien, and he formed this policy of “no apology, no compensation.” For 10 years, the government refused to talk with us. Then you have [Paul] Martin, who carried on this policy of “no talk, no redress, no compensation.” It was only until Harper, who saw an advantage in redressing and apologizing for the Chinese Head Tax, that [an apology was made] in 2006. In the beginning, we were all naive. We thought that if we explained the case, they would do the right thing because it was such an obvious case of injustice and discrimination. But, of course, the government has no heart. You can’t appeal to a government’s emotions…So we started to organize a lot deeper in the community, organizing large meetings, demonstrations in Parliament and so on.

Q: You were at the redress ceremony, but you almost didn’t go. Is that right?

A: Yes, because the government never told us what they were going to do, other than saying that they would apologize. We were sending letters and submissions to the government to try and get a meeting to negotiate a settlement. So it wasn’t a redress settlement, it was a redress pronouncement on the part of the government. They controlled everything, so we had no input into what the redress should be. We didn’t want to encourage people to go because we were afraid that people would just go for photo op and give Harper all this credit for partial redress. [At the time] my mother had suffered from a stroke. So I discussed it with my siblings and we thought that we should go to represent our mother. My sister and myself, we went.

Q: I guess it was bittersweet, because there still hasn’t been any resolution for the descendants of head tax payers.

A: Yes, for instance, my sister—she was glad for redress for our mother, but her husband’s parents had passed away, so her husband’s family would get nothing. It was bittersweet in that sense.

Q: In your book you have a quote from [journalist] Ray Yao criticizing the descendants for campaigning for full redress from the perspective of less-privileged Chinese immigrants “working 10 hours a day in a noodle shop making minimum wage: you are a lawyer and driving a bloody SUV, and then you want your $20,000? You didn’t suffer, your grandparents suffered and you reap the benefit?” Do you think there’s some truth to that?

A: Many of the leadership in our movement were lawyers in Toronto. So he took a swipe at these people who were calling for full redress.

Q: There is this stereotype of Chinese-Canadians today being doctors, lawyers—an accomplished “model minority.” I wonder whether that makes it difficult to elicit the sympathy from non-Chinese Canadians for this past suffering.

A: Not all the immigrants who come here are part of the model minority. The model minority is a false concept that people like to paint—the stereotype of the Chinese being well-educated and being professionals. But like other members of Canadian society, in the Chinese community there’s a class structure. Not everybody attains that top echelon in society.

Source: The enduring legacy of Canada’s racist head tax on Chinese-Canadians

ICYMI – Emma Teitel: Formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless

Valid argument:

Since its release in 1970, many people (married ones especially) have taken issue with the signature line from the hit movie Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But I imagine the person most constitutionally averse to this notion is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a man who says sorry more often than a Canadian tourist in a crowded airport.

Where his Prime Minister father, the late Pierre Trudeau, wasn’t a fan of state-issued apologies, our rueful leader appears quite comfortable doling them out.

The PM has made a series of official apologies addressing various historical wrongs since he took office in 2015. Two years ago, for example, he issued an apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which hundreds of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers were unjustly turned away at the Canadian border. Their Japanese steamship returned to India, where 19 passengers were shot and killed upon arrival and many others imprisoned.

Last year, the PM issued an apology to survivors of Canada’s residential schools. He also asked the Pope himself to apologize for the church’s role in operating the notoriously exploitative, abusive institutions. (Unfortunately, the pope declined).

And just this week the PM announced plans to formally apologize on behalf of the Canadian government, in the House of Commons, for the tragic incident of the MS St. Louis in 1939, when Canada refused asylum to the more than 900 Jewish German refugees on board. The MS St. Louis was forced to return to Europe, where 254 of its passengers were later murdered in the Holocaust.

“When Canada denied asylum to the 907 German Jews on board the MS St. Louis,” Trudeau said in a recent statement, “we failed not only those passengers, but also their descendants and community. It is our collective responsibility to acknowledge this difficult truth, learn from this story, and continue to fight against anti-Semitism every day, as we give meaning to the solemn vow: ‘Never again.’ I look forward to offering this apology on the floor of the House.”

Unfortunately, not everybody is looking forward to hearing it.

Many critics of the Prime Minister, some of them Jewish, are a little annoyed by the prospect of a staged mea culpa that will address a tragic event whose victims are, by and large, not around to receive it. Some of these formal apologies are, after all, rather bizarre, because the people saying “I’m sorry” are so rarely the wrongdoers and the people saying “I forgive you” are rarely the wronged. As a result, they can come off as cheap and hollow, even to the ears of the people you think might appreciate them most.

Here’s Sally Zerker, whose Jewish, Polish ancestors were denied visas to Canada in the 1930’s, writing about the prospect of a government apology for the MS. St. Louis tragedy in the Canadian Jewish News last year:

“It will not bring back my relatives, or offer me any solace. Instead, it will whitewash a government that did nothing to help the Jews who were fleeing the Nazis and ignored the type of anti-Semitism that was endemic in Canada until the 1970s. Ultimately, it is nothing but a shallow, empty, meaningless act. An apology can’t right this wrong.”

But it can publicize it. And this is where I disagree with Zerker and other critics of government apologies. We’re living in a world where the United States government appears allergic to facts and routinely winks at white supremacists. A world where the leaders of the women’s march, arguably the largest feminist movement on the continent, can pal around with horrendous anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and retain their status as heroines of an intersectional movement.

A world where, according to the Anti Defamation League, anti-Semitic hate crimes — from violent assaults, to Jewish kids being harassed at school, to vandalism of synagogues — surged 57 per cent last year. Meanwhile, according to a survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27) this year, 22 per cent of American millennials haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are unsure of what it is, and two-thirds do not know what Auschwitz is.

All of this is to say that while I agree with Trudeau’s critics that formal apologies are sometimes silly and performative — and perhaps lacking in meaning for some victims and their families — they are also factual and newsworthy. They breathe new life into old wrongs and in doing so they bring awareness to those wrongs.

It’s for this reason that I find it difficult to object to a perfectly harmless government statement that might, even if it doesn’t heal any wounds, inspire an uninformed Canadian to Google “MS St. Louis.”

It’s a sorry thing to say, but formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless.

Source: Emma Teitel: Formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless

Canada’s new ‘dark chapter’: So many national apologies for past injustice, they’ve become insincere

An overly cynical take on apologies and recognition by the academic Angie Wong of York. They are meaningful to many in the affected communities and the use of the same or similar language does not necessarily diminish their impact. And in all cases, this was driven by pressure from the communities themselves, as was the Historical Recognition Program under the Harper government:

In their 2007 book How To Be A Canadian (Even If You Already Are One), the humourists Ian and Will Ferguson suggested there are 12 versions of the Canadian “sorry.”

They are: simple, essential, occupational, subservient, aristocratic, demonstrative, libidinous, ostentatious, mythical, unrepentant, sympathetic and authentic.

But according to research presented at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Regina, there is another kind of Canadian apology that is becoming both a “spectacle” and a “trend,” and there is nothing funny about it at all.

This is the national apology, delivered in sombre tones by the Prime Minister, as the rest of the House of Commons nods along in communal contrition for some historical outrage.

Each one by itself – whether it is the apology for residential schools, the Chinese head tax, or the refusal to let the Komagata Maru dock in Vancouver — can be seen as a unique moment of reconciliation, decades in the making. But when they are taken together, and compared using theories of rhetorical discourse analysis, some worrying patterns emerge.

Most obviously, they often repeat the same language and phraseology, especially the overworked literary cliché about a “dark chapter” in Canada’s history, according to Angie Wong, a PhD candidate at York University in Toronto.

The effect is not only that these apologies come across as ambiguous and suspicious, but that they are creating what Wong calls “a new cultural dynamic of apologism in Canadian politics.”

“I see this as a long trend of political scramble or crisis management,” said Wong in an interview. These national apologies are one of many political tactics that reinforce Canada’s 20th century turn toward being more “convivial,” “hospitable,” and “benevolent” towards marginalized groups, as compared to its colonial past.

In the case of the Chinese head tax — a racist and exclusionary law that penalized newcomers from China, for which Stephen Harper apologized in 2006 – Wong relates it to the new sense of alliance between China and the West as result of China’s victory over Japan in the Second World War.

It was not the first time old grievances from that war were dredged up for modern political atonement. Brian Mulroney, for example, apologized in 1988 for the wartime internment of Japanese Canadians. But something had changed with the Chinese head tax apology. It “appeared to ignite a larger trend of state apologies extended to other once-marginalized Canadians,” Wong said. Before long, the government was apologizing for relocating Inuit, discriminating against gays in the civil service, and entertaining requests for more apologies, such as the forthcoming one to the Jewish community for refusing to accept the refugees on the St. Louis ocean liner in 1939.

“In other words, the issuing of apology for historical injustice symbolically became vital to the political performances that welcomed certain marginalized peoples into the body politic, while simultaneously relegating the actions and policies of the state to a distant past,” she writes in a paper to be presented at the Congress.

“Since the early 2000s, Canada has fallen into a trend of performing national apologies to historically oppressed groups and peoples, including Indigenous and First Nations peoples, the Chinese and South Asians,” she writes. “In the liberal push for political correctness and in the challenges that social justice cultural workers continue pose to the Canadian government regarding redress, reparations, and belonging, national apologies are increasingly ambiguous and suspicious in their purpose.”

The effect of this self-serving performance of penance is to “inauthentically absolve the state for historical injustice.”

The source of that inauthenticity is not that the apologizers do not mean it. Rather, it comes from the pose the government takes by apologizing for things the current office holders did not do, with the presumption that these injustices are no longer happening. The message seems to be that the time has come to at least forgive the long dead offenders, if not forget their crimes and the lingering effects. Harper, for example, called the Chinese head tax “a product of a profoundly different time.”

“It’s a little bit problematic because if we’re thinking about asking for authentic or genuine gestures of forgiveness, then we need to think about how to relate these apologies so that they speak to the people who are essentially giving forgiveness,” Wong said. “But in the reproduction of this phraseology of “this has been a dark chapter in Canadian history,” it kind of reads to me that they’re a regurgitation, or at least a reproduction process that puts all of these historical injustices in the same realm of recognition or acknowledgment, which is that they are things that happened in the past, there is no contemporary or current present continuation of these injustices.”

Source: Canada’s new ‘dark chapter’: So many national apologies for past injustice, they’ve become insincere