May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada. We celebrate the legacy, history, and contributions of Asian Canadians, whose history in Canada goes back more than 150 years.
The resilience and strength of Asian Canadians has resulted in enormous economic, social, political, and financial contributions that have enriched our country.
Countless Asian Canadian icons have distinguished themselves both nationally and internationally. They include The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson who served as the 26th Governor General of Canada from 2002 to 2005; Naranjan Singh Grewall, the first East Indian person elected to political office by becoming the first Sikh councillor in North America in 1950; Kim Thúy, a Vietnamese Canadian who won the Governor General’s award for French language fiction in 2010; and Larry Kwong, the first player of Asian descent in the NHL. Many more Asian Canadians can boast tremendous achievements out of the public eye. We salute them and appreciate their various contributions in our society and families.
Sadly, Asian Canadians have not been always made to feel welcome. We can trace the onset of anti-Asian racism and exclusion from as far back as 1885 when the Chinese Immigration Act levied a head tax on each Chinese person seeking entry into Canada. And in 1914, Indian passengers aboard the Japanese steamship SS Komagata Maru were denied entry into Vancouver and were forced to turn back.
The Government of Canada’s apology in 2006 to Chinese Canadians regarding the head tax was monumental. It demonstrated that accountability for racist actions began at the top.
Anti-Asian racism is not just historical but is an ugly reality today.
Since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a sharp rise in anti-Asian racism. This hate has no place in our Union. OPSEU/SEFPO strongly condemns all acts of anti-Asian racism, discrimination, and hate that creep in and take root in our society.
We admire the strength and resilience of all Asian Canadians who fight, almost daily, against acts of hate, discrimination and racism. Our membership includes many Asian activists who continue to play leadership roles within their locals and in their communities. They are at the forefront of the fight against unequal access to basic necessities like food, water, healthcare and shelter – inequities that are deeply rooted in both individual and systemic racism. In their fight and struggle, OPSEU/SEFPO members from the Asian community provide a voice to those who don’t have one, in particular migrant workers who do not have access to safe working conditions and legal status in Canada.
This work is a reflection of OPSEU/SEFPO’s ongoing commitment to dismantling all forms of racism and for that, we are grateful.
We will continue to move forward together.
JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Laurie Nancekivell, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Elizabeth Ha, OPSEU/SEFPO Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW), Vice-Chair for People of Asian Descent