July 24, Toronto – A group of Asian community leaders held a press conference today in Scarborough to update the community on Bill 79 and urge Ontario residents and politicians alike to support the bill.
Soo Wong, the Scarborough-Agincourt MPP who tabled the private member’s bill, attended the press conference as a guest speaker. Wong remarked that her bill has received overwhelming support not just from the Chinese community, but from all communities across Ontario, and she has so far tabled close to 90,000 petitions to the Ontario Legislature. She said the purpose of the bill is to make sure that young people know about and remember an important piece of human tragedy happened in Asia during the Second World War. “This is a human rights issue. It’s about humanity,” stressed Wong, “Ontario leads in many areas, such as technology and medicine. It should lead in human rights, too.” She encouraged Ontarians to write to their MPPs and talk about the bill with their neighbours and associates, noting that this fall is very critical to the passage of the bill.
Dr. Wong, Chair of Toronto ALPHA (Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia) echoed the MPP’s calling and reiterated that timing is very critical. If the bill doesn’t get passed in the fall, then it’s virtually dead, with the next provincial election set in June 2018. Dr. Wong called on the Premier to take a moral stand and support the Bill 79. “The two opposition leaders, Mr. Patrick Brown of the PC Party and Ms. Andrea Horwath of the NDP, have both declared their support, but Premier Kathleen Wynne still has reluctance to accept the bill,” stated Dr. Wong, “That is wrong.” He noted that the Ontario Legislature has passed bills to commemorate the Holocaust and Holodomor, both being atrocities committed in Europe. “Why just Europe? Why not Asia? Are Asian victims not worth remembering?” questioned Dr. Wong, “We must show the legislature our determination. And it’s important to let the Premier know that we perceive this as a racism issue.”
Dr. Wong pointed out that the Japanese people were also victims of the war, both in Japan and in Canada during WWII. Bill 79 is never about pointing fingers and blaming people. It’s about history education, because “human beings have been killing human beings throughout history and have never learned the lesson.”
Joy Kogawa, a well know Japanese Canadian author, mentioned that the long denial from the Japanese community came from the fear of being hated, yet the continued denial would expose them to more hatred. It is out of love that she decides to stand up and support Bill 79 – love for Japan and all Japanese Canadians, and love for all humanity. It is only through recognizing the wrongs can the Japanese people move on and be in harmony with other nations. She appealed to people to not hate the Japanese but to love them, which she believed is the only way to help them face the history. Being a multicultural community, Toronto is an ideal place for such reconciliation to begin.
Ren Ito, a young leader of the Japanese Canadian community, recognized the importance of history being told. He acknowledged that the Japanese Canadian community is not ready for Bill 79, and it would be a tremendous amount of work to get them to the point of accepting such a bill. He called upon the communities to “start doing this work, start talking to each other and working together to make a better society.”
Eric Xiao, president of CPAC, remarked that Bill 79 is not just about the Chinese community but humanity as a whole. He believed that it is of paramount importance for the children, the younger generation to have the opportunity to learn about Nanjing Massacre and ensure it wouldn’t happen again. He also commented on the fact that there are the holocaust memorial day and other memorial days in Toronto, which are similar in nature as the Nanjing Massacre memorial day, except they happened in Europe while Nanjing Massacre was an Asian event.
Peter Lin, President of Chinese Confederation Association, urged the public to support the Bill with action. He asked people to reach out to other communities in Toronto for their support. Quoting Justin Trudeau’s speech in Ottawa, he stated that Bill 79 was no difference from other Holocaust and Genocide memorial bills, which carried the meaning of fighting against racism. He emphasized that all politicians have a choice to stand against racism and as voters, we can pressure them by casting our vote wisely.
Bill 79, the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day Act, 2016, passed Second Reading in the Ontario Legislature. The Bill received unanimous voice vote from all three parties, and it will now be referred to the Standing Committee of Justice Policy. If passed, December 13th will be designated as the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day in Ontario.
[Bill 79 press conf 01_20170724] Japanese Canadian author Joy Kogawa speaking at the press conference in support of Bill 79
[Bill 79 press conf 02_20170724] From the left: Flora Chong, Executive Director of ALPHA Education, Peter Lin, President of CTCCO, Soo Wong, MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt, Dr. Joseph YK Wong, Chair of Toronto ALPHA, Eric Xiao, President of CPAC, Joy Kogawa, Ren Ito
(Photos are provided by ALPHA Education)