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May - Asian and South Asian Heritage Month

Asian Heritage Month has been a focus of celebration in many communities across Canada since the 1990s. In December of 2001, Senator Vivienne Poy proposed a motion that was adopted by the Senate of Canada, designating May as Asian Heritage Month nationally. During May of 2002, the Government of Canada made this motion official by signing a declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage.

Like all cultures, Asian heritage is a diverse and ever-changing concept that has varied meanings to the different communities and generations. During Asian Heritage Month we are invited:
  • to celebrate traditional as well as contemporary Asian-Canadian culture, which includes poetry, dances, sports, music and art;
  • to learn about the many achievements and contributions of Canadians of the diverse Asian heritage that makes up our Canadian communities;
  • to understand the historical journeys and ongoing struggles of diverse Asian communities;
  • to recognize individual and institutional racism both past and present, that have impacted the lives of many groups; and
  • to engage with students through lessons and discussions of prominent past events, current issues of racism and discrimination that continue to impact the many Asian communities living in Canada and to bear witness to the resistance and resilience of such groups.
It is important to recognize that Asian Canadian history is part of Canadian history and should not only be highlighted during this month but integrated throughout the school year.

Asians in Canada have a long history in the labour movement. Asian migrants and Asian Canadians have faced discrimination, exploitation and danger in many of Canada’s workplaces. Even today, many of our Asian communities experience racism and Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination on individual and institutional levels.

Workers of Asian descent have demonstrated resilience and have organized to disrupt laws and practices that were racist and discriminated against certain minority groups.

The following are but a few highlighted events and issues that can be explored with staff, students and communities:
  • the Continuous Journey Regulation and the Komagata Maru;
  • the Chinese Migrant Workers of the Gold Rush and Canadian Pacific Railway;
  • the Chinese Immigration Act;
  • Japanese Internment during the Second World War;
  • anti-Asian Riots of the early 1900s; and
  • islamophobic hate crimes in recent reports.