Hong Kong vets mark Pearl Harbour Day with demonstration

A group of Canadian veterans who were sent to defend the Hong Kong Garrison gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Ottawa yesterday, to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The vets gathered to remind the Japanese Government that they had never been paid for the slave labour they performed for Japanese controlled war industries.

Despite years of activity by the surviving Canadian veterans, Japan has refused to pay what the Human Rights Commission judged to be a legitimate claim. The Hong Kong and other Far East former POWs have now requested that the claim be paid by the Canadian government. The vets base their claim against the Canadian Government on two factors: Canada signed a peace treaty with Japan without consulting the Canadians who were subjected to forced labour for Japan, and, under another international law, Canada is required to fight for the rights of its own citizens against a foreign power.

According to the Hong Kong Veterans Association, Canada has ignored its responsibilities to speak on behalf of the Far East POWs at three different interventions before Human Rights bodies in Geneva.

“`This in itself constitutes violation by Canada of its requirement to defend the rights of these veterans,” says Cliff Chadderton, Patron of the Hong Kong Vets and leader of their fight for compensation for more than 10 years.

Chadderton took the case before the House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs a year ago. The Committee supported the veterans’ claim, which now has all-party support in Parliament, he says. Bill Graham, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee is reported to have said that his Committee will prepare a report urging the Government to pay the claim of $20.3 million, or $23,040 for each survivor or widow.

“`This claim should not cost the Canadian taxpayer a single cent,” Chadderton stated. “`If the Canadian Government pays the compensation, it can claim reimbursement from Japan through the International Courts.”

The purpose of bringing the claim before Parliament was two-fold. The age and physical condition of these men dictates that their lives are at high risk. “Secondly,” Chadderton said, “we have exhausted all our opportunities before the Human Rights legislators in Geneva, and they have told us to take the claim to our own government.”