In December 2001, Senator Vivienne Poy introduced a motion in the Senate of Canada to designate May as Asian Heritage Month and in May, 2002 the Government of Canada officially recognized May as Asian Heritage Month.
This is a worthy acknowledgement of the long and rich history of Asian Canadians and their contributions to Canada. Canada’s, and Toronto’s, rich cultural diversity strengthens the country, and our city, in so many ways.
Local 79 members reflect the diversity of our city, and the programmes and services that our members deliver bring them in daily contact with the many diverse communities that make Toronto so unique.
Although the federal government did not officially signed a declaration until May 2002, cities across Canada, including Toronto, Halifax, Montréal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, have been holding annual festivities during the month of May to recognize Asian Heritage Month since its inaugural celebration in Toronto in 1993.
Over the last two centuries, immigrants have journeyed to Canada from East Asia, Southern Asia, Western and Southwest Asia bringing our society a rich cultural heritage representing many languages, ethnicities and religious traditions. Women and men from these communities have contributed to every aspect of Canadian life – from the arts and science to sports, business and government. However, it is unfortunate that the history of Asian Canadians has too frequently been marred by exploitation and lack of access to basic human rights, such as the exploitation of Chinese railway workers and the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Today, the Conservative government’s temporary foreign worker Program plays a central role in the ongoing exploitation of Asian workers and the denial of human rights, particularly in the treatment of women in the live-in caregiver programme. Local 79 stands in solidarity with Asian workers and proudly celebrates Asian Heritage Month.
Renowned Canadians of Asian Heritage include:
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D., who became Governor General of Canada in 1999, was the first Chinese Canadian and second woman to hold the position.
The Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh, QC who became the thirty-third Premier of British Columbia in 2000, was Canada’s first Indo-Canadian provincial leader.
Ratna Ghosh, who is a celebrated educator and administrator, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1999, and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2000.
Joy Kogawa, who published her first novel, Obasan in 1982. This narrative was considered an important work as part of the movement to redress the wrongs against Japanese Canadians.
Lim Kwong Yew, aka Normie Kwong the China Clipper, who was the first Chinese Canadian to play in the CFL. He became the youngest player to win a Grey Cup and was named to the Order of Canada in 1998.
Jean Lumb, who in 1972, became the first Chinese Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada. In 1995, she became a citizenship judge, swearing in new Canadian citizens.
Deepa Mehta, whose films probe at the cultural taboos and political tensions of her native India, has been nominated for many international film awards. Her film Water was nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, making it Canada’s first non-French-language film to receive a nomination in that category. Mehta divides her time between Toronto and India.
Rohinton Mistry, whose novels about family and community amid the crushing poverty of his native India have earned comparisons with Charles Dickens. Mistry emigrated to Canada in 1975, settling in Toronto.
Michael Ondaatje, who is one of Canada’s most accomplished and varied writers and was named to the Order of Canada in 1988. In 1970, he settled in Toronto and, from 1971 to 1990, taught English literature at York University and Glendon College.
Dr. David Suzuki, who is a geneticist, broadcaster and author, has an international reputation for scientific and environmental education and is recognized as a world leader in the study of sustainable ec