Establishment of Asian Heritage Month
Asian Heritage Month was first officially recognized in December 2001, when the Canadian Senate adopted the month of May as Asian Heritage Month. This is an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the long and diverse history of Asian Canadians and their contributions to Canada, as well as the many struggles they face.
History of racial discrimination
Since the arrival of the first immigrant of Asian descent in the 1800s, they faced racism and racial discrimination in the forms of immigration laws, the denial of the right to vote, segregation and other basic human rights abuses.
Some of these overt racist laws, policies and practices were eliminated gradually when human rights legislation was enacted. However, subtle forms of racism and racial discrimination and micro-aggressions against people of Asian descent continues to persist.
Temporary Foreign Workers Programs
Unfortunately, history seems to repeat itself. Chinese immigrants built the railroad in the late 19th century with few rights and less pay than white workers. Currently, many racialized workers come through the government’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) which has been greatly expanded over the last decade. Workers under the TFWP have limited access to permanent residency and citizenship and they do not have the same access to labour standards, benefits and other protections that all other workers in Canada have. The jobs under the TFWP are low-paying and precarious, and force workers to be tied to a specific employer, which leaves them open to abuses with little oversight.
The most recent federal budget, introduced by the Liberal government, failed to deliver promised details on reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and does not address the vulnerabilities faced by foreign workers in Canada.
National Security and Anti-Terrorism initiatives
Also of great concern are the anti-terrorism laws that were first introduced after 9-11 and other laws afterwards. We have seen civil liberties restricted more and more with the enactment of laws. Asian communities, particularly the Muslim and South Asian communities, bear the brunt of these laws through racial profiling and the stereotypes of these communities. As a result, there has been an increase of hate crimes against these communities, culminating in the murder of Muslim men praying in a mosque in Quebec City.
Community and labour activists of Asian descent have challenged these discriminatory laws and practices. For example, when the labour movement was not yet ready to be inclusive of all people, activists of Asian descent formed their own organizations such as the Chinese Trade Workers’ Association in British Columbia or the Asian Canadian Labour Association in Ontario. Community activists of Asian descent started a campaign for redress for the victims of the Chinese Head Tax and for the internment of people of Japanese descent. Sikhs are also demanding an apology for the Komagata Maru incident which denied Sikhs coming in boats from entering Canada, a move that ended up killing many. Filipino activists have formed community organizations across Canada that advocate for the protection of temporary foreign workers and reforms to the TFWP. Many of these organizations formed and alliance under the banner of Migrante Canada
Celebration and Solidarity
PSAC encourages members to take part in the events that celebrate the legacy and contributions of Canadians of Asian descent and show solidarity against the laws and policies that target racialized communities.