Joy Kogawa is keynote speaker for “Order of Canada / Flag Day” luncheon hosted by Canadian Club

Joy Kogawa is keynote speaker for “Order of Canada / Flag Day” luncheon hosted by Canadian Club


Harry
Aoki, Const. Bob Underhill, Joy Kogawa and Dr. Jean Watters (president
of Canadian Club).  Joy Kogawa was the keynote speaker for the
“Order of Canada / Flag Day” luncheon, and Harry provided the “gift of
song.” – photo Todd Wong.

It was a good day for Save Kogawa House and the Canadian Club
on Flag Day, the 41st anniversary of the Maple Leaf flag, first
unveiled in 1965.    Joy Kogawa was the keynote speaker
for the annual “Order of Canada / Flag Day” luncheon hosted by the
Canadian Club.  Recent BC Order of Canada recipients named in 2005
were honoured with a special ceremony remniscent of the actual
investiture ceremony that takes place at Rideau Hall with the Governor
General.

The Canadian Club is committed to ensuring that each of
its major events all feature an abundance of students in the
audience.  This makes for a very interesting dynamic as many
students began arriving as early as 11am, and the lobby filled with
mingling guests.  There was a definite buzz in the air that
something special was happening.  I spoke with the Canadian Club
members that I knew, as well as helping our committee co-chair Andrew
Winstanley to organize some journalism students from BCIT, who were
doing a news piece on our event.  I also spoke with friends Dr.
Wallace Chung and his wife Dr. Madeline Chung who had delivered
me.  I made a joke as I introduced her to my friends from The Land
Conservancy…  “If Dr. Madeline had dropped me there wouldn't be
a Gung Haggis Fat Choy!”

It was a large head table, and they all
gathered in the lobby, as everybody in the ballroom was asked to sit
down.  Suddenly, the droning of bagpipes was heard, as Pipe
Corporal Rosalie MacDonald, British Columbia Regiment, led the
procession into the ballroom.  She was followed by CC president,
Dr. Jean Watters, Joy Kogawa, and the rest of the 27 member head
table.  The procession came into the centre of the room, and
walked around the table to each find their place – amazing!

MC
Margaret Gallagher welcomed singers Madeline Busby and Meghan Robinson
of the Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus to lead the singing of O
Canada.  This was extra special for young Madeline as her father
Peter Busby was a new Member of the Order of Canada, and being honoured
today.

Rose Point, distinguished Elder from the Musqueam First
Nation, led an invocation thanking the peoples of the land and the
Earth.  I learned that “Hich Ka, Siem” means “Thank you, Honoured
One.”

Dr. Jean Watters, president of the Canadian Club of
Vancouver, gave a warm welcome and read greetings from BC Premier
Gordon Campbell, then announced the Club's newest gold-level sponsor,
Kwantlen University College, and thanked returning event sponsor, Grant
Thornton Chartered Accountants.

MC Margaret Gallagher next
introduced the members of the Head Table which also included new OC
inductees Stewart Blusson, James Cameron Hagg, Peter Busby, Dr. Wallace
Chung, Thelma Finlayson, Nancy McKinstry, and Basil
Stuart-Stubbs.  Also joining the head table were former CC member
Patricia Graham, plus Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, Enzo Guerriero and
Skip Triplett.


The wonderful birthday cake celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Maple Leaf flag – photo Deb Martin.

Lunch
had begun with a Greek salad, then an entre of chicken breast with
mushrooms, very skinny asparagus and mashed potatoes.  It was
amazingly tasty, and the wait staff was very attentive. I took some
time to ensure that my table guests were all looked after, as I had
sponsored one table, and set up another table for the Save Kogawa House
committee and The Land Conservancy.  We had a wonderful group that
included Tamsin Baker, Heather Skydt, Nancy Tiffin and Rich
Kenney.  From the Save Kogawa House committee we had myself,
Ann-Marie Metten, David Kogawa, Ellen Crowe-Swords, Richard Hopkins and
Deb Martin. My guests also included friend Tony Breen and my cousin
Rhonda Larrabee.

Skip Triplett, the president of Kwantlen
University College, introduced Joy Kogawa, highlighting her many
achievements, such as six universities across the country, have
bestowed upon her the
titles of , Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Letters and Doctor of
Divinity.  She is named in Almanac's recent
book of Greatest British Columbians and her first novel Obasan, is
listed as one of Canada's most important books.

Joy spoke to
the audience and acknowledged that while the audience included both
children and many esteemed and honoured Canadians, that she felt it was
the children who were the most important because they represented
Canada's future.  She spoke about how by recieving the Order of
Canada, it gave her a sense of belonging, and that by Vancouver Public
Library honouring her as the 2005 selection for the One Book One
Vancouver program, it meant that Vancouver accepted and wanted her –
this same city from which she had been rejected from in 1942.

She
told a story about standing in line for the Order of Canada, and a
person next to her had told her that they had “visited her
country.”  Incredulously… she was telling a story about how
people in 1986 still assumed that because she had a Japanese name and a
Japanese face that she was from another country other than
Canada.  Her reply was simple.  I have visited “your country”
too, in fact… I was born in it.”

Joy talked about how racism
shapes our cultures and our sense of belonging, knowing that their was
much cultural and racial diversity amongst both the students and the
adults in the room.  She talked about the future of Canada, and
introduced her grand-daughter – half-Japanese, and half-Caucasian,
asking her to stand up.  She did so shyly, encouraged by her
grandfather, David Kogawa, sitting next to me.  Then next she said
that Todd Wong also represented the future of Canada, because of my
activities in cultural diversity.  I sat surprised until Mayor Sam
Sullivan gently said to me “Stand up Todd.”


Constable Bob Underhill, Joy Kogawa and Todd Wong – wearing the “Maple Leaf Tartan”. – photo Deb Martin.

People listened
attentively to Joy speak about how to live our lives despite incredible
challenges.  She said that even up to last night, she wasn't sure
what she would speak about.  But with the prompting of an e-mail
from me… a single word came to her… TRUST.  She expounded that
we must learn to trust ourselves and to act upon our
inspirations.  It was a wonderful talk – warm and heartfelt. 
And many CC boardmembers came up to me afterwords, saying how wonderful
a speaker she had been, and how perfect for the event.

But next
to follow was a gift of song, as a thank you present from the CC to
Joy.  MC Margaret Gallagher introduced Harry Aoki, who himself had
been forced to leave Vancouver during the so-called “coastal
evacuation.”  I knew that Harry was a perfect choice because Joy
had partially based the creation of the Naomi's Road character of
Steven Nakane on Harry.  Because of the internment of Japanese
Canadians, Harry had been forced to leave behind his beloved violin,
and could only take his harmonica with him. Joy always remembered
listening to Harry play harmonica at the music competitions at the
community gatherings following the internment, in Alberta.

Harry
introduced a duo piece as something he had performed before while in
Romania.  They had asked him for something Canadian… “What is
Canadian?” he questioned to the audience, but he said he drew on
something from his own Japanese ancestry, and played a country hoe-down
piece.  As he played you could see the smiles of people throughout
the audience, as they nodded to the rhythm of Harry's
performance.  After the luncheon, OC member Dal Richards, noted
Vancouver band leader and musical legend, went straight over to Harry
to congratulate and talk with him.


Harry Aoki and Dal Richard talk music following the luncheon -photo D. Martin

But the luncheon wasn't over yet.  Next came the Cake Cutting Ceremony
with RCMP Constable Bob Underhill who had selected two students to
participate.  Everybody sang “Happy Birthday” to the Maple Leaf flag.

Dr.
Watters, Joy Kogawa with Enzo Guerriero (Celebrate Canada president)
came up to the stage to each welcome the new 2005 Order of Canada
Appointees resident in Vancouver.  Linda Johnston from Canadian
Heritage read out the citations about each person, detailing their
achivements to Canadian community, arts, society or science.  It
was impressive to be in a room filled with so many members of the Order
of Canada, many more seated around the room, sitting with students.

\
Applauding
and thanking the new Order of Canada recipients:  Canadian Club
president Dr. Jean Watters, keynote speaker Joy Kogawa, and Enzo
Guerriero, president of Celebrate Canada – photo Deb Martin.

The
event concluded with the Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus coming into
the room and performing the song “This is My Home” which had been
commissioned for Expo 86 and was featured at the Canada
Pavillion.  Seated nearby was Patrick Reid O.C. and a special
advisor for the Canadian Club, who had been Commissioner for Expo
86.  The song is beautiful, and I love the chorus, when the melody
goes “This is My Home…. O Canada.”  It did bring a tear to my
eye. 

What a wonderful event.  I am very glad to be
a member of the Canadian Club, and very pleased that I was able to
contribute to this very inspiring and impressive event.  Margaret
Gallagher did an outstanding job as MC.  Joy touched and inspired
people as keynote speaker.  Harry Aoki, thrilled people with his
harmonica performance.  I am so glad to be able to call each of
them my friend.

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