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Testimony 8

Statement by Mary Kitagawa on her brothers' and uncles' abuse.
Recorded in 2015.

Good afternoon. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people.

 

Thank you also to the Anglican Clergy who are here today to participate in this event.

 

On behalf of the victims of the former Reverend Cannon Goichi Gordon Nakayama, I accept these words of apology from the clergy of the Anglican Church. I do not know how these words would be interpreted by the victims or if the words would even help to heal the wounds inflicted by Reverend Nakayama. However, I feel that this process is a good first step, a beginning that must continue to minister to those who were harmed and are still in pain. I hope that the Church’s acknowledgement of the harm and its willingness to take part in the healing process will help the victims and their families come out of hiding and verbalize their pain and anger. Perhaps then, they will feel the power of conversation about their experiences that will lead to healing. Sadly, in reality the trauma itself cannot be reversed.

The victims who are still alive are very elderly now. They have lived with this trauma since the time it happened to them in their youth. Most of those with whom I spoke who are still living do not wish to share their experience with anyone. They have locked away this painful secret due to emotional paralysis. Fear based pain and a sense of shame, might be forcing them to hide this ugly past. Most have suffered silently throughout their lives isolating themselves, unable to share their pain and anger that continues to engulf them. They were not even able to tell their parents or siblings therefore their hideous secret remained cocooned, unable to emerge in any form.

I am the voice of two generations of victims in my family who are now gone: My two uncles, two sponsored young Japanese boys who worked for my grandparents and my two younger brothers. They all had encounters with the former Reverend Nakayama. I did not know about my two brothers’ abuse until my one surviving brother who is now age 75, revealed his story to us only last year. They were 8 and 12 years old when the abuse took place. My youngest brother passed away in 2008. When I asked my remaining brother why he kept this information to himself for so long, he could not verbalize the reason why. However, when I think about some of his behaviors when he was growing up, I now understand that it was the result of his trauma. He is able to share his feelings with his siblings now, to speak freely about it but not with others.

When I was in my teens, a Japanese Canadian friend of our family came one evening alone for a visit. At that time we were living in Alberta. This man had a wife and two small children. During our conversation, he began to tell us about being sexually molested by Reverend Nakayama. We were horrified by the details he revealed. He sobbed like a child as he poured out his anguish and pain. It was an agonizing experience for us as we tried to comfort him. I hope later, he was able to share his story many times with others whom he trusted as a means to exorcise his most unspeakable experience. It took a great deal of courage for him to come out of hiding to share his story with us. Soon after, he and his family moved away and we were never able to meet him again. 

Another person, victimized by Reverend Nakayama, is still extremely angry. He told me that the Kogawa House is in reality, Nakayama house and should be burned to the ground. He felt by turning that house into ashes, some of the evil done by Reverend Nakayama might be extinguished. 

Just yesterday I received an email from one of Reverend Nakayama’s victims. He is a well-known, accomplished and a respected Japanese Canadian. Like all other victims with whom I spoke, he asked me never to reveal his name. In his senior years, he is still trying to deal with the impact of his abuse.

Rather than bringing closure to this terrible tragedy, this apology raises some serious questions:

1. Did the Church not consider sexual abuse of children and youth by Reverend Nakayama a crime? In Canada, sexual molestation and abuse of children and youth is considered a crime. 

2. Why did the Church not report Reverend Nakayama to the police? When he confessed his “bad sexual behavior” to the then Archbishop of Calgary, why was Reverend Nakayama allowed to voluntarily resign instead of being excommunicated? 

3. Was the Church aware of Reverend Nakayama’s abuse of children and youth before his confession? 

4. What made him confess if not by pressure from the Church? 

5. Was the Church protecting itself by not making this confession public? 

6. I wonder if the Church would have initiated this process of apology if it was not approached by the Japanese Canadian community. 

Perhaps, finding answers to some of these questions could be included in the next step. However, the most important task now, is to reach out to the victims, to see how they can be helped. In today’s apology, the Anglican Church has expressed support to the survivors and has committed to the participation in a healing and reconciliation process. In order to make this apology truly meaningful, I hope the Church will not only participate but initiate and lead this process for the sake of the victims of the former Reverend Cannon Goichi Gordon Nakayama.

I would like to close by sharing a verse from the Bible. It is Proverbs Chapter 15, verse 9; “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.”

-Mary Kitagawa