We were just putting this issue together when we heard, on February 2, that Wilf Wakely had passed away that morning. We immediately set to work figuring out how to include a portion of the memories and tributes that soon started to flood in. 

Neil van Wouw, Chair, Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan

In our rush to include memories of Wilf in the short time before we went to print, we have only been able to gather a small sample of tributes, but I hope that will give you a glimpse of the massive contribution Wilf made to the chamber and to so many facets of the Canada–Japan relationship. By the time you read this, there will be more tributes available on the CCCJ website and in the digital version of The Canadian. 


My own relationship with Wilf started shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. Wilf had just become chair of the chamber and I was trying to get more support for my recently launched, Tohoku-focused NPO, Ganbatte 365. I was very pleased that my sharply worded email had immediately got the attention of the chair. 

What I hadn’t realized until later was that Wilf had smelled a bit of passion in my email, and was ready to harvest it for the chamber. Before I knew it, I was involved in launching a CSR committee, along with filling various roles in sundry events, projects and initiatives about which Wilf got us all fired up. That then became the slippery slope into my roles as governor, vice-chair and then chair of the chamber. 

There is no space here to go into the details of that wild ride, but suffice it to say that the chamber was rejuvenated during Wilf’s tenure as chair, and the groundwork we laid under his leadership is still playing out now in the most wonderful ways. We have what I believe is the most diverse board the chamber has ever had, and an increasingly engaged and active membership. 


Wilf was adamant that the chamber be truly democratic to properly reflect the will of its membership. He was always looking for ways to raise the profile of the chamber, jump in and make a meaningful difference on important Canada–Japan issues and get more members engaged to ensure a sustainable future for the chamber. This mission continues today. 

His network in both Canada and Japan was nothing short of amazing. Time and again we did events, projects and more, collaborating with people that Wilf knew. We only realized later that most of these people had decades of shared history with Wilf, going back as far as Expo ’70 in Osaka (and earlier). 

Though Wilf’s involvement with the chamber took a dip these past six years, mostly due to health issues, he was always keen to hear updates on who was doing what in the chamber, and which important issues we were tackling. 


Just take a look at the content of this issue of The Canadian to see how Wilf’s legacy lives on in the chamber.

We have a report on the recent Japan Canada Council of Chambers webinar, an initiative that the chamber was involved in from the beginning through Wilf’s friendship with the Honourable Perrin Beatty, president of the Ottawa-headquartered Canadian Chamber of Commerce.  

We also report on the recently held Energy ForumForum, which brings to mind the many energy-focused events that Wilf spearheaded, including one to which we invited an indigenous energy representative to explain the unique and rather complicated lay of the land in Canada with regards to resource rights.  

That occurred at a critical time in the negotiations of what would later become the largest-ever private investment into Canada — the multinational joint venture LNG Canada. 

I will always treasure the moments we did spend together and the tremendous personal growth I reaped during that time. I hope you will read the memories of Wilf in these pages, as well as the extended ones in the digital version of The Canadian and on the CCCJ website.  

If you feel moved to do so, please join in contributing to the CCCJ CSR Fund in Wilf’s name, and stay tuned for more on how we will activate those funds to further his legacy. 

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