December 15th, 2017

Celebrating Japanese-Canadians

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on July 28, 2017.

Happy July!

I was fortunate to be among those who welcomed Her Imperial Princess Ayako of Takamado of Japan to Lethbridge this month, in honour of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden’s 50th anniversary. The Princess was lovely and gracious, of course. She wore a traditional kimono decorated with maple leafs in symbolism of our two countries’ enduring friendship. Dancers, drummers, and even a Japanese whistler performed pieces in celebration, and overall it was a wonderful day.

The real shining star of the event was Nikka Yuko itself. Executive director Michelle Day, board president Charles McCleary, event chair John Harding, and all the rest of the staff and volunteers put their hearts into making this day special. More than that, they work tirelessly to make the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden a stunning natural refuge and cultural experience in the middle of a busy prairie city. It was exciting to learn that the garden is being named a municipal and provincial historic site; a well-deserved recognition.

If you were in southern Alberta in the 1950s to 1970s, you may understand why the history of Japanese-Canadians is so important in this region. Japanese families were forcibly interned here during the Second World War, and the post-war years heralded massive changes for people of Japanese descent and for the community at large. The Nikkei Memory Capture Project, a joint study between researchers at the University of Lethbridge and Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, is exploring Japanese tradition and culture through collecting stories of post-war Lethbridge. Whether you are of Japanese descent or not, if you were in the Lethbridge community during that time, you are invited to participate by contacting Carly Adams at

Another group working to make life better in Lethbridge is the Oldman Watershed Council, whose Southern Alberta Water Charter 2017 is encouraging organizations, communities, and counties to take action for the Oldman Watershed. We rely on this watershed for more than just drinking water; it provides a home to fish and wildlife, a place of recreation, a source of economic benefits, and a place of traditional meaning. I was proud to sign the charter and to make the commitment to the health of the Watershed. Learn more about the charter at

One small action to this effect is my office’s participation in the Blue W project. This program promotes the use of municipal tap water over commercialized and packaged bottled drinks. Look for a Blue W sign on the windows of participating locations, and know that you can enter there to find free, clean, public water to fill your reusable bottle. Find locations (there are 11 in Lethbridge!) or sign your organization up to participate, at

There is some sad news to share with you today. Ric Suggitt, the women’s rugby coach for Pronghorn Athletics, passed suddenly at the end of June. He was beloved by his players and colleagues, and his presence will be missed. As a former rugby player myself, I have learned from some players who knew him that he was a remarkable coach who used his genuine care for his players to push them to reach their greatest potential. My deepest condolences go out to his family, and to his rugby family.

Over the last few weeks I have been enjoying the warm evening hours by door knocking with my team in Lethbridge-West. I have been delighted to speak with so many of you and hear how our government is making life better for your family. I look forward to many more afternoons and evenings visiting with my constituents but feel free to contact my office too at 403-329-4644 or email us at You can stop by for a chat (or to fill your water bottle!) at 402 8th St. S.

Shannon Phillips is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge West. Her column appears monthly.

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