Acknowledging the Past

To the children and families harmed by the Nakayama history of Kogawa House

We would like to take the opportunity to speak to the truth about past harms that now we have come to understand more deeply and clearly.

When we undertook the preservation and protection of this historic house, we thought it would be about the work of Joy Kogawa, her writing, and her work to share the story of the internment experience of Japanese Canadians. We thought we had a good idea of how the house could serve as inspiration for writers and the writing community. Discovering what was needed, we thought, would be accomplished by listening to what Japanese Canadians told us was important. We tried to listen openly and willingly, with what we thought was a good understanding of what they were going to tell us.

Gordon Nakayama apology letter

But the stories that we heard were far from what was expected. Some of the most common stories that we heard were from survivors who talked about their experience of sexual predation and the silence that they felt they had to maintain about it because the perpetrator held a position of authority as a reverend of the Anglican Church of Canada. We heard about the loneliness and separation from their family how they lost so much.

One aspect of the sexual harm that really proved to be quite distressing, was the stories from survivor families who, following the uprooting and dispossession that racism forced on individuals, community, and society, experienced further harm. As isolated families living on remote farms, Gordon Goichi Nakayama often stayed overnight when visiting. Those children were the most vulnerable.

We had no expectation that this would be a part of the work we were doing. We asked for more information. Now we are learning that a large number of children were harmed.

Over the years, as stories have been told, we have experienced a range of responses from survivor families. We have heard not only pain and anguish, but also anger that no one believed the stories they had told. We can also hear their sense that they have lost some hope that their truths will be acknowledged. They now know that we have heard them clearly and stand with them in empathy and understanding.

Our hearts go out to the survivors and the children and families of survivors who were harmed. We know that you have waited far too long for this acknowledgment. We must persevere in our investigation so that we know what happened. We need to ensure that we put in place healing programs and supports that will help survivors to gather and share their memories and stories.

Save Kogawa House Campaign materials - Photo by Todd Wong

June 2015, Anglican Bishops Melissa Skelton and Greg Kerr-Wilson offer a formal apology.

We pray for you all and hope that you can find a way to continue on in a good and healthy way.

Ann-Marie Metten, Executive Director, Historic Joy Kogawa House
On behalf of the board of directors of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society

An open letter to Japanese Canadians

Published in The Bulletin, MARCH 3, 2014

We are aware of an initiative that is underway by the JCCA Human Rights committee in Vancouver to clear the air and bring closure for the victims of our father’s heinous sexual attacks while he was a priest of the Anglican Church. We express our solidarity with all those he harmed, the young men and boys, their families and our community and express our profound grief as members of his family. May the truth be told. May the truth be heard. And may the Love that is among us and in the universe bring healing to us.

With deep gratitude to those who in their mercy have been kind to us.

Timothy Makoto Nakayama, retired priest
and Joy Nozomi Nakayama Kogawa