Our Roots - the Hong Kong Veterans' Association

Note: the contents of this page were created in approximately 2003, and should be read in that context.

Origin

The Hong Kong Veterans' Association came into being through necessity as there was little or no concern shown by the Government towards the special circumstances affecting the 1,418 H.K. veterans; an inadequate disability pension formula; ignorance by the medical authorities of the particular illnesses attributable to avitaminosis and other assorted conditions; and the futility of individual attempts at obtaining benefits.

In various areas, like Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, the prairies and the Pacific coast, groups formed local associations, each referring to them self, as the Hong Kong Veterans Association. The need to unite these branches into a national association was apparent, as it would give their cause added strength with the unbreakable bond this group of Canadians had formed.

The Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada now consists of six Branches - British Columbia, Alberta/Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec-Maritimes, and Maritime Gaspesian.

They developed a constitution that was ratified on August 20, 1965, outlining the aims and objectives that the Association would need, which were -

Pension and medical benefits

Their battle did not end with the capture of Hong Kong. For 44 months they battled to survive on starvation rations, resisting the illnesses that threatened life daily (without any medical supplies to help), the forced slave labour and the ever-present beatings at the hands of their captors.  254 succumbed during their captivity, but for the rest, the battle did not end with Victory in Japan (V-J Day). The battle for pensions for their broken and exhausted bodies continues to this day.

The medical people and Veterans Affairs were not familiar with the tropical diseases from which the vets suffered or from the physical and mental issues of such long confinement with sub-human treatment.  The formation of the Association gave the vets strength in numbers.

Several years went by with the HKVA struggling to get decent pension and benefits for their members but it was in 1971 that they were granted “a basic 50% pension for undetermined disabilities”.

In 1987 the War Amps, with Cliff Chadderton, took up the vets cause to sue Japan for reimbursement for the slave labour and maltreatment.  Mr. Chadderton assisted them with a claim to the Human Rights Commission of the Geneva Convention to get compensation from Japan.  The Human Rights Commission stated that POWs had a just case, but the UN could not help because the crime occurred before the UN came into being. So the claim was sent to a sub-committee and after several years of debating, the sub-commissions decision was that Canada signed the vets’ rights away in the San Francisco Treaty of 1951.  The War Amps then went after the Canadian government.  “The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House passed a unanimous resolution in December 1997 requesting the government to pay the claim and seek reimbursement from Japan.”

Finally in December 1998 Canada paid the 350 surviving veterans and 400 widows compensation on the slave labour treatment but they were not going to petition Japan to reimburse them.  The veterans still did not get the apology that they wanted from Japan. 

Cliff Chadderton was made “patron” of the HKVA for all his efforts on their behalf.

In August 2001 at the National Convention in Winnipeg where the “passing of the torch” was made to the new Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association, the Canadian government representative announced that the surviving veterans would receive 100% pension and that the vets and widows (since 1991) would be entitled to the Veterans Independent Program.

Projects

When the veterans returned home after the war ended and related their experiences, they were not believed due to the fact that the treatment that they endured was so inhuman it was incomprehensible to Canadians. So the vets never talked of the event except among themselves.  Consequently the Battle of Hong Kong became the forgotten battle. 

As the decades marched on the men realized that their silence on the events of the Battle needed to be broken, and their stories told, before they were no longer here.  Several veterans had managed to save their diaries or were able to document the event when the war was over and it was still fresh in their minds.  These documents have become books of record that will serve the families and future generations to know of the sacrifices that these brave Canadians made on behalf of their country.

The vets also wanted a monument with all the names of the participants so that their families and future generations would remember them.  Other projects that they wanted to do were put in abeyance as their age and health issues were slowing them down. The HKVA have a sunset clause that when the second last veteran dies the HKVA ceases to exist.

At the 1993 National Convention in Quebec, a proposal was given for the formation of a new association made up of the sons and daughters of the members of C Force. The vets accepted the concept and the process to form another association had begun.  With the formation of this new association the last veteran and surviving widows will still be looked after.  In 1995 the name of the new association was declared to be Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association and the HKVA branches nominated the Executive from across Canada.

The Associations ran in parallel until 2001 when the “passing of the torch” semi merged the administration and finance into one.  The HKVA still participates in its own right in commemorative programs with VAC and the vets take an active role with the HKVCA in educating Canadian youth regarding the War in the East.

Read about: Evolution of HKVCA

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