Lacking proof, Mitsubishi unwilling to apologize to Canadian POWs [Mine slave labour] – by Iain Marlow (Globe and Mail – July 24, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

On Christmas morning, 1944, 23-year-old Corporal George Peterson of the Winnipeg Grenadiers was told by his Japanese guards that he wouldn’t have to go down the Mitsubishi-owned coal mine that day.

Mr. Peterson, who had already spent three grueling years as a prisoner of war, said it looked as though the POWs were about to get a break from the slave-like working conditions. The guards first dragged out a fir tree, then brought out extra food for the famished prisoners, including riceballs and beer.

“They lined us up behind the table and took a picture,” says Mr. Peterson, now 94. But then “they said we could go back down the mine. … When we came up from the mine at about 5 p.m., the guards were laughing at us, saying the food was pretty good. We laughed right back, because we were trying not to let them know how much it hurt.”

Nearly 70 years after the end of the Second World War, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. has begun to issue historic apologies to POWs – but it has not yet apologized to Canadians.

On Sunday, Mitsubishi outside director Yukio Okamoto, who is also an adviser on historical issues to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made a landmark apology to American POWs in Los Angeles – the first Japanese company to do so – and later said the firm would also apologize to British, Australian and Dutch POWs.

But Canadian POWs, the vast majority of whom were captured by the Imperial Japanese Army when it overran Hong Kong as part of a surprise offensive that included the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, have not been included. When reached by The Globe and Mail this week, a spokesperson for Mitsubishi Materials said they “have no records and no means to verify whether or not we used Canadians POW in our predecessor company” – but that the company would make such an apology if presented with proof that they had forcibly employed Canadians.

“We will consider [an] apology [to] such people if we can verify the fact and have [the] appropriate opportunity,” Mitsubishi spokesperson Takuya Kitamura said in an e-mail.

But the president of the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association, Carol Hadley, is unsure what sort of proof or evidence might remain beyond oral accounts – since, she said, many of the historical records were destroyed in Japan. Her father Borge Agerbak was captured in Hong Kong, and told her he was forced to work in a separate Mitsubishi mine.

“I’m pleased that they are apologizing to some, I just wish they would include the Canadians in it,” said Ms. Hadley, whose father died in 2001 and who is now working with others to amass documentation. “A lot of our veterans would never drive anything that had any Mitsubishi parts in it. My dad thought he should have had some shares in that company for all the work he put in.”

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