May marks the celebration of Asian Heritage Month, a time to recognize the invaluable contributions of people of Asian descent to Canada’s social, political, economic, scientific, and cultural landscape.
Despite being officially declared by the Canadian government in 2002, Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated since the 1990s. Asian Canadians share a rich diversity in origin, language, and religion, among other facets of cultural identity.
Asian Canadians make up a significant portion of the national population. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016 a total of 6,095,235 people in Canada reported having Asian origins, representing 17.7 percent of the population. In 2016, South Asian and Chinese communities were the two largest visible minority groups in Canada. It is projected that by 2036, immigrants born in Asia could represent between 55.7 and 57.9 percent of all immigrants here.
Despite the immeasurable contributions of Asian Canadians, the impact of structural inequalities continues to be at the root of anti-Asian hate. Historically, we remember the resistance of Asian Canadians who fought against the Chinese Exclusion Head Tax, the internment of Japanese peoples during World War II, and the resistance against Canada’s continuous journey regulation that restricted passengers of the Komagata Maru from entering the country.
Today, these struggles involve fighting to counter anti-Asian racism. Simply put, many workers do not feel safe in their communities. A 2021 Angus Reid poll found that 71 percent of Asians in Canada cited a worsening in racism and discrimination. A 2022 University of Victoria study also found that two-thirds of respondents who identified as first or second-generation Chinese Canadian had some experience of being treated disrespectfully.
Celebrating Asian Heritage Month means remaining steadfast in challenging racism and discrimination by supporting progressive calls to action that are community- and member-led, and by supporting workers through strong collective bargaining protections and opportunities to celebrate this date of observance across the country.