By Deanna Cheng
The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) is encouraging community leaders to learn about Indigenous reconciliation at a Vancouver workshop.
Reconciliation Canada is hosting a dialogue workshop on April 27 to educate community members about Canadian history, including the history of the Indian residential school system.
The intent behind the association's support is unification, says NAJC VP Lorene Oikawa.
"If we are united, we can focus on the positives of diversity and inclusion. We remain committed to fight discrimination. This is what makes Canada a better country."
Oikawa says the workshop is a positive opportunity for education and a way for allies to support different groups.
Understanding what reconciliation means and learning about First Nations history is one of the basic blocks to inclusion, she says.
According to Reconciliation Canada's 2015 impact report: "The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report characterized the colonial period and the treatment of Indigenous people as cultural genocide."
The report said the majority of Canadians agreed it was cultural genocide.
Oikawa says, "More importantly, those same people wanted to be involved in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples."
One of the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation report calls upon the corporate sector in Canada to commit to meaningful consultation with and the building of respectful relationships with First Nations before moving ahead with economic development projects.
Canadians will mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation on July 1, and Oikawa says that's why they are holding the workshop later this month.
"With the celebration around what some have called the birth of Canada," she says, "we're working to remember the past and not forget the dark parts of history."
Canada's painful past
Historically, the government has treated both indigenous people and Japanese Canadians poorly.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said the Indian residential schools were established in the 1870s and for over a century, children were removed from their families and homes to be housed in these schools. The purpose of the schools were to take away the children's native traditions and culture and to assimilate them into the dominate European culture.
During World War II, the federal government placed Japanese Canadians in internment camps, stripping them of their lands and possessions.
In acknowledgement of the pain suffered by both minorities, Oikawa says people need to know their country's history to avoid repeating history. Knowledge, she says, empowers allies to say, "It's not right."
Oikawa says reconciliation can only happen with the support of other communities.
Though the workshop is aimed towards leaders within official and unofficial capacity, it is open to the general public.
The workshop is structured to start with a large circle of participants, introducing what Reconciliation Canada has done, the shared history of the Indian Residential School system and how today's generations are affected by this history.
Attendees will be separated into smaller groups where the meaning of reconciliation and personal experiences are shared. They will be encouraged to explore the role they can play and actions they can take.
One in six Aboriginal people in Canada live in British Columbia, says Statistics Canada, in 2011. The group makes up about five per cent of the total population of B.C. and almost one in four of Aboriginal people in that province lives in Vancouver.
Statistics Canada reports B.C. was home to 155,020 First Nations people, 69,470 Métis and 1,570 Inuit with the rest reporting other Aboriginal identities or more than one Aboriginal identity.