Online Conversation Series on Racism hosted by the Japanese Garden Society with assistance from the Salt Spring Foundation
“Conversations on Racism” is a series of free online conversations designed to explore the history of racism and colonialism on Salt Spring Island. We will hear from activists who have brought to light histories of injustice and who are challenging current manifestations of systemic racism. The first of three spring conversations will focus on stories about recovering silenced histories of Black settlers and Japanese Canadians (April), the second will be a conversation between three BIPOC activist women (May), and the third will focus on the experience of people of Asian heritage and those with mixed ethnic backgrounds on Salt Spring Island (June).
The series will continue in the fall. These conversations will support a wide understanding of racism in our community, then and now. They will offer inspiration through personal stories of the panelists, and provide examples and suggestions of how to challenge systemic racism.
Please click ‘Anti-Racism Forums‘ on the menu for more details.
This conversation series was made possible by a grant from the Salt Spring Foundation and donations from the JGS supporters.
We are excited to announce that the Heiwa Garden Restoration Project was chosen as one of 68 recipients of the BC Heritage Infrastructure Funding.
Heritage BC joins the Province of British Columbia in announcing the results of the single largest funding program to support B.C.’s unique heritage infrastructure.
“Through this funding program, the Province not only provided the
largest one-time infusion of funds into the heritage sector, but it also recognized the importance and potential of heritage infrastructure and its place in our province’s economic picture.” (Paul Gravett – BC Heritage)
Funding will soon flow throughout the province to support projects in 68 communities including Atlin in the northern reaches of the province to Fernie in the southeast corner and to Port Alberni on the western side of Vancouver Island. The projects will ensure that, as a province, we retain and celebrate many aspects of the British Columbia’s history and community life, from Chinese association buildings and Japanese internment camps to well-used town halls and an abandoned historic mine.
The Japanese Garden Society will utilize the fund to restore some of the main structures such as the ceremonial gate, interpretive panel, benches and pathways.
UVic Libraries has just published a book by local historian Brian Smallshaw: As if They Were the Enemy: The Dispossession of Japanese Canadians on Saltspring Island.
It’s a micro-history of the uprooting and dispossession of Japanese Canadians as it happened on Saltspring Island during World War Two, but also a study of the larger processes that led to the decision to liquidate the property of Japanese Canadians without their consent – as if they were the enemy.
Print copies are available for purchase on Saltspring for $20 (cash) or can be mail-ordered directly from the author for $26 for delivery anywhere in Canada. Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org for local pickup or for mail-order.
With generous donations from friends and JGS supporters, Mearnie’s Corner was completed in December 2020.
This new addition to the Heiwa Garden commemorates the Society’s founder and first president, Mearnie Summers. She was an activist of gender inequality and LGBT rights, pioneer, teacher, and athlete. Mearnie remembered that she had a Japanese family living next door when she was little. They were gone one day and never came back, but she didn’t know why then and only later learned about the Uprooting of the Japanese Canadians. In 2003 when she heard Rose Murakami speak about her family’s history at a monthly meeting of the SSI Historical Society, Mearnie was so touched and inspired that she and her partner Caffyn Kelley decided to build a memorial garden to address Japanese Canadian history on Salt Spring Island. The Japanese Garden Society was founded in 2004 and the Heiwa Garden was built in 2009 with the heartfelt support of local residents, businesses and organizations. Sadly Mearnie passed away in 2017.
Pass It On was her motto. The Society’s wish to pass Mearnie’s passion on to future generations resulted in the creation of Mearnie’s Corner. The project was led by Japanese garden contractor Ken Ishikawa and was completed in December 2020.
A feature of Mearnie’s Corner is a circle of stones near the black pine tree. The centre-piece stone water basin is called ‘Tsukubai’. It is traditionally for the guests of a tea ceremony to rinse their hands and mouths as a gesture of purifying their body and mind before entering the tea hut.
Ken chose plants that are found in typical Japanese tea gardens, yet are suitable for our climate.
Through the Adopt-a-Plant Program, you will help Mearnie’s Corner to grow. The adoption fee is the actual purchase price of the plant. Because of the symbolic nature of this program, some plants may be adopted by one or more people. Please contact us if you are interested in adopting one of the plants listed below.
Redress efforts seek not only recognition of historic injustices against Japanese Canadians, but also future actions to benefit B.C. society as a whole.
Since the early 1900’s, for over 60 years, racist legislation and discrimination in BC culminated in the province’s critical role in the forced removal, internment, confiscation of property, and forced exile of 22,000 Japanese Canadians during 1942 to 1949. Recent research shows the BC government and its officials were complicit directly and indirectly in the unjust actions leading to the devastation of the Japanese Canadian community.
The Government of British Columbia’s official Apology Motion to Japanese Canadians in 2012 was issued without prior community-wide participation. It did not formally assume responsibility for past injustices and was not followed by redress or legacy initiatives at the time, which many saw as a missed opportunity for meaningful follow-up and healing.
In June 2019, the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) will conduct a series of Japanese Canadian community consultation meetings across BC to provide community members a voice in offering recommendations for redress and legacy initiatives to the Government of British Columbia.
The consultations have identified new opportunities to make visible the history of injustice, support the sustainability of the Japanese Canadian community, and highlight the contributions of Japanese Canadians to creating a just and prosperous society for all. (from the NAJC newsletter)
The following five themes emerged from the community consultations, ranked in order of importance:
1. Enhance Public School Education in British Columbia. Japanese Canadian history should be embedded in the mandatory core public elementary and high school curricula and be available online.
2. Take Concrete Steps to Combat Racism and Discrimination. We encourage the BC Government to create an independent body to review and assess the BC Government’s existing anti-racism strategy in consultation with affected communities and service providers.
3. Raise Public Awareness through Memorialization. Funding should be provided to sustain the maintenance and operations of new and existing museums (especially the Nikkei National Museum), historic sites, and monuments, and to reclaim historic community spaces.
4. Create a Japanese Canadian Community Legacy Fund. Establish a fund administered by the Japanese Canadian community to support community development programs, activities, and needs such as: seniors’ care and housing, community wellness and healing programs, community gathering programs to rebuild fragile communities.
5. Deliver a Formal Apology Acknowledging the BC Government’s Role. We seek a formal acknowledgement of the wrongs committed by former BC Governments that led to the injustices faced by Japanese Canadians who suffered in mind, body, and spirit, and a sincere apology to those surviving Japanese Canadians directly affected by the injustices.
Following is link to an article published in the Vancouver Sun on December 29th. 2019.
Following is the links to the six part in-depth articles about the history of Japanese Canadians in BC written by John Price, Professor Emeritus (history) University of Victoria. The articles were published in Times Colonist during November and December 2019. John Price is the author of Orienting Canada: Race, Empire and the Transpacific and, recently, A Woman in Between: Searching for Dr. Victoria Chung.
Part 1: Our History: Righting a historical wrong for Japanese Canadians
This is one of our feature projects to commemorate the Heiwa Garden’s 10th anniversary.
Heiwa Garden was conceived by Mearnie Summers in 2003 when she heard Rose Murakami’s talk about her family’s story at the SS Historical Society meeting. She spearheaded the creation of a Garden of Unity and Reconciliation with her partner Caffyn Kelly. The Society was formed in 2004, fundraising began, and the phase one of Heiwa Garden was completed in 2009 !
Mearnie was a remarkable person; an activist of gender inequality and LGBT rights, and a pioneer, teacher, and athlete. Sadly, she passed away in 2017. We would like to build a small rock garden in Heiwa Garden to commemorate her passion and keep her legacy alive.
JGS has started fundraising efforts to create this memorial corner.
Island Saving Credit Union is setup to receive donations by e-transfer as auto-deposits (no security question/answer needed).