LETTERS: Japanese group lobbies for Neill name change

Jan. 12: Neill name a charged issue for many sides. One writer expresses gratitude to Good Samaritan

Change Neill name, says Japanese group

To the Editor,

Re: Reconciliation at heart of move to rename Neill Elementary School, Jan. 5, 2017

The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) supports the renaming of the A.W. Neill Elementary School and Neill Street as the first step towards reconciliation. We must know and understand our history or else we are doomed to repeat the mistakes.

A quick Google search of A.W. Neill MP reveals several of his racist comments in the House of Commons debates. In 1936 when he opposed the right to vote for Japanese Canadians, he stated, “This is a white man’s country, and we want it left a white man’s country.”

He also introduced a motion in 1938 to stop immigration from Japan. Also, Neill was an Indian agent who viewed indigenous children as convicts. Targeting and unjust uprooting is something that Indigenous peoples have also experienced and continue to experience.

The NAJC has worked for 70 years, on human rights, redress, and sharing the story of the 22,000 innocent Canadians, children, women, and men, of Japanese ancestry who were unfairly stripped of their rights, their freedom, and their property.

My mother’s side of the family settled in Cumberland in the 1800s. Their hard work and contributions to Canada were ignored when they were uprooted, dispossessed, and incarcerated in 1942.

What the Canadian government did to their own citizens was wrong. There wasn’t any evidence of wrongdoing. The heads of the Canadian Army and RCMP told the government there wasn’t any need to target Canadians of Japanese ancestry.

A.W. Neill was one of the fear-mongering MPs who encouraged the hate and supported the uprooting.

With a change of name, Port Alberni has an opportunity to promote a welcoming, safe, inclusive community. It’s 2017 and we wouldn’t accept racial slurs on our schools and streets so why would we accept the name of someone who is known for his racism?

Lorene Oikawa,

vice-president,

National Association of Japanese Canadians

chair of NAJC Human Rights Committee

•••

Understanding  needed from non-aboriginals

To the Editor,

My grandfather “so utterly despised the Indian Agent, I thought I might murder him!” he told my grandmother on the occasion of his resignation from the Royal Northwest Mounted Police in 1905, just five years after accepting his commission.

Now, as a non-aboriginal living in Port Alberni’s deeply First Nations community and blessed with grandpa’s enormous respect and affection for First Nations, perhaps I harbour a unique sense of justice at the prospect of a name-change for A.W Neill Elementary School.

For all I know, A.W Neill might’ve been the Indian Agent whose life was spared by grandpa’s better-self.

Recent high school grads may pride themselves having learned what happened to aboriginal children at residential schools, but such knowledge is uselessly superficial if not accompanied by a deeper understanding of how it truly affected First Nations Peoples for generations.

For that, students need to learn who First Nations Peoples really are and how their world-view differs from the Judeo-Christian superstitious traditions foisted on them by colonialists.

Learning about First Nations is still a work in progress as aboriginal content in school curriculae is only a fairly recent addition.

Meanwhile, how ironically outrageous is it to ignorantly expect First Nations parents (decendants of elders who suffered at Port Alberni’s residential school) to accept sending their children to a school named after an inveterate racist?

To quote school trustee, Rosemarie Buchanan (AV News, Jan. 5): “We are an enlightened and better educated society now.”

Let’s prove Port Alberni is part of this equation.

Liz Stonard,

Port Alberni

•••

Roadside assistance was appreciated

To the Editor,

I want to express my gratitude to the kind gentleman who assisted me and my friend when we experienced car problems in Port Alberni over the Christmas period.

We had just arrived in Port Alberni after a white-knuckle drive along slushy, pot-holed roads from Bamfield. We stopped to get a coffee but when we got back in the car, it wouldn’t start. A passerby who identified himself as David offered to help and spent almost 20 minutes to try to identify the problem. He discovered that the cables to the battery had become loose—- likely as a result of the jarring ride over the logging road—and he promptly used his tools to fix it. It is so nice that there are still people like him in the world who will offer to help out when they see someone in need.

Olivia Scott,

Port Alberni

Alberni Valley News

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