Wilf Wakely

Thoughts on a life dedicated to Canada–Japan relations

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ) lost one of its most august and recognizable members when, on February 2, Wilf Wakely passed away, aged 71. Since then, there has been an outpouring of messages, from both sides of the Pacific, sent by those who knew him. The following is a selection of memories and condolences.  

Ian Burney
Ambassador of Canada to Japan 

The passing of Wilf Wakely has left a huge hole in the heart of the Canadian community in Japan. Wilf’s deep commitment to the Canada–Japan relationship touched the lives of many people over the years, and his legacy will not be forgotten. 

From 1984 to 1987 Wilf was seconded to the Department of External Affairs and posted to Japan as first secretary, serving first as head of public affairs, and then press officer. He played an important role in advancing the unique private–public partnership model for the development of the chancery [Wilf was instrumental in the redevelopment of the embassy building], which is now not only an iconic symbol of Canada here in Japan, but a truly signature building show-casing Canada. 

As a proud Canadian and strident champion of Canada’s trade interests, Wilf provided advice to countless Canadian clients who were looking to expand their business in Japan. He served as British Columbia’s trade and investment commissioner in Kobe from 1993 to 1997. 

An active member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ) since the early 1980s, Wilf worked closely with generations of embassy officials in advancing our bilateral relations. In his role as chamber chair, Wilf was a tireless champion for the cause of free trade with Japan, which I had the opportunity to witness first-hand through my own prior involvement in such initiatives.  

He had a life packed with action, achievement and friendships.

I am comforted to know that Wilf was able to see his determined advocacy come to fruition, with the entry into force in 2018 of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for a Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

Wilf made a significant contribution to Canada–Japan relations on many levels, and he was a standout figure in the Canadian community in this country. We will miss dearly his friendship, enthusiasm and good counsel. 

On behalf of us all at the Canadian Embassy, I offer my deepest sympathies to Wilf’s wife Tiggy, to their children Conan and Tara and to their respective families.

Perrin Beatty
President and CEO
Canadian Chamber of Commerce 

I was fortunate to get to know Wilf as a result of his work with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan. It was impossible to spend time with Wilf without noting the passion, imagination and boundless energy he brought to strengthening the ties between Canada and Japan.  

Throughout the 55 years since he first visited Japan, he fervently believed that the two countries would each benefit from getting to know one another better and developing closer economic and social ties. 

Always generous in sharing time and experience with young talent, he mentored many who are now distin­gui­shed in their careers.

His commitment was matched only by his energy. Wilf over-flowed with ideas about how we could build a closer relationship, including between the Canadian Chamber of Commerce [based in Ottawa] and the CCCJ. He was tireless in promoting joint activities and in generating ways in which the two communities could strengthen their collaboration. 

All of us who run voluntary groups are fortunate when we have volunteers who give freely of their time and their imagination to promote the mission. In Wilf’s case, while he may no longer be with us in person, his passion and commitment to building a bridge of commerce and friendship across the Pacific will keep the cause moving ahead for many years to come. 

Sadaaki Numata
Chairman, Honorary Board of Advisors, CCCJ
Ambassador of Japan to Canada, 2006–07 

When I first met Wilf in 2007 at the residence of a mutual friend, the German ambassador, we had a heated debate—he as a lawyer and me as a just-retired ambassador—on some radio interview I had given while serving in Canada.  

Then we became good friends, and he roped me into CCCJ work when we launched the Honorary Board of Advisors in 2012. Much of our work was conducted over glasses of gin and tonic for Wilf and white wine for me at his favourite spot, the Roppongi Hills Club.  

Wilf was larger than life. His intensity and enthusiasm forced all of us to sit up and pay attention.

I learned a lot from him about the robust spirit of British Columbians and the Irish, which changed somewhat my image of Canadians that I had nurtured through my contacts in the more sedate ambiance of Eastern Canada, including that of Ottawa. He also told me fascinating stories of how he was active as a true Kansai-brand comedian, which was a revelation to a Tokyoite like me.

Now that he has gone, the world seems a bit quieter. Wilf will be sorely missed. May his soul rest in peace. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Tiggy, who so tirelessly supported him, and his children Tara and Conan. 

Brian Smith
Former CCCJ executive director
Former diplomat at the Canadian Embassy to Japan
CCCJ special representative in Ottawa and Vancouver 2012–20 

Wilf was larger than life. His intensity and enthusiasm forced all of us to sit up and pay attention, whatever his “issue of the day” was. When one spoke to Wilf on the telephone, it wasn’t for 10 minutes; the call usually lasted 30 minutes or an hour. 

But what I remember most about Wilf is his generosity and huge heart. He was a visionary businessman and lawyer bursting with ideas for innovative new projects, but it was his willingness often to put aside his personal business interests to offer free legal advice to a mother with an abducted child or the widow of a business colleague, to promote Canada–Japan trade interests or to help with divorce papers for a friend, that personified the man we all grew to love. Wilf had the option to set these activities aside and pursue his more formal legal practice. He may not have become a multi-millionaire, but the rest of us are all richer because of the choices he made.  

I first got to know Wilf at Expo ’70. After Expo, Wilf stayed in Osaka where he began his radio career while I was posted to the embassy in Tokyo. For the next 51 years Wilf was a huge part of my life. Much of the about 16 years or so spent that I spent in Japan was in Tokyo, but it was Wilf who showed me the real charm of the Kansai, which he loved so much. In the early 1970s I treasured my trips to Osaka when Wilf and I would get together and explore Nanba and other watering holes. This came in handy when I joined the board of an Osaka-based company in 2014. He was a loyal friend who was always there to provide support for whatever challenges life brought us.

Wilf’s passion for promoting closer ties between Canada and Japan was an ongoing theme of his life in Japan, but nowhere was it so evident as in his role as president (later chair) of the CCCJ. The CCCJ was a vibrant business organization in the 1980s but had drifted into more of a social club after Japan’s bubble economy burst — until Wilf decided to reinvigorate it. As was always the case with Wilf, he threw everything he had into making the CCCJ relevant. And, wow, did he ever! After Wilf took charge, cabinet ministers in Ottawa and senior business figures on both sides of the Pacific turned to Wilf for advice and support in bolstering bilateral trade ties. I know that Wilf’s preoccupation with the CCCJ must have frustrated Wilf’s family as he paid less attention to his legal practice, but Wilf remained determined to succeed in his mission. His positive impact will be felt for years.

Wilf (centre) with a group of his friends, celebrating his 70th birthday

Margaret Huber
Former diplomat in Asia, Europe and Middle East
Former trade commissioner in Tokyo and consul general in Kansai 

Wilf Wakely was a man of many incarnations: Osaka Expo guide, comedian, lawyer, entrepreneur, diplomat, business leader, Canada–Japan bridge, devoted family man, mentor and great friend to many. May memory of his infectious humour, charm and kindness bring comfort and smiles. 

It was during my student gap year in Japan, before graduate school and the foreign service, that I first met Wilf. We had mutual friends (Mr. Sakurauchi, fmr. Mitsui Canada President and Wilf’s father had cemented a close relationship through YMCA ties, and his daughter Atsuko was one of the few other passengers on a freighter that I had taken from Vancouver to Japan).  n exciting time, it was the year of Osaka ’70, the first World’s Fair in Japan. At the Expo’s Canadian Pavilion, Wilf was honing exceptional language skills in both Japanese and Kansai-ben, and lending comedic talents to popular TV ads for Matsushita. Although Wilf returned to Vancouver to complete law studies, his heart and life remained centred on Japan.

Our paths again crossed during my subsequent time in Tokyo, at our embassy (a lowly number seven of seven trade commissioners), and during visits to Japan when Wilf’s outgoing personality energized the public affairs section at the Canadian embassy. 

Still later, when I served as consul general in the Kansai, and Wilf was acting as British Columbia rep, we worked closely together with Kansai business, political and cultural leaders on many initiatives — from an ‘Iki Iki Kansai, Waku Waku Canada’ (energy and excitement) promotion to Kansai–Canada West trade and investment mission, to promoting Canada’s Water Bomber forest-fire fighting aircraft. In the aftermath of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, we were the only non-Japanese serving on the Hyogo governor’s disaster relief and recovery council.  

Wilf could be fearless. I will never forget how he helped shut down a road rage incident.  We were in separate cars en route to a meeting with Wakayama business chamber leaders when my driver Tanaka-san apparently cut off another car, enraging what were clearly gang members who proceeded to force my car to stop at the side of the highway and were knocking determinedly on the locked door, demanding it be opened. Fortunately, further escalation was averted when Wilf and Vancouver Board of Trade CEO Darcy Rezac in a separate vehicle behind us, stopped, and with memorable language, Wilf berated the astonished and soon departing crew. 

Wilf was passionate in defending the interests of his clients and the causes in which he believed. His relentless problem-solving skills and ability to move forward common goals were seen in successful projects like the public–private partnership for development of a new Canadian embassy building in Tokyo, or the 1998 Sumo Basho in Vancouver (which I was also fortunate to attend). Always generous in sharing time and experience with young talent, he mentored many who are now distinguished in their careers. He cared deeply about the CCCJ, and was tireless in championing trade and investment interests. In recent years, with a wide array of like-minded stakeholders, he successfully lobbied for expatriate Canadians to be able to vote in elections at home (with greater ability thereby to influence Canadian policy decisions on bilateral issues). Although my own work and post-retirement activities largely took me away from Japan, it was always a pleasure in return visits to reconnect with Wilf, his family and many mutual friends. He will be greatly missed!

Eric Cole
Cole and Company 

First and most important, Wilf was passionate and kind. He approached life with a fervent belief that he could make things better, and was tireless in his efforts to make the world a better place.

On the economic front, it’s well known that Wilf advocated tirelessly on behalf of many well-known Canadian companies. It wasn’t self-interest or profit that drove him; he wanted to make a difference and he had the energy and passion to fight to make it happen.

Once Wilf was sold on a cause, woe be to the man who stood in his way. A case in point: Ever since I first met him, Wilf has been a tireless advocate for the Bombardier 415 Water Bomber for aerial firefighting. Not because he wanted to make money (which he did, but any sane person would have long dropped this business on an ROI basis), but because it’s the best machine for the job and has been proven to save lives. This same passion extended to his advocacy on behalf of parents of children abducted and brought to Japan, of which Japan has had an unfortunate number of cases. In recent years this issue has come to be recognized more widely, but I well remember that Wilf was one of the first to take up the charge on this issue. This same passion extended to his advocacy on behalf of parents of children abducted and brought to Japan, of which Japan has had an unfortunate number of cases. In recent years, this issue has come to be recognized more widely; but I well remember that Wilf was one of the first to take up the charge.

What I think a lot of people didn’t see about Wilf is just how sincerely he was driven to help people. As a lawyer, he was perhaps best personified as an advocate. Certainly, this is true for the many people he helped on a pro bono basis. But this advocacy extended to all of his clients. Wilf always brought passion to his work, whether as a lawyer, as a businessman, or as business association advocate through his chamber work. He cared, and inspired others to care.

It saddened me to see some of his clients recognized and took advantage of his passion for their own self-interest. Some of his clients simply didn’t pay their bills, or otherwise live up to their responsibilities and obligations. But Wilf never lost faith in human nature. I could be accused of being somewhat cynical and pragmatic, but Wilf was always wholehearted in his belief in the goodness of others. I always envied and respected Wilf for his faith in others, when I might have been more wary. I like to believe that Wilf lived a richer life for taking a chance on these people.

Wilf was a gregarious and charming person. He made friends quickly and easily, and always had a joke ready to put anyone at ease. Yes, Wilf could also be difficult. He would harangue others to do his bidding, and he could be argumentative, stubborn, and willful. But to reject him for these things is a mistake. Nobody is perfect. 

The generosity of Wilf extended to his family, who graciously allowed me into their lives. Takako, Conan, and Tara all became an important part of my life, and are very much my second family. I have been blessed by the many invitations to the Wakely house, and been the happy beneficiary of some of the best cooking of anyone I know. Delicious food and lively conversation made for many a warm and wonderful evening at the Wakely manor. The many people who took part in this generous hospitality were lucky indeed. 

Wilf loved his kids. Conan and Tara have both built successful careers and carved their own path in life. Wilf’s style of supporting his kids helped them to become strong and independent. But most importantly they are, like Wilf, kind people. Wilf had good reason to be proud of you. 

Wilf had many interests outside of the professional realm. He was an avid history buff and enjoyed reading about World War II. He loved to build things — and to talk about building things, both of which he did with enthusiasm not usually seen among carpenters. Wilf and I spent many happy hours in my place in Hakone, occasionally working on building projects, but more often whiling away the hours in fun conversation while drinking, eating and cooking. I remember one occasion in particular, when Wilf shared with me the following quote from Hunter S. Thompson: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a Ride!’” That was Wilf.

For me, Wilf was much more than a lawyer, or a businessman, Japan expert, erstwhile comedian or even a fellow Canadian. He was a genuinely kind and fun person, keenly intelligent and with a sharp sense of humour. He was a good friend to me, and the world is a little less bright today without him.

Karl Pires
CCCJ Governor
Shearman & Sterling LLP 

I first got to know Wilf before technology showed the caller’s name on your phone. But he didn’t need to identify himself when you answered his call. Hearing his “Hey bud!” was enough for you to immediately know that it was Wilf — again, perhaps for the umpteenth time that day, because you were working together on a project.  

As a master networker and connector, Wilf had an enormous number of “buds” from all walks of life — they included TV personalities, business leaders, politicians, diplomats and royalty. And he possessed a unique mix of gregarious charm, outspoken frankness and unabashed humour that gave him the ability and confidence to colour any conversation with a healthy dose of profanity. This he would do even when speaking with a former Japanese ambassador to Canada or a princess representing the imperial family of Japan. He was particularly fond of obnoxious gangster-style Kansai-ben!  

Wilf’s persistent leadership, passionate advocacy and influential intellect was highly respected and greatly appreciated by the legal, business and diplomatic communities in both Japan and Canada, and his legacy will live on through the CCCJ and all his many “buds,” on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, whose lives he positively impacted. 

Susumu Kaminaga
CCCJ Honorary Board of Advisors
Former President, Sumitomo Precision Products 

It is so sad to hear that my friend Wilf Wakely has passed away.

I recall my first meeting with him when he approached me at the air show in Nagoya in 2012. He requested that I take an HBA [Honorary Board of Advisors] role at the CCCJ, based on my management career at a Japanese company which in-vest-ed in Ontario to establish its manufacturing base for the aerospace industry.

Since then, I have enjoyed being a member of the HBA under his strong initiative. I sincerely appreciate his continued kindness, which will remain in my heart forever.

Christian Howes
Director, Research Marketing
SMBC Nikko Securities 

Wilf spent his adult life driven by the desire to better connect Canada and Japan relations. He worked constantly on both sides of the Pacific to make this happen. His main tools were determination, loyalty and humour.

I got to know Wilf when he was a student at UBC and one of my father’s deshi, or dedicated students. My father taught modern Japanese history but spent a great deal of time advising students about what to do with the years they invested studying Japanese language and culture.

Wilf was part of the staff of the Canadian Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka. This was probably the most important coming-of-age event in post-war Japan after the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Sixty-four million people attended. Most were Japanese, hungry to get some exposure to the outside world. I am convinced that interacting with Japanese at the exposition was where Wilf realized the power of humour as a cultural bridge. Humour, especially in Japanese, was something he never stopped working on. This resulted in a career as a nationally known “unique” gaijin on television.

In the 70s Wilf often came for dinner at our family home in Vancouver for hours of discussion with Dad about the powerful potential of Canada doing more in Japan. Law school leveraged the tone of these discussions to a higher level as did years of work building institutions required to support this important mission.

Wilf made a significant contribution to Canada–Japan relations on many levels, and he was a standout figure in the Canadian community in this country.

When he was with the Canadian embassy in the 1980s he convinced Japanese broadcaster TBS to build a TV studio in the Canadian Pavilion at Expo ’85 in Tsukuba. The broadcast of prime time show Expo Scramble delivered the Canada brand to millions of Japanese households every day. This priceless publicity was something Wilf pulled out of thin air for little cost.

Wilf was funny, creative and always anxious to get things done. He built relationships and institutions that many now take for granted. All Canadians owe him a debt of thanks for his work. Personally I am grateful for his guidance as well as his powerful support of my family, especially my father and countless others in the worlds of academia, art and culture. Wilf’s unique jokes and insight cannot be recreated, but we owe it to him — and, indeed, to Canada — to continue to build on his impressive trans-Pacific legacy.

Charles J. McMillan
Schulich School of Business
York University 

For Canadians and Japanese who knew him, Wilf Wakely was a dual citizen, belonging to the two countries he loved: Canada and Japan. 

He especially loved Vancouver and British Columbia, as well as fast-moving Tokyo, with a population the size of Canada’s. From his first days in Japan, on a student exchange program in the 1960s, and then a term at the Embassy of Canada in Japan, serving as first secretary — a temporary arrangement that became permanent — Wilf fell in love with Japan, where he saw huge possibilities for Canada.

I first met Wilf before I went to Ottawa to serve as senior policy advisor to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1983, and he knew my background in Japan. We struck up an immediate friendship, and when the prime minister led a Canadian delegation to Tokyo in May 1985, Wilf came it to his own. As a Canadian, he knew Canada needed champions to raise the profile of Japan in Canada, and Canadian success stories to the Japanese business community. That became his life’s mission. 

Wilf’s affability, his charm, and sense of joy often disguised his real mission, not only to enhance Canada–Japan relations, not only in law and business but in youth exchange, sports, the arts, and science and technology. He knew at first hand from the US–Canada free trade debate in the 1988 election that Canada was opening up to the world, but what changed his mindset, concealing his Irish temper, was the proposed trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), a deal first initiated by America, that excluded both Japan and Canada.

Wilf belonged to the CCCJ, and seeing a certain passive stance, he took charge and turned it into a driving policy force in Canada and Tokyo. Thanks to support from Hon. Perrin Beatty, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Wilf took the lead, and hosted two conferences, one in Tokyo, one in Toronto, with a sterling quality of speakers, to put the issues from and center of the policy debate in both countries. Both publicly and in private conversations, Wilf understood the growing protectionist stance in America, well before Donald Trump appeared, and he pushed relentlessly for either a Canadian bilateral free trade deal with Japan or passage of TPP without America participating.

Wilf always had an open door, and loved to host new members, Japanese or Canadian, and never accepted the status quo as an option. Wilf loved his work as a Canadian lawyer in Japan, and despite a heavy workload, he cherished his time with family and friends. He loved good conversation, serious debate and combined sparkle and gaiety with a wicked sense of humour.

He had a life packed with action, achievement and friendships. He will be missed, but not forgotten, on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Eric De Groot
Principal and Owner
De Groot Trade Associates 

I first met Wilf at a Kansai Canadian Alumni Association event at the Kobe Club in 1995, just prior to the Hanshin Awaji Earthquake. 

What immediately struck me was how he dominated the room, having become the centre of attention the moment he entered. His command of Osaka-ben, learned in the bars and izakaya of Kansai, was an immediate ice breaker with Japanese and non-Japanese alike. No matter what, Wilf always left an impression.

Shortly thereafter I started working in the BC trade office Wilf ran on Rokko Island, Kobe. It was a sometimes chaotic pressure cooker environment. Several of us in our 20 and early 30s laboured to produce low-cost yet effective market research for BC SMEs. We learned about Japanese business and market conditions of course, and about the central importance of Japanese language proficiency to our futures. And good writing. Wilf was a stickler for quality writing. When a report was ready, or so we thought, it would go to Wilf and his red pen for the “stab through the heart” as he put it while ripping our prose, layout, footnotes and in some cases the entire organization of the document to shreds. Then the well-stocked fridge would be opened for nightly “working” sessions that would last until 9 or 10pm.  

As difficult as it was at times, I could not have had the career I subsequently enjoyed without that experience.   Wilf became my senpai, and senpai to so many younger Canadians trying to find a meaningful role in business and law as it related to Japan. His role in mentoring the next generation of Canadian “Japanists” as he liked to refer to himself, is often overlooked, but I feel was an important motivation behind a lot of what he did, including his leadership of the CCCJ.  

His concern for Canadians and others in need in Japan was legendary and described well by our friend Eric Cole.  His work with Canadian and other non-Japanese “left behind” parents denied access by Japan’s courts to their children after marital breakdowns consumed enormous amounts of his time, almost entirely donated pro bono.  He seethed at the injustice of the situation and when asked, would always confess that he wished he could have done more for those parents trapped in an unending nightmare. But there were notable successes, and many children now have Wilf to thank for being able to know and be raised by their non-Japanese parent. Wilf simply could not stand by while others suffered if it was at all within his power to help. He spearheaded the CCCJ’s efforts to repatriate a young Canadian man who had suffered a massive stroke, leaving him bedridden and alone in an unfamiliar and largely unsupportive medical system. He relentlessly marshalled the resources of the chamber, private companies and local and Canadian governments to get this man a humanitarian medical evacuation back to Nova Scotia where, with proper rehabilitation and the support of his family, he was eventually able to make a full recovery.  

But as all who knew him can attest, Wilf was not someone to take himself, or life in general, too seriously. His career in Japan began with comic radio and TV performances in Osaka and he remained to the end, a comedian and raconteur at heart. I had the privilege of having lunch with Wilf and his artistic senpai, Knock Yokoyama, sometime in the early 2000s. “Knock-san” was a major Kansai manzai celebrity from the 1970s onwards who took to Wilf early on and helped open doors for him in the Osaka comedy scene. He later became governor of Osaka Prefecture and was the person who, according to Wilf, encouraged him to become a lawyer. Knock was in the final stages of a long cancer battle when we met, but the respect and admiration these two had for each other was obvious and undiminished.  

As an intelligent man with strong opinions and a damn-the-torpedoes attitude to accomplishing things he considered important, Wilf was not always the most popular person in the room. This sometimes bothered him, but not that much. His loyalty to his friends, and theirs to him, helped him through the darker times when he suffered disappointment and defeat, and when those in whom he placed great trust failed to reciprocate. He simply had too much fun pursuing his projects and passions to be bothered about dwelling on setbacks or pondering what might have been.

Moving back to Toronto after almost 30 years in Japan, I wasn’t able to see Wilf as much as I would have liked over the past four or five years. My frequent business trips to Japan have been ended by Covid-19, but I know that when I do make it back, there will be a large “Wilf-shaped” void in my Japan.

I last spoke to Wilf face to face in November of 2019. That night he told me that when he finally departed this world, he wanted a rip-roaring Irish wake attended by friends and family and was adamant that I ensure he be propped up in a corner, glass in hand. I’m hoping this event can still be arranged, albeit without the guest of honour in actual attendance. I don’t know what words Wilf would have left us with had he been able to, but I think they might have run something along the following lines. 

The Parting Glass 

Oh all the time that e’er I spent,
I spent it in good company;
And any harm that e’er I’ve done,
I trust it was to none but me;
May those I’ve loved through all the years
Have memories now they’ll e’er recall;
So fill to me the parting glass, 

Good night and joy be with you all.

Oh all the comrades that e’er I had,
Are sorry for my going away;
And all the loved ones that e’er I had
Would wish me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should leave and you should not,
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call
Goodnight, and joy be with you all. 

Of all good times that e’er we shared,
I leave to you fond memory;
And for all the friendship that e’er we had
I ask you to remember me;
And when you sit and stories tell,
I’ll be with you and help recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
God bless, and joy be with you all.

Shawn Lawlor
Managing Director
Council of Forest Industries / Canada Wood Japan  

I first met Wilf about 10 years ago while serving on the CCCJ Board of Governors. On one memorable occasion, Wilf and I paid a visit to a director general at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries — which was not especially welcoming or enthused about advancing Canada–Japan EPA discussions.

But Wilf had a special genius. He stormed into the director general’s office, did away with formalities, and won over the director general with his distinctive combination of brusque Kansai dialect, energy, charm and passion. Even the dark and sleepy recesses of Kasumigaseki came alive when Wilf Wakely walked through the door. 


Ron Huber
Mystays Hotel Group and Village House

I met Wilf through the CCCJ as many of us did and we worked closely together for many years on a number of important initiatives. Outside of the CCCJ, as a fellow Canadian lawyer I worked together with Wilf for a time at TMI with his Wakely Foreign Law Office practice. I remember many late nights and early morning phone calls — weekends too! We even shared a desk for a time; there was never a shortage of work and volunteering and ideas. It was truly one of the most productive and exciting experiences of my life. Wilf also had me over for Christmas dinner with his family a few years when I was unable to return to Canada to be with my own. To this day he is by far the most gregarious and inviting boss I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Wilf was a mentor to me in business, law and particularly with the CCCJ and our Canada–Japan relationships. Wilf did more for the cultural and business connections between both of our countries, and I cannot imagine a bigger loss for all of us. I dearly miss him.

Robert Fuller
CCCJ Governor
Currie & Brown Japan Ltd.
APAC Director
Managing Director, Japan, Taiwan and Korea

You will never guess where I first met Wilf — in a bar! He invited me and one of my colleagues to join him, his daughter Tara and a few investors of his to discuss a project in Okinawa over a few drinks. From that day on I was either on the phone with Wilf to discuss a project, the CCCJ or both — and it was usually both!

Over the years we did work on many projects, some that worked out and others that did not. It was Wilf’s efforts to succeed that helped push me into believing that a small idea can come to fruition such as a resort project or to getting a severely injured Canadian onto a flight to Halifax with doctors and nurses on board. I learned that perseverance can lead to success — no matter whether the ideas are big or small, or it’s about making money or raising money. I will never forget Wilf for these life lessons. He will be greatly missed in the community of Tokyo which he called home.

Ai Nakagawa
CCCJ Governor

I actually never had the opportunity to meet Wilf but my sincere condolences and heart goes out to him as I know he was very much loved by everyone and did an amazing job for the communities of Canada and Japan.

Machiko Asai
CCCJ Governor

I met you for the first time at the 2018 Maple Leaf Gala. You said a gag in Japanese and made everyone laugh. I remember the scene vividly. Then when I consulted you for work, you gave me some advice. At that time, you were already fighting cancer. I knew it later. You were calm, intelligent and generous, even in difficult situations. Thank you very much. I would like to offer my deepest sympathies.

Marc Bolduc
CCCJ Governor

While I have so many great memories of Wilf it is very difficult to identify which is my favourite. That being said, one that always makes me smile is the time we checked in a full-size BBQ on a Vancouver–Tokyo flight. You should have seen the face of the Air Canada counter staff. Naturally Wilf had a story that we were bringing the BBQ for the Canadian embassy summer BBQ party and that it was of national importance. As he was explaining this to the staff, he was holding the box so that the scale would not pick up the actual weight of the BBQ. This was Wilf using his charm for the greater benefit of our CCCJ as we were able to enjoy so many chamber meetings on his balcony. Merci, mon ami Wilf!

Yuko Sudoh
CCCJ Governor

I met Wilf after the company I worked for joined the CCCJ in 2011. He suddenly called me at my office, introduced himself to me, and said to me: “Yuko-san,  Please vote for me in the next election!” I had not met him yet but he had a strong passion for the CCCJ so I decided to vote for him.

After that I met him in person at events and he involved me in the CCCJ and I became governor. He treated people without distinction — their age, nationality, company or position didn’t matter.

He introduced me to many nice people, and he also met people from our company’s Ottawa headquarters. When I visited Ottawa on business, he introduced me to Ambassador Okuda and I attended the Japanese New Year’s party at the Japanese embassy in Canada. It was a wonderful experience.

I met many good friends through him and laughed a lot with him. He influenced many people. I have never forgotten about him. I appreciate Wilf for involving me in the CCCJ. I will miss him.

Tsuguo Fujimaki
Tsuguo Fujimaki Fujimaki Law & Accounting Office

I was very surprised to know that Wilf passed away. I am in Osaka and have known him since Expo ’70. I am a lawyer too so I often had his help. I miss him.

Bearing in mind Wilf’s support of the CCCJ and its charity efforts, the chamber is accepting donations to our CSR fund, to be used for an event or activity at a later date in his memory.

For more details:

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