We celebrate our 85th anniversary this year. We are the oldest Asian bilateral association in Canada and I am happy to report that we may indeed be improving with age.
First, I would be remiss if I did not once again note the passing of another year post 3.11 – the Great East Japan Earthquake. On behalf of the citizens of British Columbia, particularly those along the coast, I would like to thank the Japanese Government for the ex gratia grant of $1 million to assist those along the west coast affected by Tsunami debris. Our thoughts are with those still struggling with the after-effects of this tragedy.
We are encouraged by recent political developments in Japan and look forward to a continuation of the revitalization in economic performance.
This past year saw a continuation of several of our annual signature events including the 37th annual joint Canada-Japan Society of British Columbia – Konwakai Golf Tournament and Dinner, organized by Russell Mark and Hiroshi Yamamoto. As well, the Annual Fall Gala which Executive Director Angela Hollinger and Events Committee Chair Bill McMichael organized featuring guest speakers Minister Pat Bell and Deputy Minister Dave Byng was a milestone occasion. Another more recent highlight was a luncheon hosted together with the Konwakai and the Japan-Canada Chamber of Commerce, at which Ambassador Mackenzie Clugston spoke. We hope that Ambassadors going both ways will come to view a Society visit in Vancouver as a welcome stop on their respective trips home or abroad.
Of course, I am grateful for the continued support of John Tak and Jay LeMoine with many of the routine tasks involved with keeping the Society going. As with many non-profit organizations such as ours, there are many supporters and volunteers, without which we would not realize the continued success that we have.
Late last year, we welcomed Japanese Consul General Okada to his new posting in Vancouver. Mr. Okada sits as Honourary Chair of our Society and we look forward to working together with him and his staff over the coming months.
Just last month, the Society Executive was invited, together with a counterpart group from the Konwakai (Japanese Business Association of Vancouver), as well as a select group of British Columbia Government Deputy Ministers, to a dinner at the Consul General’s Residence. An objective of the dinner was for all parties to better understand each other and thus pave the way for improved communication as we look to deepen ties in commerce, culture and education. B.C. Premier Clark is planning to visit Japan again this fall, and we hope that dialogue such as this with her staff will help make sure that the visit is fruitful.
Although the many relationships between Japanese and B.C. groups and organizations of various kinds may not attract the kind of media attention it used to. Please be assured that the ties run strong and deep.
Having said this, I am constantly intrigued by new links as well as new ideas folks are coming up with. Last week in Japan, I learned that the Mayor of Whistler will be visiting sister city Karuizawa next month for the Shaw festival. I was puzzled to see Whistler-branded maple syrup for sale there as well, and learned that Karuizawa does indeed have sugar maples that are beginning to be tapped, although they send the raw syrup to Canada for processing.
This year, we heard from the Canada-Japan Co-op program about their challenges in meeting their funding requirements. I’m wondering if we should endorse an internet crowd-source funding effort to help them meet their needs.
Over the coming months, one of the ‘hot topics’ between Japan and Canada will be if and how Canada and B.C. might assist in meeting Japan’s post-nuclear energy requirements. It would be great if we could link in this way, but I’m wondering if we should at the same time incorporate an offset plan to leverage this ‘short term’ dialogue and mutual benefit with a requirement to engage together on the research and development of post-petroleum energy technologies.
Although not a “post-petroleum” alternative, Canada’s recent abandonment, as reported on May 7, 2013 by the CBC, of a 15-year program that was researching ways to tap a potentially revolutionary energy source, just as Japan is starting to use the results to exploit the new fossil-fuel frontier: methane hydrates, is not encouraging. Methane hydrates are crystals full of methane gas found both offshore and under the permafrost. Low temperatures and high pressure cause methane and water to crystallize into ice-like deposits. They represent an unexploited source of energy estimated to be larger than all the world's known coal, oil and gas reserves combined.
Both the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia are represented on our Board of Directors, and we are particularly grateful for the high level of support that we receive from both throughout the year.
The Society is affiliated with Vancouver Board of Trade, Konwakai, Mokuyokai, Nikkei Place Foundation and more recently with Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan.
We have welcomed a number of new members to the Society over the past year, the most recent of which is Advantage BC, represented by President Bruce Flexman.
We do not take the relationship between Japan and Canada for granted. As a Society, we do not take the support of our members for granted, but truly value the relationships which have been built over the years.
Steven J. Archer, President