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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

PNE Livestock Building Plaque Presentation

On Saturday, I attended the Vancouver Heritage Foundation Places that Matter PNE Livestock Building Plaque Presentation & Parks Canada Japanese Canadian Internment Plaque Remounting Presentation at Hastings Park.

The event at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver coincides with the 70th anniversary year of the internment of Japanese Canadians. The afternoon included an unveiling of a plaque at the Livestock Building, a reading of the Parks Canada Japanese Internment Plaque in Momiji Gardens, and information and story sharing. 

VO subscriber and ORT donor, Ms. Ellen Crowe-Swords in a photo with the newly unveiled plaque. Ellen was interned at the Livestock Building when she was 3 months old.

I was most moved when Mary Ohara shared her memories of being interned as a child at Hastings Park. She described how while there she was there, she contracted the mumps. At the time they had cleared out the livestock basement by pushing the coal to the side. The children were put there for 10 days, so that they wouldn't spread the disease. She recalled the dungeon-like room, and as an older child, looking after the young children aged 5, 6 and 7, who were confused and scared without their mothers. I had the chance to meet Mary later that afternoon. She was very happy to hear that VO is sharing Joy Kogawa's story of Naomi's Road and at the same time, helping to educate children about this significant part of history. Joy was also there to witness the plaque unveiling that afternoon.

Ellen Crowe-Swords (VO subscriber/ORT donor), Ann-Marie Metten (Historic Joy Kogawa House), Joy Kogawa (author of Naomi's Road and Obasan; was interned to the BC interior during World War II).
Todd Wong provided musical entertainment at the end of the afternoon. Todd is the president of the Historic Joy Kogawa House.
What united attendees  - which included representatives from the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens' Association, Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, Vancouver Japanese Language School, Powell Street Festival Society, Vancouver Japanese Gardeners Association, Vancouver Heritage Foundation, City of Vancouver, National Association of Japanese Canadians and many other members of the Japanese Canadian community - was the unified message of hope that the history and stories be preserved, not forgotten, and that these stories continue to be shared with our children and future generations so that such unjust actions never happen again.

MLA Naomi Yamamoto who, earlier this year, introduced the motion to  to Japanese Canadians for the internment.

Places that Matter plaque text at the Livestock Building
Over 3,000 Japanese Canadian women, children and tuberculosis patients were unjustly detained here under traumatic and deplorable conditions between March 1942 - March 1943. A public facility since 1929, the Livestock Building gained national historic significance as a federally authorized wartime marshalling site. The incarceration, confiscation of property and forced dispersal from the coast of 22,000 innocent Japanese Canadians from 1942-1949 was officially acknowledged as unjust by Canada in 1988.

In commemoration of all Japanese Canadians Interned
Gama (Endurance) - Giri (Duty) - Ganbare (Perseverance)

Visit the Places That Matter Facebook page for more photos and to see both plaques.

At the event, I also met Brendan Uegama, filmmaker of the award winning short film, Henry's Glasses, a story based on the Japanese Canadian internment. Brendan attended the event with his father who was interned to the Kootenays.
Naomi's Road tours BC again in April-May 2013. Find moreinformation here,  or download the study guide.

- Melissa Tsang, Vancouver Opera in Schools Manager

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