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Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group



From February 11 to 15, 2020 the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group (CAJP or “the association”) conducted its Co-Chairs’ annual visit to Japan. The official program included meetings in Hiroshima, Miyajima and Tokyo. The Co-Chairs, the Honourable Jim Munson, Senator, and Mr. Terry Sheehan, M.P., were accompanied from Ottawa by Jessica Kulka, Association Secretary, and by officials from the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo.

CAJP’s primary purpose is to promote exchanges between Japanese and Canadian parliamentarians, to propose initiatives likely to lead to a better mutual understanding of bilateral and multilateral problems, and to develop co-operation between the two countries in all fields of human activity.

The objectives of this visit were:

  • To personally invite the Japan-Canada Diet Friendship League (DFL) to come to Canada for the 22nd Bilateral Meeting;
  • To build stronger ties between CAJP and the DFL;
  • To explore shared interests and mutual priorities with Japanese parliamentarians;
  • To identify potential areas for enhancing cooperation, trade, scientific exchange and people to people ties between Japanese and Canadians; and
  • To raise Canada’s profile in Tokyo and Hiroshima Prefecture by engaging with politicians, local officials and entrepreneurs.

Meetings with the Diet Friendship League

On February 13, 2020 the Co-Chairs met with members of the Japan-Canada Diet Friendship League (DFL). During previous visits, meetings were typically limited to members of the executive. This meeting, which was open to the full membership of the DFL, was held two weeks after their first general assembly in over two years and may be an indication of a renewed interest. A total of fifteen members and nine secretaries confirmed their attendance. Members of the executive who were present included: Mr. ETO Seishiro, President; Ms. TSUCHIYA Shinako, Vice-President and Chief Secretary; and Mr. NAKAGAWA Masaharu, Vice-President and Secretary General.

Mr. ETO opened with remarks about Japan and Canada’s shared dedication to nurturing and strengthening the relationships between their two countries. He referenced recent events which have brought Canada and Japan together including the cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama in attempts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Canadian rugby players who volunteered to help with clean-up efforts in Kamaishi following the destruction caused by Typhoon Hagibis, and the meeting of Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister ABE in April 2019.

In their replies, the co-chairs emphasized the cooperation and collaboration between Canada and Japan in the sectors of peace and security, trade, industry, and tourism. Senator Munson further noted that these endeavors create links that foster a flow of both people and ideas between the two countries. Mr. Sheehan summarized recent activities of CAJP including the meeting held in Ottawa in the Fall of 2019 with the Japanese Parliament’s Board of Oversight and Review of Specially Designated Secrets. Both co-chairs reflected on their experiences in Japan to date, particularly the impact of visiting Hiroshima and the hope this generated for future generations of Canadians and Japanese to work together in a peaceful world.

The floor was then opened for questions from the greater membership of the DFL. While some questions were light hearted and focused on interest in Canadian music, the resonating theme was an interest in bridging the gender gap and looking to Canada as a positive example. Many of the members of the Japan-Canada Diet Friendship League in attendance noted that they are also members of the League for the Promotion of Gender Equality in the Political Field.

Discussions with the executive members, Mr. ETO, Ms. TSUCHIYA and Mr. NAKAGAWA, were taken up during a luncheon held shortly afterwards. Mr. KANDA Nobuhiro, assistant to Mr. ETO and Mr. SASAKI Taro, assistant to Ms. TSUCHIYA were also in attendance.

Picking up the conversation by referencing a comment made from Senator Munson in the previous meeting about Senators in Canada needing to retire at age 75, Mr. ETO explained that in Japan there is no such age restriction. Mr. ETO shared that he is 78 years old and has been a parliamentarian for 42 years. This evolved into a conversation about the Japanese political system and the changes that have resulted from the introduction of proportional seats 25 years ago. Social security and its relation to Japan’s fiscal health was discussed next. Despite having recently raised consumption taxes to 10% recent reports suggest that the consumption tax should be raised to 15% to ensure that government fiscal system does not collapse. The conversation then shifted to gaps in the work force and resulting changes to immigration policies and the attempt to increase women’s employment. The discussions also allowed the participants to compare and contrast Canada’s use of minimum wage with Japan’s attempts to introduce a similar bill and Canada’s top 10 rating on the UN happiness ranking with Japan being ranked 58th. The DFL executive members also expressed the respect they had for Canada accepting so many Syrian refugees and that they were able to learn from Canada’s resettlement program and use this in the creation of their own program to accept refugees. Senator Munson explained Canada’s use of both government and private sponsorship to be able to accept so many refugees and cited his personal experience of sponsoring a family of 6, which he viewed as an investment in Canada.

When talk shifted to the 21st bilateral meeting the Co-Chairs reextended their invitation to the DFL and it was agreed that Golden week, April 29 to May 6, offered the best timing as they would not be sitting or hosting Olympic events during this period. As time will be limited, it was recommended that any other city that be included in the program should be close to Ottawa. The co-chairs pointed out that Ottawa’s Parliament will seem very different than when they last visited in 2015 due to the new House of Commons and Senate buildings.

Meetings with Parliamentarians

The Co-Chairs attended meetings on February 13 and 14 in Tokyo with the heads of several parliamentary committees as well as a meeting with a State Minister. The first of these meetings was with Mr. MATSUMOTO Takeaki, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. Also in attendance were Directors of the committee Mr.  IWAYA Takeshi, Mr. YAMAUCHI Koichi and Mr. TAKEUCHI Yuzuru as well as Mr. KOKUTA, Keiji, a member of the committee. During this meeting Mr. MATSUMOTO spoke positively of Canada’s help in preventing illegal ship to ship transfers of goods bound for North Korea and asked for Canada’s continued cooperation on this front. Senator Munson responded by sincerely expressing Canada’s continued support and cooperation and noted his personal experience in having visited North Korea and the Co-Chairs recent visit to Hiroshima and the impact of seeing firsthand the effects of war. The issue of the abduction of twelve Japanese citizens by North Korea was also raised and it was asked that awareness of this human rights violation be raised among Canadians. The Co-Chairs spoke of the importance of creating more opportunities in trade between Canada and Japan as each country has resources needed by the other. They also noted that the two countries could do more to work together on climate change, especially in the arctic. All participants agreed that Canada and Japan both share the values of freedom, openness and democracy and that this facilitates cooperation between the two countries.

The Co-Chairs next met with Mr. KAMEOKA Yoshitami, State Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to discuss preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. Senator Munson noted that there seemed to be equal representation of the Olympic and Paralympic games from what he had seen so far. Mr. KAMEOKA explained that this was part of the strategy, to promote both equally in all aspects. He further explained that the training facilities have been developed to accommodate both Olympic and Paralympic athletes and that the top athletes of both the Olympics and Paralympics are very well recognized in Japanese society. The two stand on equal ground, not just in advertising but in the views of the Japanese people. Mr. Sheehan mentioned having visited the training facilities in Fukushima and being very impressed. Mr. KAMEOKA went on to describe the uses for the facility leading up to the Olympics. He explained that the facility had suffered damage during an earthquake and tsunami 9 years ago, but they were able to rebuild and reopen it and it is now the starting point for the Torch Relay. He added that Japan hopes to show the world the reconstruction in progress in Fukushima. Senator Munson also asked Mr. KAMEOKA to describe the host town program in detail. Mr. KAMEOKA explained that through the host town system, municipalities are able to identify partner countries and accept Olympic and Paralympic athletes from that country. The municipalities are to provide assistance to the athletes and help them acclimatize more easily. In this scenario the relationship is between the municipality and the state country rather than state to state. Six cities to date have agreed to host Canadian athletes including: Misawa, Suzuka, Kobe, Miyazaki, and Kuratsu. Mr. KAMEOKA emphasized that Canadians will be received by one of the greatest number of towns. Mr. KAMEOKA also talked of some of the accommodations made in a movement towards a more inclusive society such as last year’s commitment of a national budget to introduce braille books across Japan. The Co-Chairs shared with Mr. KAMEOKA the stories of Senator Chantal Peticlerc, who is a Paralympian, Senator Joyce Fairbairn, who was responsible for creating the Paralympic movement in Canada and M.P. Carla Qualtrough, who was a Paralympic athlete. The Co-Chairs also expressed Canadian excitement for the two events and their desire to send delegations as a demonstration of Canadian support.

The following day meetings with committee chairs resumed, and the Co-Chairs began by meeting Mr. MORIYAMA Masahito, Chair of the Health, Labour and Welfare Committee of the House of Representatives. The discussion started with the participants explaining how their respective countries have been improving accessibility and working towards creating a barrier free society. Mr. MORIYAMA told the co-chairs that he has been making efforts towards this for over 20 years. One significant change that happened in Japan from the time he started to now was the introduction of elevators and escalators. In February of 1999 there were no elevators in Tokyo Station, the central train hub, and today elevators and escalators are very common. Mr. MORIYAMA reflected on the fact that the biggest changes in Japan have been made in the transportation sector and that Japan is now a top-rated country in this regard. He went on to explain that Japan now needs to make the effort to remove barriers in other sectors. Senator Munson talked of recent changes in Canada due to the Accessible Canada Act that was recently introduced. Mr. MORIYAMA explained that laws have been developed in Japan as well to increase accessibility and that the Olympic and Paralympic games have accelerated the change. In December of 2018 a law was created to accelerate the development of a universal society and this year cabinet revised the accessibility law further. Senator Munson requested that a copy of the law be shared with him. Talk also centered around hiring practices for people with disabilities, increasing accessibility in Olympic and Paralympic host cities, workstyle reform for small companies, and minimum wage. The conversation also covered Japan’s aging population and decreasing birth rate. In Japan the birth rate is currently one third of what it used to be. The issue facing Japan is how to maintain health programs, pensions and other services with an aging population. Some strategies implemented to date have been to increase daycare facilities so that more women can join the work force and to encourage older people to continue working longer. In Japan the retirement age is 60 but the average lifespan is over 80. The pension might be changed to start at age 65 or older to help keep people in the work force. In response to a question from Senator Munson about whether Japan had a program to help cover daycare costs, Mr. MORIYAMA said that one had just been introduced in October of 2019. He went on to explain that both men and women are now being encouraged to take parental leave and that the current Minister of Environment recently announced that he would take the leave himself and that this is likely to have a resonating impact on the Japanese people. The tradition in Japan is that the man works and the woman does everything in the house so it is important to shift the minds of the people as this will lead to more women in the workforce. Mr. Sheehan talked of strategies in Canada and the Canada Child Benefit in particular.

The Co-Chairs then met with Mr. NISHIME Kozaburo, Chair, Mr. NAGASHIMA Akihisa, Director, and Mr. OGUMA Shinji, Director of the Peace and Security Committee of the House of Representatives. Mr. Sheehan opened the conversation by stressing the importance of peace and security for himself and Senator Munson as individuals and the pride in the relationship between Japan and Canada. He went on to explain that Canada counts on Japan to be a leader in Asia and Canada’s partner. Discussion then turned to the work of the committee, which was in the process of reviewing the question of sending troops to the middle east. Talk also covered Japan’s relationship with surrounding nations including Taiwan, China and North Korea. During the discussion on the situation with North Korea Mr. NAGASHIMA, elaborated on the concern of their continued nuclear weapons developments. He explained that they have started to create Russian style nuclear weapons, which have irregular landing patterns and are harder to track and counter attack. Japan has been cooperating with the US on this matter, but the new type of missiles has given a new dimension to the issue. From this the discussion turned to the relationship between Japan and the US and their security alliance as the foundation of this relationship.  Mr. OGUMA stated that Japan cannot take sides between the US and China. He continued by expressing the need for a collaboration of likeminded nations who are neither siding with the US or China to diffuse the tension. Discussions also touched on security preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics, cooperation between Japan and Canada in the area of peace and security, illegal offshore reloading, and participation the last Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum. Mr. Sheehan asked the members of the committee what they would like the Co-Chairs to bring back to Parliament in terms of ways in which Canada and Japan can work together. Mr. NAGASHIMA replied by first acknowledging the cooperation that was already happening between Canada and Japan to offset illegal offshore reloading and that this should continue. He then expressed the need for Japan to diversify its energy supply and that it is hoped that more energy can come from Canada. He also shared the hope that Japan will get a commitment from Canada to ensure international order and the safety of rule of law is implemented in the South China Sea.

A meeting with Mr. KITAMURA Tsuneo, Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the House of Councillors followed. The discussion opened with acknowledgement of the recent celebration of the 90th Anniversary of Canada-Japan Diplomatic Relations and a recount of some of the recent diplomatic exchanges between the two countries. All participants agreed that this long standing relationship is in part due to shared values between the two countries such as democracy, rule of law and freedom. Talk then turned to the work of the committee. It was explained that one of the major responsibilities of the committee is to look at treaties between Japan and other countries. They had, therefore, recently discussed trade agreements between Japan and Canada and Japan and the USA. On the defense side it was noted that the committee was looking at the deployment of Japanese units to the Middle East. Mr. KITAMURA elaborated that Japan is more sensitive to the deployment of troops because of how its constitution is written. Article 9 of the constitution outlaws war as a means to settle state level international disputes. He further explained that in recent years security related laws have been amended to make the deployment of troops easier than it was before. However, it still generates a lot of discussion and debate and Japan is still under restrictions. This is why deployment is strictly limited to the collection of information. To lose even a single member of the troop would shake the entire government. Mr. Sheehan noted that Prime Minister ABE has talked of amending article 9 and asked if this had been studied by the committee. Mr. KITAMURA clarified that this was outside the committee’s mandate and what they discuss is whether or not deployment overseas violates the constitution. Mr. KITAMURA stated that he personally believed the constitution should be amended to allow Japan to make a greater contribution to international society and that doing so is important since Japan can not manage on its own. Currently when Japanese vessels are attacked they can fight back, but they can not do much more than that. Senator Munson interjected by pointing out that the waters between Canada and Japan are peaceful. All participants agreed that there is much room to improve in the bilateral relations between the two countries in the energy sector. Mr. Sheehan reassured Mr. KITAMURA that the Trans Mountain Pipeline is being built and that it is taking Canada’s resources to the coast, which will provide more opportunities for Japan to diversify from the Middle East. Participants also discussed the role both countries have to play in climate change, Japan’s current relationship with South Korea and what needs to be done to improve them as well as how Canada’s relationship with China is affected by the number of Chinese immigrants to Canada. At the conclusion of the meeting Mr. KITAMURA reflected on how important it is for countries to mutually understand each other and that this is a role politicians should play to create further opportunities to foster relations.

The next meeting was with Mr. ISOZAKI Tetsuji, Chair of the Economy, Trade and Industry Committee of the House of Councillors. After opening remarks about the close relationship between Canada and Japan and their commonalities, discussion began about The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Mr. Sheehan recounted how the CPTPP was ratified quickly in both Chambers because Canada recognized the importance of being one of the first signatories. He continued by explaining that in the Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT) he heard considerable testimony about how this agreement would be a great advantage to all countries who signed it. Senator Munson added that a 67% increase in pork exports has already been seen on the Canadian side. Mr. ISOZAKI responded by explaining that Japan must rely on import since it does not have a lot of in-country resources. Japan has, therefore, always viewed this trade agreement as necessary and important. He continued by noting that there was resistance at the beginning but that with the benefits being experienced, such as Canadian pork now being sold at a very affordable price, the resistance is decreasing and will continue to do so. However, Mr. ISOZAKI also stated that it was still too early for Japan to see the tangible impact. He said this was in part due to the slowing down of the global economy as well as the relationship between the USA and China. He noted that at the committee level more discussion is needed on the agreement and how Japanese companies can fully benefit from the arrangement. Mr. ISOZAKI briefly detailed other items the committee was working on such as how the Japanese domestic economy has been impacted by the recent tax hike, the investigation of legislative action on information including big data, and The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mr. Sheehan remarked that CIIT is also undertaking study of NAFTA and that Canada’s goal is to ratify it quickly. He further explained that the Canadian Government had said that they would not ratify it until the USA lifted its steel and aluminum tariffs, but now that this has been done it will be ratified quickly in both Chambers. Mr. Sheehan then asked Mr. ISOZAKI how trade negotiations with the USA were progressing. Mr. ISOZAKI said that the committee discussed the Japanese/US trade agreement last year and following this is was approved. He said that some elements, such as agriculture in particular, were negotiated based on the same rates as those of the CPTPP. He also noted that there were still some major challenges with auto parts and that negotiations for that sector have yet to take place. He further explained that the Japanese Government will continue to negotiate with the US on that front to see if tariffs will be lifted or based on quantity. The conversation after this touched on the appreciation of Japanese companies operating in Canada, Japanese students studying in Canada, and the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The discussion ended with the participants all agreeing on the importance of promoting human to human exchanges between the two countries.

The final meeting with committee representatives was with Mr. TOMITA Shigeyuki, Chair, Mr. SUZUKI Jyunji, Director, and Mr. YAMAOKA Tatsumaru, Director, of the Economy, Trade and Industry Committee of the House of Representatives. Mr. TOMITA opened the meeting by introducing the directors and explaining the work of the committee. He explained that the committee studies a wide range of policies including energy policies, intellectual policies and patents, and commerce. Last year, he noted, the committee successfully enacted the Digital Transformation Act, which reforms the digital management of Japanese companies. He also talked of the studies being undertaken by the committee including the study of the budget for next year and how it would allow the government to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). After detailing other studies recently undertaken by the committee, the discussion turned to the CPTPP. Mr. TOMITA remarked that Japan saw an increase in agricultural products from signatories of the agreement and that this demonstrated the impact of the agreement. In particular, he continued, the import of Canadian beef has doubled since the tariffs went down. He concluded by stating that Japan has expectations for this to make its relationship with Canada more robust and reciprocal. Mr. Sheehan informed the committee of the progress made on the Trans Mountain Pipeline. When Mr. TOMITA asked him to elaborate, Mr. Sheehan explained that most oil and gas from Canada currently goes through the US and that the new pipeline will run from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the coast, which is good news for both Canada and Japan since the two countries are separated by peaceful waters. Senator Munson then asked about the impact of the [1]coronavirus on the Japanese economy. Mr. YAMAOKA informed the Co-Chairs that, though the virus is likely to spread farther yet, it has already affected the supply chain. This has been most notable in manufacturing that has been suspended in parts of China. A lower level of consumption and tourism is another result, and this is hitting small and medium sized companies hard. The conversation following this covered tourism, climate change and how Canada and Japan might benefit from shared knowledge in the study of patents and intellectual property.

Briefings from the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo and local academia

The Tokyo portion of the visit began with a briefing from the Canadian Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Ian Burney, and members of his staff on February 13. Mr. Burney provided an overview of the current political landscape in Japan as well as details of key topics of interest. Of particular concern were the effects of the coronavirus on Japan and the status of the Diamond Princess cruise ship which had 255 Canadians on board and was docked in Yokohama in a state of quarantine because passengers on board had tested positive for the virus. The status of the Westerdam cruise ship, which had not yet found a port in which to dock and had 271 Canadians onboard, was also discussed. Mr. Burney then briefed the Co-Chairs on the current state of Japanese political affairs, trends in trade and the economy including the effects of the CPTPP and details of new Japanese companies operating in Canada, the current perspectives of Japan’s relationships with other countries including the USA, South Korea and China, the broader picture of Canada-Japan relations, and the results of demographic trends in Japan. The Co-Chairs in turn updated the ambassador on efforts to encourage the DFL to come to Canada in 2020 for the 21st bilateral meeting and the meeting CAJP had in Ottawa with the Japanese Parliament’s Board of Oversight and Review of Specially Designated Secrets.

On February 13 the Co-Chairs also attended three back-to-back briefings by embassy personnel on topics likely to be raised in meetings throughout the remainder of the program. The first of these was a briefing on preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics as well as Canadian advocacy on the rights of persons with disabilities. Ms. Christine Callahan, Second Secretary of the Public Affairs Section, lead the briefing. Ms. Callahan explained the advertising campaign to promote the Olympics and Paralympics with equal importance, the use of Host Towns across the country to lodge and support the athletes, and the Beyond 2020 Campaign to leverage the event to create connections beyond Tokyo and sport. She noted that in Japan the responsibility of creating accessible environments is that of the municipality and that a presentation of ideas from the Canadian Accessibility Act was therefore given to a network of municipalities. Ms. Callahan also shared the embassy’s desire to have hospitality houses hosted in the Canadian Embassy. At the conclusion of the briefing the Co-Chairs asked if there were any security concerns and whether the coronavirus had had any impact on the planning. Ms. Callahan responded that there were no specific security concerns and that the coronavirus had had no impact on the preparations to date.

The second briefing was given by Mr. David Bostwick and Mr. Ian Metcalf, representatives of the Commercial Section, and covered Canadian trade promotion efforts in Japan. Mr. Bostwick and Mr. Metcalf reported that the CPTPP has yielded the expected results. Exports are up and beef, for example, has seen an increase of 67%. The trade agreement has also raised the profile of Canada in Japan, which is beneficial since the Japanese are very loyal. The CPTPP has also helped to bring Canada and Japan, the two largest economies to sign the treaty, together. This was contrasted with trade between Japan and the USA. Japan has signed a separate treaty with the USA with tariffs on par with those agreed to in the CPTPP, however, it currently only covers 20% of goods. The briefing then covered Japanese industry in Canada and how the timeline for a company to come to Canada has shrunk; what once took years now takes months. Imports and exports were the next item to be covered. Topics covered under this heading included energy, mining, the auto industry and the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Mr. Bostwick and Mr. Metcalf concluded with the positive sentiment that Canada’s political stability and access to natural resources make it an attractive business partner. Following this the Co-Chairs asked questions about the use and sources of aluminum and steel in the Japanese auto industry, opportunities for Canada in the fish industry, and how small and medium enterprises can take advantage of the trade agreements.

The third and final briefing from Embassy personnel was on Canada-Japan military cooperation and was delivered by Capt. Hughes Canuel, Defence Attaché. Capt. Canuel reported that there had been significant developments on the security front for Canada and Japan. Japan has expanded its involvement to include not just the navy, but also the air force and army. Capt. Canuel explained that although Canada has no formal written agreement with Japan, recent initiatives on the peace and security front are expanding the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Capt. Canuel further clarified that Japan’s only formally written agreement is with the USA. For the Canada-Japan relationship the game changer has been Operation NEON,[2] which entails ship, aircraft and personnel deployments in support of United Nations sanctions regime against North Korea. A purely surveillance mission, Operation Neon gathers evidence of illegal ship to ship transfers. Capt. Canuel explained that having Canada in the region is a clear commitment to a credible and enduring presence and this has made a positive impression on the Japanese. He also noted that Canada and Japan drafted an Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) in 2019 and that this first written agreement for the exchange of military goods is a first step to further and more involved commitments. The next agreement to potentially be initiated between the two countries would be an Information Sharing Agreement (ISA). 2019 also marked the first ever joint statement at a ministerial level to confirm the commitment of both countries to elevate defence cooperation to the next level. In their questions Senator Munson asked for recommendations of which Canadian units to showcase to the Japanese during the next bilateral meeting hosted in Canada and Mr. Sheehan asked how Article 9 in the Japanese constitution has affected Japan’s latest Peace and security initiatives.

On February 14 the co-chairs met with Prof. Benoit Hardy-Chartrand, Adjunct Professor at Temple University in Japan to discuss regional security. Prof. Hardy-Chartrand provided the chairs with an overview of the four main bilateral relationships in terms of impact on regional security. Prof. Hardy-Chartrand began by detailing the most important of these bilateral relationships, that of Japan and China. He explained that though there has been movement since 2018 towards mending ties, including talk of a summit meeting between the two countries, underlying issues such as the Senkaku Islands, remain unresolved. Next he explained the relationship between Japan and the USA. He gave examples of how on the surface there is much talk about the strength of Japan’s relationship with the USA but underneath there is evidence of doubts. Then he explained the bilateral relationship between Japan and South Korea as the most vexing because they have every reason to be allies. He further elaborated that for the surveillance of North Korea and the freedom of ocean maritime lanes these are countries that matter and their not working together is troubling. He also noted that Canada has expressed concerns regarding this relationship to both sides, but this did not have an impact. The final relationship Prof. Hardy-Chartrand detailed was that of North Korea and Japan. He pointed out that there was a flurry of diplomatic activity in 2018 and that since then Japan has reiterated a willingness to meet but that reception has been cold from North Korea. In the meantime, North Korea continues to test short and mid-range missiles in the region. Discussion also covered cyber security threats from China and North Korea, the Made in China 2025 initiative to make China a leader in the high technology field, the 2020 Olympics inability to provide a venue to bring North and South Korea together the way past Olympics have, and how the coronavirus has undermined the credibility and legitimacy of the communist party in China.

Visit to Hiroshima and Miyajima

The Co-Chairs held meetings in Hiroshima Prefecture on February 11 and 12. Having been to Northern Japan during their annual visit in 2019, the Co-Chairs elected to travel to Southern Japan for 2020. Hiroshima and the neighbouring island of Miyajima were chosen because 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hiroshima is a sister city to Montreal, and it is also home of the Hiroshima Canada Association.

The Co-Chairs began the program in Hiroshima Prefecture with a tour of the island of Miyajima and a tour of sites in Hiroshima city related to the dropping of the atomic bomb. Mr. TANAKA Katsukuni, Advisor to the Hiroshima Canada Association and Ms. FURUTANI Akiko, President of the Hiroshima Interpreter & Guide Association served as the guides for this portion of the program. Mr. TANKA and Ms. FURUTANI provided the Co-Chairs with an introduction to local culture and history, explained the traditional Shinto religious ceremony taking place at Itsukushima Shrine to mark Japan’s National Foundation Day, and discussed ties between Canada and Hiroshima Prefecture. Throughout the conversation there was an undertone of the desire for peace and nuclear disarmament. Both Mr. TANAKA and Ms. FURUTANI shared personal stories of their connection to the bombing of Hiroshima and the impact it had and continues to have on their lives. Discussions also covered election campaign differences between Canada and Japan, social and economic issues facing more rural Japanese towns including the recent impacts of the coronavirus, the relationship between Montreal and Hiroshima as sister cities, and the impact of a devastation on a society. The Co-Chairs noted that Miyajima would be an excellent site to consider for future CAJP bilateral meetings, especially as the first stop so that it could set the tone for the program.

The next meeting was with Mr. Scott Mckeeman, Secretary General of the Hiroshima Canada Association, and was held in the city of Hiroshima, the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture. Mr. McKeeman began by telling the Co-Chairs about the Hiroshima Canada Association. Mr. McKeeman noted that Mr. TANAKA was the first Secretary General and that he took over after. He explained that the association has approximately 300 members each of whom have a connection to Canada and benefits from the business networking opportunities the group provides. The conversation that followed centered much on the comparison of transportation initiatives in Japan and Canada including transit operation, accessibility and the use of hybrid or full electric vehicles. Discussions also touched upon the impact of Japan’s aging population on society and human resources, the environment and climate change as an issue of common interest between the two countries and a comparison of recent accessibility initiatives in Japan and Canada.

The following day the Co-Chairs started the program at Hiroshima City Hall for a meeting with the Mayor of Hiroshima City, Mr. MATSUI Kazumi. Mr. MATSUI opened with formal remarks in which he expressed his hope that the Co-Chairs feel the spirit of Hiroshima and the desire to abolish nuclear weapons so that no one will ever live through such devastation again. During the discussion, which mainly covered the importance of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the Mayors for Peace program, and Hiroshima’s 22-year sister city connection to Montreal, Mr. MATSUI asked the Co-Chairs for three favours. He requested that the Co-Chairs encourage Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes to travel to Hiroshima to learn about the dropping of the atomic bomb, that they also encourage more dignitaries to come to Hiroshima including Prime Minister Trudeau, and that they spread word of the Mayors for Peace program so that others add themselves to the list of 109 Canadian cities that have already signed. Senator Munson and Mr. Sheehan both assured Mr. MATSUI that they would extend his invitation to Prime Minister Trudeau and other parliamentarians including those with Olympic ties so that they may then pass the invite along to the athletes themselves. Furthermore, Mr. Sheehan who, during the discussion, had shared his experience as a member of the City Council for Sault Ste. Marie during the vote on the resolution to instruct the mayor to join the Mayors for Peace Program, informed Mr. MATSUI that he and Senator Munson would write to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities -of which all mayors are members- to encourage all those who are not already members to join Mayors for Peace.

The Co-Chairs then travelled to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to meet with the Deputy Director of the Museum, Mr, KATO Shuichi and to lay a wreath in the name of CAJP at the cenotaph for A-bomb victims (known as the Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace).

The final meeting in Hiroshima was with Mr. KARITA Tomohide, Honorary Consul of Canada in Hiroshima. Ms. SUEDA Noriko, assistant to Mr. KARITA, and Mr. McKeeman were also in attendance. In their opening remarks the Co-Chairs recounted the impact of their visit to Hiroshima Prefecture and their intent to share this story along with the message of peace and the desire for nuclear disarmament upon their return to Canada. The discussion that followed mainly focused on importing, exporting and investing opportunities between Canada and Japan. The seafood industry and energy sector were raised as important areas in which these opportunities could be found. All participants compared energy initiatives in the two countries from Federal down to Municipal levels as well as the initiatives in place for greener energies and biomass fuels.

Respectfully submitted,

The Honourable Jim Munson, Senator Co-Chair
Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group

Mr. Terry Sheehan, M.P.
Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group

[1] Following this visit, this coronavirus became known as COVID-19
[2] This initiative previously fell under Op PROJECTION Asia-Pacific