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In June 2023, BCRTA member Masako Fukawa was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Vancouver Island University, in recognition of her many contributions to education and anti-racism initiatives in British Columbia.

In addition to her career in both public schools and post-secondary education, Masako Fukawa, with her husband Stanley Fukawa, has devoted a great deal of time and energy to educating Canadians about the effect of government policy on Japanese-Canadian citizens during the Second World War.

From VIU’s website:

Masako Fukawa believes that if we do not redress historic wrongs, the same racist attitudes and actions will be repeated against others. Born in Prince Rupert, Fukawa was forcibly relocated as a child to an internment camp in Greenwood, BC. After retirement, she dedicated considerable time to documenting these racist acts of government on Japanese Canadians through books and educational resources for museums as well as teachers and students.

She co-authored Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War with Pamela Hickman in 2012. Her book Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC’s Japanese Canadian Fishermen, co-authored with her husband Stanley Fukawa, was awarded the Canada-Japan Literary Award by the Canada Council. She has developed numerous resources for the BC Ministry of Education and maintains a website, Her lifelong commitment to justice and the telling of the truth continues. Currently she serves on the Education Advisory Board of the Japanese Canadian Legacies initiatives of the BC government to redress these injustices. This work stems from an apology by the Premier of BC along with a commitment to fund legacy initiatives. Fukawa was also awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 for community service.

Fukawa’s connection to VIU runs deep. Since 2016, the Masako and Stanley Fukawa Scholarship and the Fukawa Excellence Scholarship have been awarded to students in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Fukawa, a teacher and then principal in Nanaimo school district, came to VIU (then Malaspina University-College) in 1995 to serve as Development Director, Secondary School with the International Education department. In this role, she developed The High School on the Nanaimo campus – an international school that still exists on campus today – and served as Founding Principal until her retirement in 1999. Her work included recruiting students and building relationships with parents and schools. Fukawa and her husband Stanley also taught at Obirin in Tokyo, a sister school to VIU, and initiated a teacher exchange.

Fukawa believes education plays a critical role in building healthier communities. “Teaching is never a neutral act,” she says. “All education is a political act. With knowledge and empathy, you have the power to be an integral part of creating a society you want to live in.”

See the presentation and Masako Fukawa’s speech here: