Maryka Omatsu

In 1993, Judge Omatsu was the first woman of East Asian descent to be appointed a judge in Canada. In the 1970s she began a law career centered around human & environmental rights. Her award-winning book, Bittersweet Passage: Redress and the Japanese Canadian Experience, narrates her personal journey as an active member of the redress movement. She has taught & lectured in Canada & abroad, worked for all levels of government, chaired the Ontario Human Rights Appeals' Tribunal, & was appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in 1993.  In 2018, Judge Omatsu made the video, Swimming Upstream, that was awarded the MADA (Making a Difference Award) at the Toronto Community Film Festival in 2019. 

She is co–founder of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers & was the first Canadian to receive the American National Asian Pacific Bar Association's Trailblazer Award (2013). Judge Omatsu was appointed to the Order of Ontario (2015). She has been named to the: Canadian Race Relations Foundation: Special Advisory Council (2018); the NAJC’s Steering Committee for B.C. Redress as co-chair (2018) & recipient of Ryerson University Honorary Doctorate of Laws (2019).

Updated February 2020

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Book Review: The Rise & Fall of America's Concentration Camp Law

Japanese American Nisei, born in the incarceration camps have launched the Tsuru (origami cranes) campaign and have been demonstrating at US detention centres where immigrant children are currently being held. A march of Japanese Americans on the White House is planned for June 5-7, 2020. The organizers’ aim is to circle the White House fence with tsuru as a sign of “peace and solidarity.” It will be the largest demonstration ever of Japanese Americans, led by 100 taiko drummers. Japanese Canadians will be joining the march. If you are interested in the American Tsuru campaign, you can check out their ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Lessons From the Japanese Canadian Experience - Part 3 of 3

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LESSONS FROM THE JAPANESE CANADIAN EXPERIENCE 

Amateur volunteers working on a shoestring, we Japanese Canadian activists were armed with resolve and blessed with lucky timing. Post redress, other communities and struggles have examined the Japanese Canadian Redress victory to learn from our mistakes and successes. Of course, our experience is not necessarily transferable to other issues or locales.1


1. Determination

Famed 16th century Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi wrote, “Combat makes apparent something that already exists. A battle is always won before it begins, since it is won in the mind.”2 Having decided to challenge the ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Lessons From the Japanese Canadian Experience - Part 2 of 3

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The Redress Campaign 

In 1980, the community’s long-time political voice, the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) decided to investigate redress possibilities. By 1984, the campaign began in earnest. The issue became national front page news, when then leader of the opposition, the Progressive Conservative leader Brian Mulroney challenged the Liberal Party leader, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, to do the right thing by Japanese Canadians.

Initially within the Japanese Canadian community there were factions who needed to be won over [a topic that I go into in my book]1 outside our community, however, there were ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Lessons From the Japanese Canadian Experience - Part 1 of 3

I will begin with a story. Over a century ago, Japanese immigrants landed on North America’s shores brought by the warm waters of the “Kuroshio,” or Black Current, which travels a perpetual circle from Japan south to the Pacific Islands and then up along North America’s west coast and back again. Transplanted adventurous peasants from a feudal island, we helped to clear the forests, to harvest the seas, and to develop a virgin country.

In those days, Japanese fishermen attached clear glass balls the shape of grapefruits or small watermelons to their fishing nets to keep them afloat ...

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