Rising Son

Former MP from Ontario honoured for business, politics

The Order of the Rising Sun is an award bestowed on individuals who have played an important role in creating ties between Japan and other nations. Some are given the award because of their cultural contributions, while others, such as Mike Wallace, who received the award at a ceremony in Ottawa on July 6, are recognized for developing connections through their work in the fields of business and politics.

Wallace served as MP for the city of Burlington, Ontario, from 2006 to 2015; prior to that, he was a Burlington city councillor from 1994 to 2006. During his time as MP, he was a member of the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group, an organization that he would eventually co-chair. The Canadian spoke to him about how he developed an interest in Japanese culture and the special relationship that Burlington has with one of Tokyo’s 23 wards.

Prior to your time as a councillor and MP for Burlington did you have any experience with Japan or any interest in Japanese culture?

No. I really got immersed with our con­nection to Japanese culture after I got elected to the city council. I had the opportunity to represent the city of Burlington in Itabashi [Ward, Tokyo] as the deputy mayor, celebrating the 15th anniversary of our twinning in 2004. I would say it was from that trip that I had a much better understanding of the culture and what the opportunity was, in terms of developing a relationship between our communities.

Once you became an MP, how did you end up joining the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group?

I wanted to help develop the relationship that Burlington had with Japan. I thought I could add value by participating based on my experience with the twin city relationship that we had in Burlington.

I assisted, I believe, in creating a more productive relationship between parliamentarians who had come from Japan to visit Canada.

Did your work on the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group bring you to Japan often?

Yes, I think I have lost count! I’ve been to Japan eight to 10 times. I was there almost once a year over the nine years I was a member of Parliament. I don’t have any favourite places in Japan. I love all parts of Japan, but I particularly love the people. The people of Japan are always so friendly. Even if we couldn’t communicate linguistically, they always were very kind and very helpful to me and my colleagues.

What does it mean for you to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun?

I was very honoured when they told me that I had been nominated. I was even more honoured and surprised when I actually was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun. I believe I am receiving this honour for my work with the Japanese Diet officials while they visited Canada. I assisted, I believe, in creating a more productive relationship between parliamentarians who had come from Japan to visit Canada. Often on these trips, the theme was to show off Canada, or highlight our tourism opportunities with a visit to Niagara Falls. I wanted to develop more of a business relationship between our parliaments. We visited organizations that had a direct effect on the quality of life in Japan. In my view, it was important for the Japanese parliamentarians to have a better understanding of how close of a relationship we have, not just from a cultural perspective, but an actual business relationship.

If you’re successful in your mayoral campaign for the city of Burlington this fall, do you think you’ll have any opportunities to continue to build ties between Canada and Japan?

Yes! Next year is the 30th anniversary of the twinning with Itabashi. I want to do more than just celebrate the anniversary, and open doors to new personal, political and business relationships between our fantastic communities.

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