John Franken, a 90-year-old Canadian veteran who was taken prisoner by the Japanese during the war, decided to end his 20-year-long protest against the Japanese government on Monday.
After the Second World War, Franken was forced to work as a slave labourer in a shipyard for three years and three months, and in a coal mine for three months.
Japan’s parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs, Toshiyuki Kato, apologized in December 2011 for the mistreatment of the soldiers who spent years in labour camps as prisoners after the Battle of Hong Kong.
Even if the apology was officially accepted by Canada, Franken said he does not want an apology from a government minister, but one from Japan’s legislature, the National Diet.
The veteran kept showing up at Japan’s Embassy in Ottawa three times per year, delivering letters in which he asked for such an apology.
This week, he decided to give up his protest due to poor health and acknowledged that he will not be offered excuses in his lifetime. Outside the embassy, he told reporters how the last dialogue with embassy personnel went. “He said he will pass it on,” Franken said. “He said, ‘We said sorry.’ I said, ‘Yes, you said sorry, but not the government, not the Diet. That’s what I’m after.’”
Franken’s daughter said she was proud of her father, who is “very much a leader”. “And he will never give up. Even if he’s not physically able to be here, in his heart he will never give up on this.”