Canadians Helping Japan

By Charlotte Bumstead

The tragedy in Japan has struck with such magnitude, the level of despair and heartbreak is almost beyond comprehension for those safe in their homes on the other side of the world. But the eyes of Canadians remain glued to the TV, Internet and newspapers reporting on this disaster, which has killed more than 10,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. The hearts of Canadians are reaching out in any and all ways possible to help the people of Japan through this time of suffering.

Japan’s ambassador to Canada, Kaoru Ishikawa, thanked Canadians for their ongoing support and for the millions of dollars they’ve donated. “I want to thank Canadians deeply,” Ishikawa told a business luncheon in Montreal on Thurs., March 17. “We are so grateful indeed.”

Just hours after the earthquake hit Japan, Canadians had already donated $77,000 to aid victims. The dollars continue to pour from generous pockets. By last Thursday afternoon, a sum of $7.7 million had been collected by the Canadian Red Cross, from individual and corporate donors. According to a Red Cross spokeswoman, the money raised will help fund evacuations, medical care and the distribution of emergency goods like food, water and shelters.

Manitoba recently announced its goal to double the province’s donation to Japan, earmarking another $100,000. More than 400 people were packed into the Manitoba Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Sunday afternoon, where a silent auction raised funds for the Red Cross. Volunteers offered sushi boxes, as well as origami cranes that people could purchase for a donation.

Vancouver has also been busy raising money for Japan. Two Canadian-born sisters of Japanese descent organized a fundraising event at the Country Club Centre over the weekend. According to media reports, the staff and suppliers of Dorchester Hotel gathered together and folded 1,000 origami cranes. The sisters’ wish was to “uplift the people of Japan.”

It’s not only the dollars that count. Ishikawa expresses his gratitude for support from the Canadian government, as well as the moral support presented by Canadians. “We are really grateful for the kind words of compassion and support and actions offered by many foreign governments, including and to start with, Canada,” he said.

While millions are doing all they can to support from a distance, other courageous individuals have volunteered their help on Japanese soil. The Canadian government has provided a 17-member victim-identification team, as well as chemical, biological and nuclear technical expertise and equipment to assist Japan in stabilizing its nuclear reactors.

The Canadian Forces stand ready and willing to send personnel and planes to help with humanitarian relief efforts. The decision awaits a formal request for the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to be sent to danger zones.

Smaller organizations are lending a hand, too. Representatives of ADRA Canada, a humanitarian agency established by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, are currently working with stranded residents in Japan.

After losing one of their own, 10 missionaries from the Quebec-based Foreign Mission who are stationed in Japan have been assembling to help those affected by the disaster. Priest Andre Lachapelle, 76, died of a heart attack moments before arriving at his destination where he planned to offer help. It is unknown if he was touched by the tsunami.

Whether it’s volunteering their time at fundraisers, offering encouraging words and moral support, donating dollars or risking their own lives—Canadians are coming together with enthusiastic efforts to help those suffering. Though it’s difficult to see the light through such a dark time, we must remember how influential a helping hand can be. So keep joining hands, Canada.