Art Miki

Alexandria Beveridge
Grade 9
Winnipeg Manitoba

I'm sure many of you have a European background of some sort. So lets pretend we're at war with Great Britain. Any of you who have ancestors born in England, Scotland or Ireland are given two choices. (1) You can move back to Great Britain, even if you have no family remaining there, to live out the war, or (2) You can choose to go to a concentration camp located in one of the prairie provinces of Canada, taking only what you can carry. You don't think Canada would do that to it's citizens do you? But it has happened.

Art Miki was born in Vancouver B.C. in the 1930's, a second generation Japanese Canadian. At the age of five, Art and his family were forced to leave their home. The Second World War had broken out, and the government felt that there might have been a security problem if the Japanese Canadians were not removed from the pacific coast of the country. Many families left their homes, businesses and other belongings in trust, expecting to find them intact when they returned after the war, but a friend of Art's parents warned against it. He didn't believe anything would be saved. The 14-acre farm owned by Art's grandparents sold for a mere $2000. Art's family managed to avoid both concentration camps and being deported back to Japan by coming to Manitoba to work in a sugar beet factory. After working on a fruit farm, the work in the sugar beet factory was quite difficult and strenuous. The one room house Art lived in was anything but luxurious. They had no running water. His grandfather built a Japanese style bathtub in their backyard, and that too had to be filled by carting in buckets of warmed water. In 1944, at the end of the war, Art's family moved to North Kildonan, and he was enrolled in his first English-speaking school. At home, Art spoke Japanese, and he had gone to a French school at the beginning of his education. He remembers being the subject of racist remarks, because at the time Japanese Canadians were the minority, but overall, it wasn't a bad school.

Art was enrolled in engineering at the time he became interested in teaching. He had gone to meet a friend who was in teaching school and went along to a seminar. He signed up for a teaching course immediately after. Art taught in Transcona for four years before becoming an administrator. In 1974 he came up with the idea of a non-graded school, and the response was phenomenal. Over 300 parents attended the first meeting. During the time Art worked at that school, he created a mini-folklorama. Because the school had a multitude of cultures within it, the parents representing various cultures ran all the folklorama events. Art organized many anti-racism programs and workshops for the kids in his school, and others.

The first project, on a national level, that Art worked on was the Japanese centennial project, celebrating 100 years in Canada. Through this, Art became involved in the National Association of Japanese Canadians, also known as the NAJC. He later became president of the organization. Because of his involvement in the NAJC, Art realized that many of the Japanese Canadians felt that to be punished like they were during the Second World War, they must have done something to deserve it. Art looked into the case. He found that there was no threat of national insecurity when the Japanese were displaced. He felt obligated to do something. Art's goal was to receive individual recognition for all Japanese Canadians who had been treated unfairly during the war, and to receive payment for what had been lost to them. This, however, was more difficult that he had expected. At first, many were not willing to speak of what had happened to them or their families during the war, but Art was persistent, and eventually people started to open up to him. He prepared a document to send to the government of Canada, and met with various government officials for many years after. He felt that even if they weren't successful at being reimbursed, it would at least bring attention to their cause from the rest of Canada.

Art organized a national coalition, where many well known Canadians wrote letters to the government supporting the Japanese Canadian cause, but still, they could come to no agreement. A rally in Ottawa in April of 1988 that was nationally televised, brought the government closer to an agreement, but still, there was no contract. At the same time, however, the United States of America came to an agreement with the Japanese descendants that had been mistreated in their country. 20,000 were given to them. That was the break through. In August 1988 the government and Art Miki came to an agreement, and on September 22, Art Miki and Brian Mulroney signed the Redress settlement.

In 1991 Art Miki received the order of Canada for the work he put into getting the Japanese Canadians recognized and refunded for losses. In 1995's federal election, Art Miki ran for the liberal party, and came within 100 votes of winning. He has continued to work with the NAJC, and in 1998 he was appointed citizen and immigration judge in Ottawa. He still owns a house in Winnipeg and comes back quite regularly.

Art's accomplishments are widely known, and not soon to be forgotten. He did something nobody thought possible when he made the government apologize for its behavior during World War Two. He is obviously one of Canada's great heroes.