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.

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 need to know more about 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. We hope that we can find a way to continue on in a good and healthy way.

The Anglican Church of Canada is making available $610,000 through the National Association of Japanese Canadians as a Healing Fund for Japanese Canadians for survivors, survivor families, and anyone affected by this experience. Applications are now open for personal counselling, community healing workshops, and scholarships. Find out more here.

Save Kogawa House Campaign materials - Photo by Todd Wong

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

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

An Apology

Apology issued by the Anglican Bishop of Calgary and the Anglican Bishop of New Westminster to all members of the Japanese Canadian Community affected by abuse perpetrated by the Reverend Canon Gordon Goichi Nakayama (hereafter referred to as Mr. Nakayama) on June 15, 2015:

Apology by Anglican Church
  1. Mr. Nakayama was a priest of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary. Some of his ministry was in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, and he travelled widely in Canada and in other parts of the world.
  2. After he had retired, Mr. Nakayama confessed in person and in a letter dated December 28th 1994 to the then Archbishop of Calgary that he had engaged in ‘sexual bad behavior . . . to so many people’.
  3. Upon receipt of Mr. Nakayama’s confession, the then Archbishop of Calgary formally brought forward the very serious charge of Immorality against Mr. Nakayama on February 10, 1995.
  4. Upon receiving this charge, Mr. Nakayama voluntarily resigned on February 13, 1995, from the exercise of priestly ministry.
  5. It is not known how many young people were affected, and no complaints were received at that time.
  6. We have been made aware of the impact and effect of these past actions by some of today’s survivors, whom we acknowledge and seek to support, along with those who have died, their families and friends.
  7. We deeply regret that Mr. Nakayama while a priest committed these acts of immoral sexual behavior.
  8. On behalf of our dioceses, we express our deep sorrow and grief for harm which Mr. Nakayama did, and we apologize to all whose lives have been affected by Mr. Nakayama’s actions.
  9. We deeply regret this Apology was not delivered to the Japanese Canadian Community at the time of Mr. Nakayama’s confession, the charge of immorality, and his subsequent resignation from the exercise of priestly ministry.
  10. We express our support to survivors, affected families, and community as a whole and deeply hope that this Apology encourages healing and wellness for all whose lives have been affected by Mr. Nakayama’s actions.
  11. We commit to participation in a healing and reconciliation process with the members of the Japanese Canadian Community who were harmed by Mr. Nakayama.
  12. And we assure you that the Anglican Church takes these matters seriously, and takes steps to prevent this type of behaviour.

Dated at Vancouver, BC, Monday, June 15, 2015.

The Right Reverend Melissa M. Skelton Diocese of New Westminster

The Right Reverend Greg Kerr-Wilson Diocese of Calgary