On November 28, 2018, MP Jenny Kwan’s motion for establishing December 13 as the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day did not have the unanimous support in the Parliament required for it to be carried, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clearly recognized the need to remember the history.
Mr. Speaker, of course we deplore the horrific events that took place in Nanjing 80 years ago. All Canadians can agree that the loss of life and violence that so many civilians faced should never be forgotten. We will never forget those terrible acts. The memory of these victims and survivors must be addressed in the true spirit of reconciliation.
We Canadians should embrace the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day
I am a member of Japanese Canadians Supporting Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day (nanjingmemory2018.wordpress.com). We are a group of Japanese Canadians across Canada, including some prominent Japanese Canadians who experienced WWII internment, university professors, students, teachers, doctors, artists, organic farmers, peace activists, etc.
We support MP Jenny Kwan’s proposal for the national memorialization of December 13 as a day to remember the Nanjing Massacre, one of the worst war crimes of human history, in which hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and POWs were massacred and tens of thousands of women and girls were raped (many of them killed immediately after, to erase the crime) by the Imperial Japanese Army troops. The atrocities occurred over the course of several months in late 1937 and early 1938 in the city of Nanjing and surrounding farming villages. The Nanjing Massacre is a well-researched and documented historical fact, which was registered in the UNESCO Memory of the World in 2015. The Japanese government officially recognizes the history too, though insufficiently.
The Canadian Parliament has recognized five genocides that happened outside of Canada: the Armenian Genocide (1915), the Holodomor (1932-33), the Holocaust (1933-45), the Rwandan Genocide (1994), and the Srebrenica Genocide (1995). In its “Breaking the Silence” section, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg details these genocides and states, “In Canada, people are free to speak openly about human rights abuses. Canadians used this freedom to draw attention to acts of extreme violence and inhumanities around the world. Concerned Canadians have influenced Parliament to recognize five mass atrocities as genocides – deliberate systematic attempts to destroy specific ethnic, racial, religious or national groups. Through such official recognition, Canada speaks out as a nation. It exposes and condemns horrific crimes that have been hidden, minimized, or denied.” We fully concur with this statement.
Last December 13, the Ontario legislature passed a motion to designate December 13 as the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day. It is time that Canada did so on a national basis to provide symbolic recognition of the countless atrocities committed by the Empire of Japan in its imperial quest to conquer the whole Asia-Pacific region from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century.
Some Canadians of Japanese ancestry worry that doing so constitutes bashing and demonizing Japan, but they should remember that the Empire of Japan collapsed at the hands of the Allied Nations, including Canada, in the summer of 1945, and Japan and its people clearly broke away from the dictatorial and repressive Empire by their adoption of the post-war Constitution of Japan with its pacifist and democratic principles. Remembering atrocities of the Empire of Japan is not demonizing current Japan or its people. The five genocides and other atrocities remembered by Canadians have not caused racial conflict or resulted with demonizing of Canadians with ancestry in the countries that once perpetrated those crimes.
Of course, we Canadians need to recognize past and ongoing human rights violations within Canada, and although we still have a long way to go, Canada has tried to redress the past wrongs such as the residential school system for indigenous children, the internment of Ukrainian Canadians during WWI and of Japanese Canadians during WWII, the Head Tax on Chinese immigrants, the inhuman treatment of Indian migrants on Komagata Maru, and the ongoing injustices exemplified by the missing indigenous women and victims of human trafficking. Our need to address unresolved human rights issues in Canada does not preclude the need for Canadians to recognize those outside of Canada. Whether in the past or present, whether inside or outside of Canada, human rights violations are for all us to study and remember so that we will not let them happen again.