May marks Asian Heritage Month, a celebration that has been observed in communities across Canada since the 1990s and was made official in 2002, when the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month.
Immigration from Asian countries dates back to the late 1700’s in Canada, and Asian Canadians have contributed richly to Canadian history, culture, sports and politics in many ways. The declaration of this month to celebrate the diversity of these contributions is a way to acknowledge that Asian Canadian history is part of Canadian history. The official theme for Asian Heritage Month 2020 is, "Asian Canadians: United in Diversity.”
Asian Heritage Month offers all Canadians an opportunity to learn more about the history of Asian Canadians. The Language & Culture Centre and Social Inc. partnered to engage staff and students about some Asian Canadians who inspire them. This list is not comprehensive nor fully representative of the incredible cultural diversity of Asian Canadian history, but is intended to be a starting point to learn more about important public figures that were (and continue to be) pioneers in their fields.
Korean Canadian actress, famous for her role in the medical series “Grey’s Anatomy” and spy thriller series, "Killing Eve". Sandra Oh has won Golden Globe Awards for her performances in both series.
Dang Thai Son is a Vietnamese-Canadian pianist. He was awarded the First Prize and Gold medal at the 10th International Chopin Piano Competition in 1980, which propelled him to the forefront of the musical world. It was also the first time that a top international competition was won by an Asian pianist.
Nazem Kadri is a Lebanese-Canadian hockey player, who has been playing for many NHL teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is influential for being the first Middle Eastern hockey player in Canada, which is highly looked upon for many aspiring athletes from the community.
Hide Shimizu was an educator and activist born May 11, 1908, in Vancouver, BC. The daughter of Japanese immigrants, Shimizu was instrumental in organizing education for interned Japanese Canadian children in British Columbia during the Second World War. For this, she was awarded the Order of Canada in 1982. In 1993, Shimizu was honoured by Status of Women Canada for her role in shaping Canada’s history.
Author of books like: Even This Page Is White, The Boy and The Bindi, She of the Mountains and I'm Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya is a visual and media artist, musician, filmmaker, and writer. A six-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, Vivek was a Pride Toronto Grand Marshal, was featured on The Globe and Mail’s “Best Dressed” list. She is a director on the board of the Tegan and Sara Foundation and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.
Jean Lumb was a community organizer and restaurateur born in 1919, in Nanaimo, BC. Jean Lumb was the first Chinese-Canadian woman and first restaurateur inducted into the Order of Canada. She is also best known for her role in successfully lobbying the federal government to change its discriminatory immigration policies that separated Chinese families.
Danny Ramadan is a Syrian-Canadian award-winning novelist, public speaker, and an activist who works with and supports 2SLGBTQIA+ refugees. Ramadan's work focuses on themes of immigration, identity, diaspora and belonging, and his debut novel, The Clothesline Swing, won multiple awards.
Rupi Kaur is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator. She was born in 1992 in Punjab, India, and immigrated to Canada with her family at the age of four. Her first book of poetry, Milk and Honey was published in 2014, and her second book The Sun and Her Flowers debuted in 2017. Kaur has shared her poetry with audiences all over the world, and her work has been translated into over 30 languages.
A few more interesting links: