Asian Heritage Month was established in Canada in May 2002 and the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. This month provides opportunities for Canadians to learn, reflect and celebrate the many achievements, artistry, traditions and cultures of Canadians of Asian descent.
Over the last two centuries, immigrants from East Asia, Southern Asia, Western, Central and Southeast Asia have made Canada their home, bringing a rich cultural heritage that helped create and continually shape the diverse and multicultural landscape that is Canada.
This year, the national theme is "Recognition, Resilience, and Resolve" – to embody the myriad of sentiments that peoples of Asian descent in Canada have experienced and to honour their contributions and diverse stories which are rooted in resilience and perseverance.
It is also a call to action for all Canadians to come together to combat all forms of anti-Asian racism and discrimination. Let us celebrate the incredible diversity that is our strength and be resolute in our stand against all forms of anti-Asian racism and discrimination.
Asian-Canadian Cultures in Canada
East Asia: China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan
Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor, Vietnam
South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
Western Asia: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, State of Palestine, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Central Asia: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan
Video message from Bardish Chagger, the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth:
Notable Asian-Canadians and Their Contributions
Senator Vivienne Poy: Poy was the first Canadian of Asian heritage appointed to the Senate of Canada. She was integral to establishing May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada.
Adrienne Clarkson: Clarkson was the 26th governor general in Canada. Among her successes in the vice-regal position were forging stronger ties between Canada and its northern Indigenous population and bringing a sense of modernity to the traditional role.
Rupi Kaur: Kaur is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator. She has performed her poetry all over the world, and her poems have been translated into over 30 languages.
Irene Ayako Uchida: Dr. Uchida pioneered the field of cytogenetics in Canada, enabling early screening for chromosomal abnormalities.
Sandra Oh: Oh is a critically acclaimed, award-winning actor and producer. Her work has been groundbreaking for the visibility it has brought to roles for Asian actors in North America.
Hazel Mae: Mae is a well-known sportscaster of Filipino heritage who has been a host on prominent sports networks such as MLB Network and Sportsnet.
Deepa Mehta: Mehta is a prominent, award-winning filmmaker and is the recipient of the 2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement.
Carol Huynh: Huynh was the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling.
Juliette Kang: Kang was a child prodigy and a decorated violinist who has performed with every major orchestra in Canada, and featured internationally with many renowned orchestras.
Kim Thúy: Thúy is an award-winning author of the novel Ru, which later went on to win the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award for French fiction in 2010 and the Grand Prix littéraire Archambault in 2011.
Asian Heritage Month Events
Eyes Open: An Anti-Asian Racism PSA
While racism towards Asian communities in BC is nothing new, the past year has been marked by a significant increase in anti-Asian hate and violence in the US and Canada. Between 2019-2020, Vancouver in particular has seen a shocking 717% increase in anti-Asian hate crime according to official VPD reports. A recent (2021) survey conducted by Vancouver-based, Insights West reported that 43% of Asian British Columbians have personally experienced acts of racism this year, and 87% believed these incidents have gotten worse since the start of the pandemic.
While we recognize and celebrate the significant contributions and achievements of Asians within our community this month and beyond, as an organization we reaffirm our commitment to promoting racial equity, truth and reconciliation, gender inclusion and non-violence. We call on all members of our community to step up in the fight against anti-Asian hate. Here are some resources, including how to be better allies to the Asian community.
Anti-Asian Racism Resources
Combatting anti-Asian racism in the workplace (Online event on May 19 at 11:00am PST)
Resources on How to Be Better Allies
Cold Tea Collective - a Vancouver-based new media platform, sharing the real stories, perspectives, and experiences of North American Asian millennials.