Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada

December 08, 2011 06:05 ET

Canadian Prisoners of War Receive Apology from Japanese Government

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 8, 2011) -

Editors Note: There is a photo associated with this press release.

The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today recognized the heartfelt apology from the Government of Japan to former Canadian prisoners of war (POWs) for their suffering during the Second World War. The apology was delivered earlier today in Tokyo by Mr. Toshiyuki KATO, Japan's Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.

"It is my honour to join Canadian prisoners of war in acknowledging the apology by the Japanese Government for the treatment and suffering of prisoners of war under Japanese control during the Second World War," said Minister Blaney. "This important gesture is a crucial step in ongoing reconciliation and a significant milestone in the lives of all prisoners of war. It acknowledges their suffering while honouring their sacrifices and courage."

"The terrible pain and heavy burden of the Second World War have given way to a mutually beneficial, respectful relationship between Canada and Japan as mature democracies-a legacy of all who served in the Pacific campaigns," said Minister Baird. "Today's apology will help in healing as our two great countries move forward."

On Christmas Day 1941, unable to fight any longer, the Allies had no choice but to surrender. During 17 and a half days of fighting, 290 Canadians were killed and 493 were wounded while trying to defend Hong Kong.

Those who survived the heavy fighting were imprisoned in prisoner of war camps in Hong Kong and Japan until Japan's surrender on August 15, 1945. For nearly four years, the Canadians were subjected to deliberate and systematic mistreatment at the hands of their captors.

The prisoners of war were forced into backbreaking labour in construction sites, mines, shipyards and foundries, and were frequently beaten and starved. Another 267 men died in the camps before the survivors were liberated. Many of those who returned to Canada suffered serious disabilities as a result of their experiences in Hong Kong, and many died prematurely.

Minister Blaney led a delegation of Canadian Veterans of the Battle of Hong Kong to Japan for the apology and a commemorative ceremony, and visited the graves of Canadian soldiers at the British Commonwealth Cemetery - Yokohama.

For more information on Canada's contribution in Hong Kong, visit the Veterans Affairs Canada Web site at

Lest we forget.

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Contact Information

  • Media Inquiries:
    Janice Summerby
    Media Relations Advisor
    Veterans Affairs Canada

    Codie Taylor
    Director of Communications
    Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs