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Japan apologizes to former Canadian prisoners of war

The government of Japan has issued a “heartfelt apology” to former Canadian prisoners for their suffering during the Second World War.

The apology was delivered Thursday in Tokyo by Toshiyuki Kato, Japan’s parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs.

On Christmas Day 1941, the Allies surrendered in Hong Kong after almost 18 days of fighting in which 290 Canadians were killed and 493 wounded.

Those who survived were held prisoner in Hong Kong and Japan until Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945.

Another 267 men died in the camps, where they were subjected to backbreaking labour and were frequently beaten and starved.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney led a delegation of Canadian veterans to Japan for the apology and a commemorative ceremony.

“This important gesture is a crucial step in ongoing reconciliation and a significant milestone in the lives of all prisoners of war,” said Blaney in a statement.”

“It acknowledges their suffering while honouring their sacrifices and courage.”