Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 89

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, this past May I had the honour of joining Senator Tkachuk and the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group on a visit to Japan. Upon our arrival, our delegation was warmly received by the Canadian Ambassador to Japan, Jonathan Fried, and his staff. We also had the pleasure of having Christopher Burton, Sayaka Noguchi and Stephane Beaulieu accompany us throughout our stay. I thank them for all they did for us to make our time in Japan so memorable.


I would also like to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency Ambassador Kaoru Ishikawa and his staff, who helped me prepare for the trip.

While in Japan, our delegation was introduced to the Japanese Diet League by the speaker, who graciously met with us many times. Many Diet League members helped explain to us Japan’s parliamentary system and the impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. We also had the pleasure of meeting Messrs. Goto, Murata, Ohata, Kawagoe and Kuwabara, Ms. Tanioka and Ms. Kamei, who travelled with us.

Honourable senators, when I was young, my mother always taught me that your first relative was always your neighbour, as in an emergency they would be the first people to help you. As a senator from British Columbia, I have always felt a connection to our neighbours in Japan, and I have often embraced their culture, cuisine and art. In fact, my grandson Ayaan does not know that sushi and teriyaki originated in Japan; he thinks they are Canadian foods.

Unfortunately, when tragedy struck Japan, I was under the mistaken belief that I understood the soul-destroying impact the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami had on the Japanese people. It was not until a few months ago, when a container with a motorbike was found on British Columbian shores, that the loss the people of Japan suffered truly hit home. In my household, my husband, Nuralla, a biker, was upset thinking of the pain of a fellow biker.

While in Japan, I began to further understand the loss the Japanese people suffered. Honourable senators, nothing prepared me for what I saw. While visiting the affected areas, we literally saw hills of debris, concrete, steel and peoples’ belongings. We saw temporary portable homes with young children playing outside. We saw the remains of school buildings, which had damaged walls and shattered windows. In my mind, I can still hear the young schoolchildren and their teachers who were trapped inside the school walls desperately crying for help.

In Minami Sanrikucho, we saw a red steel structure and were told it was the disaster centre, which was supposed to withstand tsunami. We also heard of Miki Endo, now known as “the voice of an angel,” for bravely saving thousands of lives by broadcasting warnings of tsunami until she was swept away and lost her life.

Honourable senators, I share with you what I saw in Japan to give you a better understanding of the great loss our neighbours in Japan have suffered. The Japanese people are resilient, and this is poignantly signified by the one pine tree that is standing in the tsunami area where once there was a forest.

Honourable senators, if our neighbour is our first relative, then we need to be there for the people of Japan. I have every confidence that they will get through this difficult time. However, we need to help support them on their journey to recovery.