Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Filipino/Dutch/Jewish Communities of Canada
Jointly Launch Campaign to Support Professor Saburo Ienaga’s Lawsuit
Against the Censorship and Distortion of Historical Facts in History Textbooks by the Japanese Government
June 1997

Introduction

A joint working committee has recently been formed by the National Association of Japanese Canadians’ ( NAJC ) Human Rights Committee and the Vancouver & Toronto Chapters of the Association for Learning & Preserving the History of World War II in Asia ( ALPHA ) . The purpose of this joint committee is to support reconciliation between Japan and those nations victimized by Japanese militarism. With this focus in mind, this committee in cooperation with the Korean, Dutch, Filipino, Jewish and other ethnic communities in Canada launch this campaign in support of the "Ienaga textbook screening suit" in Japan.

What is the "Ienaga textbook screening suit"?

In 1965, Professor Saburo Ienaga, an established scholar of Japanese history, initiated a court case in Tokyo by suing the Japanese government which, through "textbook screening", had been controlling history taught in secondary schools. Professor Ienaga argues that the textbook screening violates freedom of expression and education guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution, it is therefore unconstitutional and illegal. Through this textbook screening system the government repeatedly advised the revision or even deletion of truthful descriptions of atrocities and war crimes committed by the Japanese military before and during World War II. For example, in reference to the Nanking massacre the government insisted that "it has to be mentioned as what had happened was in confusion". Another issue in dispute is the government’s insistence to avoid the negative expression: "aggression" and instead, to use "military advance" of the Japanese army into China.

After 30 years the final ruling is expected soon

So far, Ienaga has lost two textbook suits after appealing up to the Supreme Court. In 1984 Ienaga initiated a new suit suing the government with regard to nine screening comments made by the government on his draft textbooks from 1980 to 1983. In 1989, the district court ruled against most of his arguments. He then appealed to the high court which ruled that three out of nine screening comments are illegal. This partial acceptance of Ienaga’s arguments by the courts can be regarded as resulting from support and pressure given by Japanese and international public opinion. Ienaga appealed the high court decision of his third suit to the supreme court which will likely give its final decision by the end of this summer.

Significance of the textbook screening lawsuits and the imminent Supreme Court ruling

Members of the joint committee of ALPHA/NAJC are concerned with a recent trend in Japan: some scholars and politicians are arguing that the dark side of Japan’s past has been overemphasized in the existing school textbooks. By calling it "history from a masochistic point of view,". These people, in effect, support stronger control of history teaching through the textbook screening system. As Professor Ienaga and like–minded people in Japan do, the joint committee believes that open discussion and teaching younger generations about past wrong-doings, such as atrocities and war crimes committed by the Japanese military, would be fundamental towards a true reconciliation between Japan and other nations in Asia. Learning truth in history should also help us in Canada in our efforts for promoting mutual understanding among minority groups and for redress of historical injustices. Through these efforts we seek to contribute to the elimination of racism in Canada and abroad. Support and concern from the international community are important in this historically significant lawsuit. Should the supreme court overturn the high court ruling by judging the textbook screening system as unconstitutional, this will be a significant achievement for human rights and international peace. A positive outcome of this lawsuit will promote independent thinking and critical understanding of their own history among the Japanese people and also put pressure on the Japanese government, which so far has repeatedly attempted to evade the issues of war responsibility and post-war compensation.

Support letter available to the public

To facilitate public support of the Ienaga’s textbook screening suit, the organizers have made available a support letter addressed to the Diet of Japan. The signed letters can be

For a copy of this letter and/or for further information, the public can visit our website or contact us at the following address:
Tatsuo Kage, Member
NAJC Human Rights Committee 
Phone (604) 874-8187, Fax (604) 874-8164 E-Mail: tkage@axionet.com
Ms. Thekla Lit, President
Vancouver Chapter, ALPHA
Phone/Fax (604) 439-7738 
E-Mail: alpha@vcn.bc.ca