Posted on June 27, 2005

Conservative MP Apologizes For Racial Epithet, May 22

Rookie Conservative MP Steven Fletcher has apologized for an incident last weekend where he referred to Japanese soldiers from the Second World War as “Japs” and “bastards.”

Fletcher made the remarks last weekend at a veteran’s convention in Winnipeg.

His specific statement was: “The Japs were bastards.”

In his statement of apology on Saturday, Fletcher referred to his family’s personal experiences during the war, saying they had given him “a very emotional perspective” on that historical period.

His grandfather was a prisoner of war held by the Japanese, captured during the fall of Singapore.

“I allowed those emotions to colour my remarks,” he said. “I should have chosen more appropriate language, and will do so in the future. I apologize for any offence I may have caused, and retract my choice of words without reservation.”

But he also said this: “I stand by the fact that the Japanese were ruthless. If people want to challenge me on that, I look forward to it.”

Fletcher told The Canadian Press: “They used my grandfather’s friend for bayonet practice. They put my grandfather on a raft when he was ill to die. They shot people indiscriminately.

“In the context of the time, in World War II, they treated people in ways that were barbaric and disgusting, and it should never be forgotten, and it should never be allowed to happen again.”

During the 1940s, “Japs” was commonly used to describe Japanese people, but it is now considered to be an ethnic slur.

Fletcher’s role at the conference was to bring greetings from the federal government.

Hayden Kent, president of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Unit 283, said the MP’s remarks caught the veterans off guard.

“I understand his feelings about what his grandfather went through, but that wasn’t the time or the place,” he said.

“If we’d had a person of Japanese descent on the convention floor, how would that person have felt? We have to forgive.”

Bev Oda, a Conservative MP and the first Japanese-Canadian elected to Parliament, was mildly critical of her colleague.

“We have a job certainly as members of Parliament to work against racism but we can do that without using the terminology of the day,” he said.

The Liberals said Fletcher’s outburst is yet more evidence that the Conservatives are an angry party led by people with narrow views.

But the NDP said Fletcher’s apology should end the matter.