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Celebrating Chinese language and culture – past and present

A poem about wisdom written in Chinese calligraphy

The Chinese language is one of the oldest in the world. Every April 20, the United Nations celebrates its rich history and diverse dialects during Chinese Language Day. As incidents of anti-Asian and anti-Chinese hate, violence and murder rise, it’s never been more important to celebrate the Chinese language – and the people who speak its many dialects.

Here in Canada and Ontario, we must never forget that people from China – speaking Mandarin or Cantonese or any of the hundreds of other regional variations – helped build this country and this province.

It’s well known, for example, that roughly 15,000 Chinese people provided the backbreaking labour needed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Rockies in the 1880s. They endured terrible working conditions, and more than 600 were killed in the process. Chinese people also made huge cultural contributions, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto, as local business owners.

Today, Chinese people are prominent in all walks of working life, from education to sciences, and from the arts to public services.

One small example: the home support workers at the Yee Hong Centre long-term care facility in Toronto. Just like other home support workers around the province, they’re on the front lines of public services every day, risking their health, safety, and even their lives, to care for those in need. We were so proud earlier this year when these workers – most of whom speak Mandarin – voted overwhelmingly to join our union.

We should all be proud that so many Chinese people have chosen to call Canada and Ontario home. Their cultures and their language only make our communities stronger.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, OPSEU/SEFPO

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU/SEFPO