It is a day to guarantee that the victims of the Nanjing Massacre will never be forgotten.
Dec 13 is a special day for the Chinese community in Canada, as it marks the 84th anniversary of the massacre, along with China's eighth National Memorial Day for the victims, and the fifth Commemorative Day of Nanjing Massacre in Ontario.
Starting on Dec 13, 1937, the invading Japanese Army captured the city of Nanjing, which was then the capital of China. The lives of 300,000 Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants were brutally wiped out by Japanese troops in the following six weeks, including an estimated 20,000 to 80,000 women and girls who were raped by the Japanese Army.
"Eighty-four years have passed, but the Chinese compatriots, no matter where they are, will never forget their painful history," Cynthia Yu, president of the Hong Maple Foundation said at a memorial forum held virtually across Canada, China and the US on Sunday.
The forum paid tribute to Iris Shun-Ru Chang, a Chinese American author who published The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II in 1997, breaking a six-decade-long international silence on the subject.
Her mother Ying-Ying Chang shared stories of Iris' coming of age and family background at the virtual meeting; she said Iris had a strong sense of national justice under the precepts and deeds of her Chinese parents and grandparents.
"It's necessary that the memories of war experiences should be passed from generation to generation regardless (whether) you are in China or … overseas," said Chang.
Japanese right-wingers intentionally whitewashed the memory of the war crimes committed during Japan's brutal invasion, Chang said.
The chronicler, who exposed the truth of the Nanjing Massacre to Western society with the spirit of "one person can change the world" committed suicide in her car in California in 2004 at the age of 36.
Zhang Sheng, a history professor at Nanjing University, disclosed the little-known facts about the historic tragedy at the webinar.
According to Zhang, after the massacre in 1937, there were more than 20 foreigners from the United States, Britain, Germany, Austria, the Soviet Union and other neutral countries trapped in Nanjing. They were engaged in humanitarian relief activities on behalf of the "International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone" and "International Red Cross in Nanjing Branch".
However, on Jan 1, 1938, the Japanese established a puppet regime, the "Nanjing Autonomous Committee", where they plundered food and fuel to weaken the safety zone's rescue function. The Japanese then killed a large number of young people in a safe area in the name of searching for "disabled soldiers".
In February 1938, the safety zone committee was forced to reorganize as a "relief committee". In March 1938, the Japanese Army supported the puppet regime called the "Reformed Government of China", according to Zhang.
"The International Committee of the Nanjing Safe Zone is not an international organization. However, after the massacre, the political and social functions of the space were even stronger than many formal international organizations with a worldwide influence," Zhang told the forum.
China's top legislature designated Dec 13 as the "National Memorial Day for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre" in 2014. The annual memorial ceremony has been held at Memorial Hall in Nanjing to mourn all the victims.
The Nanjing Massacre had long gone unrecognized in the West, and the teaching about the tragedy is lacking in Canadian schools.
In 2017, the Ontario Legislature passed Motion 66 — Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day — proposed by Soo Wong, a former member of Provincial Parliament, recognizing every Dec 13 in Ontario as a day of remembrance for the massacre, the first such commemoration in a Western country.
On Monday at the Elgin Mills Cemetery in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, members of the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations and Chinese Freemasons of Canada gathered to honor the victims at the Nanjing Massacre Victims Monument, which was established in December 2018 with donations by Chinese communities in Canada.
As of one of the darkest periods of human history, the commemorative day is a wonderful opportunity to educate younger generations of the atrocities that took place and to ensure that they are never forgotten, according to a representative of Member of Parliament Shaun Chen.
Member of Provincial Parliament Aris Babikian, who attended the commemoration, said it was fitting that the memorial coincides with the United Nations declaration of Dec 9 as World Genocide Commemoration Day.
"By remembering the catastrophe of Nanjing, we send a strong message to the international community that we will not forget and that we will stand in solidarity with the targeted nation to prevent new genocides," Babikian said. "It is essential to call a spade a spade. It is also essential to stand up for the truth and bring justice to the victims, their families and the survivors.
"The victim nations need closure and healing from the trauma of the past. Without healing and closure, individually and collectively, there can be no reconciliation," he added.