"I write to bring your attention to a radio program I listened to recently on CBC Radio (Canadian Broadcasting Company). The program is entitled "Dearest Joan." Now, that's a title that grabs the attention of a letter writing enthusiast indeed!
"Dearest Joan" is a program from "The Doc Project". Doc as in documentary, and can be found at www.cbc.ca/radio/docproject. The programs tell the story of now 90-year-old Joan Gillis, who when she was a 13-year-old girl in 1942 in British Columbia went against the tide of the horrible prejudice of the time when people of Japanese-Canadian ethnicity were being demonized and victimized by opportunistic Anti-Asian sentiment in a government-sanctioned act of ethnic cleansing. Joan steadfastly stood by her school friends who with their families (22,000 people in total!) were torn from their schools, jobs, homes, properties in BC and forced to live in Interment camps and work on farms as labourers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Joan wrote to her friends, and received their letters in return. Luckily she had the wisdom to keep these letters, postcards, pictures, envelopes (147 in total) and she has now donated this treasure trove to be kept safe and sound in the archives department of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
These letters are powerful. They give voice to the teenage experience of war. They speak of loneliness and homesickness, as well as the harsh conditions and manual labour these kids were forced to endure. We in the Letter Writers Alliance know in our guts the power, beauty, magic of the humanity of a written letter. This documentary show us the power of how letters can endure the passage of time and stand as a witness to history to make us accountable for our actions as a country."