Ujjal Dosanjh supports the preservation of Kogawa House
Both Minister Dosanjh and Mrs. Dosanjh were very warm and welcoming to
our committee. The Save Kogawa House Committee was represented by
co-ordinators Ann-Marie Metten and Todd Wong (me), Ellen Crowe-Swords,
and Steve Turnbull. Joy Kogawa also accompanied us, and former
City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth accompanied us as an advocate.
Our background information gave him the importance of
preserving this house, as he was unaware that not only was the 1915
house one of the last remaining original Marpole homes, it is the only
identified house in Vancouver that had been confiscated by the Canadian
government due to the internment of Japanese Canadians in 1942.
Minister Dosanjh was very supportive of our efforts to save and
preserve Kogawa House, but was cautious of what he could commit to
because of the uncertainty whether he would be re-elected or
re-instated in cabinet.
In our discussions, we talked about how previous 2003 efforts by the
Kogawa House committee to obtain Canada Parks heritage status had been
turned down, because the person in questin being honoured must have
been dead for 30 years. Dosanjh agreed that the 1942 Japanese
Canadian internment would qualify as an event to be recognized and
We were very specific that we were not asking for further redress for
the Japanese Canadian internment, but to recognize Joy Kogawa's
achivements as an important Canadian author and literary figure.
He did share to having purchased a copy of “Obasan” a number of years
ago, but also admitted to not having finished reading the book.
We told him about the Vancouver Opera's
production of Naomi's Road, currently touring schools in British
Columbia, and volunteered to find him a performance at a school in his
Vancouver Riding for him to see in the new Year. Dosanjh listened
attentively when we shared with him, how the opera has become a
catalyst for healing in both the Japanese Canadian and Canadian
communities, as so many audience members have been emotionally moved by
As well, we shared with the Minister that the January 22, 2006, Gung
Haggis Fat Choy dinner will share fundraising proceeds with the Save
Kogawa House campaign, and invited him to the spectacular multicultural
event. I pointed out that my opera soprano friend Veera devi Khare
had performed at the 2005 dinner, and that I had helped recommend and
arrange for Veera to perform at his 2004 fundraiser event.
And we invited him to listen to CBC Radio Sounds Like Canada on Dec.
26th, as Shelagh Rogers (2006 GHFC co-host) will interview Joy about
the Save Kogawa House campaign, and her literary career.
Minister Dosanjh was clearly moved by our presentation, committment to
multiculturalism, and enthusiasm for turning Kogawa House into a
writing centre for the benefit of all Canadians, while simultaneouly
paying respect to an important time in our history. He next spoke
about how Western Canada has been short-changed in Canada Council
grants for the arts. He said he was shocked at the statistics,
when he discovered that BC and the Maritimes were under-represented, as
most Canada Council grants went to Ontario and Quebec. He vowed
to help us in whatever ways possible given the constraints of the
present election season, and noting that after the election on Jan 23,
we would only have about 60 days left to save Kogawa House from
We left the meeting feeling that while we had Dosanjh's ear, clearly he
is in election mode. But he gave us some good directions to move
towards, particularly that he would put in a word for us with Carole
Taylor, the MLA for the Marpole neighborhood, and coincidently the
Finance Minister of the provincial Liberal government.
We were therefore thrilled to later learn that Minister Dosanjh would
like to have a quick and timely follow up meeting with us on
Wednesday. Since it will be on December 21st, Winter solstice, we
are hoping our meeting will be a turning point for the Save Kogawa
House campaign as we are presently trying to secure government funding
for the project.