Visitors pay respect to the victims at the Memorial Hall for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, in July. (Photo by Cui Xiao/Provided for China Daily)
Jenny Kwan, a member of Canada's Parliament representing Vancouver, on Wednesday called on the federal government to designate Dec 13 of every year as Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day.
Kwan said the government should mark the date "in recognition of the crimes against humanity and in the spirit of 'never again'".
Kwan's call follows the Ontario Legislature's decision last year to observe the day at the provincial level. Ontario, home to Canada's largest Asian community with more than 3 million people of Asian descent, became the first regional legislature in a Western country to adopt the motion.
In December 1937, "up to 300,000 people were killed. An estimated 200,000 women from occupied territories in Asia were tricked or coerced by the Japanese Imperial army into sexual slavery", Kwan said in a statement.
"The United Nations recognizes 19 countries where sexual violence is used as a tactic of war. If we can learn from history and commit to preventing it from happening again, humanity benefits," she said.
Kwan said leaders from Chinese, Japanese and Korean communities in Canada and 40,000 petitioners across the country support commemorating the national day for the massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanjing.
"I hope all Members of the House of Commons will too," Kwan said.
Joy Kogawa, a Canadian poet and novelist of Japanese descent, said a Nanjing massacre day will serve as an educational tool for what she called an "insufficiently known aspect of world history".
"Whereas the Holocaust in Europe is taught and remembered, the same cannot be said for Asia's history," said Kowaga. "Large-scale atrocities in Asia's history need to be widely known and studied so that they are not repeated."
Kowaga is a recipient of the Order of Canada, which recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.
"This is not about Japan-bashing or demonizing. It's about remembering the victims of the past and committing ourselves to ensuring that history does not repeat itself," said Satoko Norimatsu, a spokeswoman for the group Japanese Canadians Supporting Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day.
Doctor Joseph Wong, also a recipient of the Order of Canada and co-chair of Canada ALPHA (Association for Learning and Preserving the History of World War II in Asia), said: "The mistakes made by human beings, whether in the West or in the East, should be remembered and taught so that we can hopefully do better in preventing history from repeating itself. The Nanking (Nanjing) Massacre is a tragic human story reflecting the worst of human history and should be commemorated and learned by all people, as we do with Holocaust education."
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also addressed the issue at the Canadian House of Commons on Wednesday, saying that Canada deplores the horrific events that took place in Nanjing 81 years ago.
"All Canadians can agree the loss of life and civilians that so many faced should never be forgotten. We will never forget those terrible acts. The memory of these victims and survivors must be addressed in the true spirit of reconciliation," he said.