Rafe Mair endorses and supports Save Kogawa House campain
Rafe Mair has offered to publish the following on his rafeonline.com website and suggested that we send it to the Vancouver Sun and other newspapers as a letter to the editor. Rafe writes:
To whom it may concern
I recently received the following letter, in part
“I am calling on you now, Rafe, to speak out in support of a local project of The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (www.conservancy.bc.ca). With a Vancouver coalition of friends and writers groups, The Land Conservancy (TLC) is asking for help to save from demolition the modest family home of the author Joy Kogawa.
Kogawa house is located at 1450 West 64th Avenue, and Joy and her
family were removed from the home in 1942 as part of the Government’s
policy of internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II. Over
the years, the house has become a central image in Joy’s award-winning
novel Obasan, which has recieved both national and international
On November 30, 2005, the City of Vancouver
granted a 120-day delay on the demolition permit the owner was seeking
for the house. On February 8, 2006, the Kogawa House was listed on
2006 Top 10 Endangered Sites. Mid March, TLC recieved a 30-day
extension on the option to purchase the homes, allowing us to
fundraise until April 30.
purchased and protected, it is our intention to use Joy Kogawa House as
a writing retreat, enabling emerging writers to create new works
focusing on human rights issues and Canada's evolving multicultural and
intercultural society. It will also be open for public and school
tours to preserve the memory of the violition of the civil rights of
an entire cultural minority community during World War II.”
I support this effort for a personal reason.
1942, when I was 11, I was kind of sweet on a classmate, Michiko
Katayama. One day she didn’t show up to school and we learned that she
had been shipped, with her family, to the Interior, by cattle car. I
was told by my parents that the “Japs” could not be trusted, that they
got their orders (or so it was presumed) from the Japanese Emperor and
would help any Japanese troops that landed bent on slitting all our
long after that, an event occurred that I’ve never really been able to
live with – my Dad bought a paper box company at 10 cents on the dollar
from the “Trustee” of the assets of Japanese Canadians. I owe my
education to this and am ashamed of it.
must be understood that no one, including my Dad, thought he’d done
wrong. With very few exceptions most British Columbians accepted the
fact that these “little yellow bastards” in our midst were dangerous.
My Dad’s action was seen as one of patriotism. At war’s end, the
Canadian government, to avoid Japanese Canadians going back to their
homes and raising hell about what had happened, offered the detainees
passage to Japan – a place that most had never been.
was a horrible time but many Japanese Canadians were able not only to
forgive but to show what they were made of by great personal
achievements. Joy Kogawa is such a person and it's critical, in my
view, that we maintain her house not only as a reminder of her success
achieved at great odds, but that she is a fine British Columbian and
Canadian – and as a reminder to all of us and those to come that
great great wrongs were done that must never be repeated.