WILPF co-signs “Open Letter to Japanese Emperor and Empress”

Marlene LeGates (far right) signs on behalf of WILPF.
Marlene LeGates (far right) signs on behalf of WILPF.

WILPF co-signs “Open Letter to Japanese Emperor and Empress” on the occasion of their visit to Vancouver, July, 2009:

Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan

c/o Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver
800-1177 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC
July 9, 2009

Your Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan,

We are writing to you as some representatives of groups of Canadians that make up the rich diversity of this country:  Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and European. We hope you enjoyed your visit to Eastern Canada, and we would like to extend you our warm welcome to Vancouver, Canada’s gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.

With so many immigrants from all parts of Asia, we believe that Canada is an ideal place from which to promote peace and understanding among the Asia-Pacific nations.  For example, Japanese-Canadians, along with people from other cultural heritages, have been working to raise awareness of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Here in Vancouver, one of the first Article 9 groups outside of Japan raised funds to send Canadian delegates to the world’s first Global Article 9 Conference held in Chiba, Japan.

As Canadians with Asian connections, we also work together to heal the wounds of Japanese aggressions in the Asia-Pacific region before and during the Second World War, and to learn from the history of devastating wars to create a peaceful future together. For example, every year a group of Canadian educators travels to China and Korea to learn about the history of the Asia Pacific War (1931-1945), including the Nanjing Massacre and Japan’s military sex slavery system. A group of Canadian students also travels to Japan every summer to learn about the history of atomic-bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and these educators and students share their learning with the wider community when they return.

Our aim is never to foster bitterness toward a specific country or group of people; instead, our goal is to create an environment for open-minded learning that transcends national borders and cultural differences.

While our educational activities have been well-received among communities in Canada, Asia and beyond, we have witnessed many non-reconciliatory responses from Japan to the global community’s efforts to help bring healing and justice to the war crime victims of this tragic chapter of history. The Japanese Parliament has yet to pass a resolution that fully admits and apologizes for Japan’s responsibility for the loss and suffering of the victims of the Asia-Pacific War, or to pass laws that stipulate compensation to those victims.

Canada is among the nations that are concerned with these issues. On November 28, 2007 the Canadian House of Commons unanimously passed a motion urging the Japanese government to take full responsibility for the involvement of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the system of forced “comfort women,” to offer a formal and sincere apology to these women, and to continue to address those who are affected in the spirit of reconciliation. Although Canada as a nation has not been perfect in addressing its own past wrongdoings, one of Canada’s achievements in this regard has been the compensation of Canadians of Japanese ancestry who were interned during the Asia-Pacific War. We would also like to see such redress offered Japanese government to the Canadian POWs captured in the Battle of Hong Kong and to the victims of China, Korea, the Philippines, and all the other countries and regions where Japan’s military committed war crimes. We would also like to see Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution remain as it is, as we and many people in Asia see Article 9 as Japan’s pledge to the world never again to engage in wars of aggression.

Your Imperial Majesties, we are aware and appreciative of how much you have demonstrated a commitment to peace and history issues. For example, your paying tribute to the Korean victims’ monument when you visited Saipan in 2005 was considered a gesture of reconciliation. When you visited China in 1992, you also expressed regret for the suffering that Japan brought to China during the Asia-Pacific War. Your words were a positive step toward healing a historical wound. Your 1993 visit to the Okinawa sites where tens of thousands of civilians died in the war was also appreciated by many people throughout Japan and beyond. We would like to appeal for your continued efforts to help bring healing and justice to the victims of atrocities committed by Japan before and during the Asia-Pacific War, and for your for support of the endeavours to keep Article 9 intact in the spirit of peace.

Thank you for your attention to our letter, and again, we would like to sincerely welcome you to Canada’s West Coast.  We hope you will enjoy the beautiful sunshine, ocean and mountains of our land, and the rich and dynamic communities of our multicultural society.

Yours faithfully,
(Signed by the following organizations)

Thekla Lit
Co-chair, Canada ALPHA (Association for Learning & Preserving the History ofWWII in Asia)

Satoko Norimatsu
Founding Director, Peace Philosophy Centre

Marlene LeGates
Acting President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Vancouver

Tatsuo Kage, Member
Human Rights Committee of Japanese Canadian Citizens Association

Fernando P. Salanga
President, Philippine War Veterans & Ex-servicemen Society of BC

Jane Ordinario,
Chairperson, Migrante-BC

Beth Dollaga
Chair, Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights

Kevin Sung
Director, Korean Drama Club Hanuree

Some related reference materials

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is a clause in the National Constitution of Japan that prohibits an act of war by the state. The Constitution came into effect on May 3, 1947, immediately following World War II.

The official English translation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution reads:

“ARTICLE 9.  Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

Japanese war crimes occurred during the period of Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945) have also been described as an Asian Holocaust  These war crimes include:

  • Mass killings
  • Human experimentation and biological warfare
  • Use of chemical weapons
  • Preventable famine
  • Torture of POWs
  • Cannibalism
  • Slaved labor
  • Military sexual slavery system
  • Looting

The Asian Holocaust is often compared to the Nazi Holocaust   The historian Chalmers Johnson, president and co-founder of the Japan Policy Research Institute, an organization promoting public education about Japan and Asia, has written that:

It may be pointless to try to establish which World War Two Axis aggressor, Germany or Japan, was the more brutal to the peoples it victimised. The Germans killed six million Jews and 20 million Russians [i.e. Soviet citizens]; the Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 million of them ethnic Chinese. Both nations looted the countries they conquered on a monumental scale, though Japan plundered more, over a longer period, than the Nazis. Both conquerors enslaved millions and exploited them as forced labourers—and, in the case of the Japanese, as [forced] prostitutes for front-line troops. If you were a Nazi prisoner of war from Britain, America, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (but not Russia) you faced a 4% chance of not surviving the war; [by comparison] the death rate for Allied POWs held by the Japanese was nearly 30%. (Chalmers Johnson, Looting of Asia, 2003)