A wit­ness to war — and peace

New mu­seum will ex­plore the Asian ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

Canada's History - - CURRENTS - By Mar­i­anne Helm

A new Cana­dian mu­seum will high­light the his­tory of war and war crimes in Asia dur­ing the Sec­ond World War in an ef­fort to pre­vent sim­i­lar atroc­i­ties from oc­cur­ing in the fu­ture.

The Asia-Pa­cific Peace Mu­seum and Ed­u­ca­tion Centre, which will open in 2019 in Toronto, will be a “light­ning rod” to ex­plore “the lessons we must learn from the hor­rors of the war,” said Dr. Joseph Yu-Kai Wong, the founder of the As­so­ci­a­tion for Learn­ing and Pre­serv­ing the His­tory of WWII in Asia (AL­PHA).

Wong said he was in­spired to build the mu­seum af­ter wit­ness­ing new gen­er­a­tions of Cana­di­ans show a greater in­ter­est in learn­ing about the his­tory of the war and its im­pacts both in Canada and around the globe.

“The main rea­son why we started to drive our dream to re­al­ity was be­cause we saw the pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm of young peo­ple” for this his­tory, Wong said. “They give us hope that this his­tory will for­ever serve as a les­son for all to re­mem­ber the hor­rors and [will show] how each of us can help to pre­vent re­peat­ing his­tory.”

Wong said Canada is the per­fect lo­ca­tion for the mu­seum be­cause of the coun­try’s di­ver­sity, which in­cludes a large and grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple of Asian de­scent; its Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms, which pro­tects and pro­motes the rights of im­mi­grants and en­cour­ages mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism; and a jus­tice sys­tem that fights for the rights of mi­nori­ties.

While other mu­se­ums ex­plore the Sec­ond World War, Wong said the Asia-Pa­cific Peace Mu­seum will pro­vide greatly needed con­text on the Asian ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing that con­flict. The mu­seum will ex­am­ine the causes of the war, the ex­pan­sion of the con­flict, the af­ter­math, and its

con­tin­u­ing im­pacts and le­gacy to­day. The gal­leries will ex­plore top­ics such as the Nank­ing Mas­sacre; the “com­fort women” who were forced to act as sex­ual slaves for Ja­panese sol­diers; the use of bio­chem­i­cal and germ weapons; the mis­treat­ment of pris­on­ers of war; the Bat­tle of Hong Kong; the use of atomic bombs to end the war; and, on the home front, the in­tern­ment of Ja­panese Cana­di­ans dur­ing the war.

Wong hopes the mu­seum will be a “hub for ac­tive teach­ing and re­search for high school and univer­sity stu­dents and aca­demics, to pro­mote un­der­stand­ing of the causes of war and the ways to bring about rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and peace.”

The mu­seum will in­clude in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal ex­hibits and will fea­ture class­rooms and a re­search space. Wong’s goal is to see the mu­seum even­tu­ally host more than ten thou­sand stu­dents an­nu­ally, in ad­di­tion to pub­lic vis­i­tors. Pri­vate fundrais­ing for the mu­seum con­tin­ues; Wong is also seek­ing fed­eral and pro­vin­cial fund­ing.

Clock­wise from left: A Ja­panese-Cana­dian fam­ily awaits re­lo­ca­tion to an in­tern­ment camp in the in­te­rior of Bri­tish Columbia, circa 1942. A con­cep­tual de­sign for the Asia-Pa­cific Peace Mu­seum and Ed­u­ca­tion Centre. Toronto Mayor John Tory, front row, sec­ond from right, and mu­seum sup­port­ers at the of­fi­cial launch of the project, Septem­ber 2017.

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