“Landscapes of Injustice ​researcher Josh Labove shares Oral History best practices with the Ottawa Japanese Community Association in Ottawa, 2015. Photo credit: Sumi Aota.”

In December 2015, Landscapes of Injustice researcher Joshua Labove traveled to Ottawa to conduct an Oral History Workshop for the Ottawa Japanese Community Association (OJCA).
Through the partnership, new oral history interviews from members of the Ottawa community will be made available in the coming year through the OJCA’s grab-and-go history presentation, Stories from Life.

Josh and Sachiko        
Joshua Labove being introduced by Sachiko Okuda

Josh and Matt

Josh interviewing Matt Miwa, to demonstrate the techniques of oral history
Photos: Sumi Aota

A new collaboration builds important community legacies

• A new collaboration with the Ottawa Japanese Community Association (OJCA) marks the start of a deep local commitment for Landscapes of Injustice to the Ottawa Japanese-Canadian community. Through the partnership, new oral history interviews from members of the Ottawa community will be made available through the OJCA’s grab-and-go history presentation, Stories from Life.

• This pairing came largely at the hands of Sachiko Okuda, president of OJCA, after she attended a presentation by Landscapes of Injustice oral history researchers this past summer and recognized the opportunity to learn from the project’s expertise.

• “There are a number of us who want [to leave] a legacy for future generations,” says Okuda. “There are stories in our families that no one has taken time to record, or they haven’t done so in an accessible way.”

• As a result of the collaboration, Melisa Kamibayashi-Staples has begun interviewing her two uncles, Stan and Dr. George Hiraki. Both were teenagers when the federal government forced uprooted and interned over 22,000 Japanese Canadians on the basis of their race. “I can’t believe that we have never had these very poignant conversations before,” explains Kamibayashi-Staples. “It is empowering to contribute to this initiative to help rebuild a full picture of a vital piece of our past that has shaped who we are today – in ways that we may not have even realized.”

• Dr. Pamela Sugiman, Chair of the Department of Sociology at Ryerson University, leads the team of oral history graduate student researchers who are traveling across Canada recording Canadian memories of the racist chapter in our nation’s history. For Dr. Sugiman, “Building a relationship based on trust and sharing is crucial for the success of any oral history project, especially one that documents the intimate experience of historical events such as war and internment.”

• “We are finding unique, eclectic and diverse stories all over the country,” says researcher Josh Labove, who is working closely with the OJCA. “The communities are not just distinct for geography, but from each other. The stories of these events will be told and felt differently by communities depending on where we are in the country.”

• With Heritage Month upon us, this collaboration represents a case of university academics and cultural communities working together to capture their stories and build a legacy for the future. The OJCA’s Stories from Life project is funded by the federal World War Commemorations Community Fund and will enable volunteers to bring stories of the internment-era in to the classroom for subsequent generations. Landscapes of Injustice is a seven-year, public history project funded under the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Grant Program, studying the dispossession of Japanese-Canadian property during and after the Second World War. Connecting with Ottawa citizens is part of that undertaking.

Joshua Labove (Research Coordinator – Oral History Cluster, Landscapes of Injustice)
jlabove@sfu.ca or 604-319-8655

Sachiko Okuda (President, Ottawa Japanese Community Association)
sachiko_okuda@sympatico.ca or 613-237-1243