War Amps Acknowledges Importance of Japan Finally Apologizing to Canada's Hong Kong Veterans
December 8, 2011 - The War Amps of Canada, which stood shoulder to shoulder with Canada's Hong Kong Veterans in seeking redress and recognition, is pleased with the long-sought apology given Thursday in Tokyo to these Veterans by Japan.
The apology was accepted by the Hong Kong Veterans of Canada on behalf of all Canadian military personnel who were prisoners of war in the Far East during the Second World War. Representatives of the group were in Japan for a commemorative visit during what marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong.
For many years following the end of the Second World War, the Hong Kong Veterans, in conjunction with The War Amps, had pursued financial compensation and an appropriate apology from the Japanese for the abuse and violations of human rights meted out by the Japanese to Canadian PoWs.Compensation from the Canadian Government of $24,000 for each surviving Hong Kong Veteran or their widow was announced in 1998, but the apology remained outstanding.
"Time was unfortunately of the essence in this case, as there are only 59 prisoners of war surviving, the youngest being 89-years-old," said Brian Forbes, Association Solicitor for The War Amps. "It was critical that this apology be rendered before there were none left to receive it."
In the past two years, Japan has given an apology to other countries, including former United States and United Kingdom PoWs, during recent visits to Japan. Over the years since the war, Japan has offered forms of contrition, but of a general nature designed to enhance political relations, and not meant to admit openly to the maltreatment PoWs received at their hands.
Mr. Forbes noted that in what has been exposed as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Convention, the PoWs received a starvation diet, medical supplies were withheld, and all prisoners were forced into slave labour to receive daily food rations with a "no work, no food" policy.
"Many PoWs died in the Japanese camps and the greater majority suffered severe disabilities which impacted their entire lives. Our joint initiative led to the UN Human Rights Commission ruling brought down in 1987, citing the Japanese for systemic violations of human rights and maltreatment," he said.
The apology was also fully supported from the perspective of Canada's overall veterans community by the National Council of Veteran Associations (representing 58 member-organizations), which placed great significance on this initiative.
The War Amps told the story of the Hong Kong Veterans and the fight for compensation in an internationally award-winning documentary called Canada's Hong Kong Veterans: The Compensation Story.
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