Asian Heritage Month

May is Asian Heritage Month. The month for all Canadians to learn more about the many achievements and contributions of Asian Canadians who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the great country it is today. Canadians of Asian descent have made and continue to help the growth and prosperity in Canada. It is also an opportunity to bring awareness towards the many ongoing challenges Asian communities face across Canada and to confront and denounce anti-Asian racism and discrimination. 

Canada has celebrated Asian Heritage Month since the 1990s. In December 2001, the Senate of Canada considered a notion to designate May as Asian Heritage Month across Canada officially. In May 2002, the government signed an official document to finalize the decision.

This year’s theme is “Recognition, Resilience and Resolve,” which embodies multiple settlements that Asian people in Canada have experienced and honours their contribution and diverse stories, which are fixed in resilience and perseverance. 

During this month, Parks Canada wants to honour the memory of Canadians of Asian lineage by recalling the stories of exceptional persons and events, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes divine, that have reformulated Canadian places and heritage.

Asahi baseball team National Historic Event

Asahi’s athleticism and sportsmanship inspired many spectators of all ancestry.

Between 1914 and 1941, when Japanese Canadians faced racism (although they still do now), Vancouver’s Asahi Baseball Team entertained fans by being victorious in championships in senior amateur leagues. Their powerful offensive strategy called “brain ball” highlighted bunting and speed on the bases, showcased the principles of discipline and teamwork, and connected with an outstanding defence, equalized the playing field with more potent opponents. The Asahi became a symbol for the Japanese-Canadian struggle with equality and respect. Despite being dispersed during the Second World War internment, they left a legacy of inspiration for all future generations to remember. 

Watch the Vancouver Asahi Heritage Minute video on Historica Canada’s YouTube channel

D’Arcy Island Leprosarium

D’Arcy Island’s beauty is a paradox to its history.

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D’Arcy Island is a part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was part of a dark chapter in Canadian history. In 1891, a small group of people infected with leprosy from the City of Victoria’s Chinese community was banned to D’Arcy Island to limit disease. The people on the Island got food but no medical care. Their only contact with the outside world was when a supply ship docked four times a year to bring goods to the Island. During this period, thirteen men died on D’Arcy Island while others were relocated or sent back to their own countries.

Today, the island that was once filled with disease is reclaimed by its nature, making it a beautiful destination for kayakers and boaters. However, an old orchard and building ruins are a reminder of this unfortunate episode in Canadian history.

Frank Wong’s battle after the war

In hopes for the right to vote

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Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site showcases the inspiring story of Frank Wong, a Chinese-Canadian soldier. He volunteered to serve in the Second World War for two reasons: his love for Canada and hoping that serving might help Chinese Canadians have the right to vote. 

When he returned to Canada, Frank and many other Chinese Canadian veterans crusaded for the right to vote. It was finally granted in 1947, although immigration from China was still severely restricted until 1967. Frank later said the military was where he faced the least discrimination. He later became the founder of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society, which collected and shared stories of neglected veterans and saved a significant part of Canadian history. In 2003, he was awarded a medal for his participation in the liberation of the Netherlands.

Abbotsford Gur Sikh Temple

Seedling of a community

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 In 1911, purposeful Sikh immigrants from India built this temple or Gurdwara with lumber carried from the nearby sawmill where most of them worked. The Gurdwara consisted of a blend between traditional Sikh and western frontier designs and included a prayer hall and a community kitchen (langar hall). It was not only a place of worship, but it also became a place for the social and political life of South American immigrants, help them come together as a bright community. Today, this oldest surviving Gurdwara is a reminder of the immigrant experience of Sikhs in Canada and continues to be a sacred symbol for their spirituality.

As May goes along, learn something new about Asian heritage and educate oneself of the discrimination and racism Asians of Canada still face today. Amid a pandemic, people must be supporting one another and working towards a better future. So go and learn something new about the Asians of Canada.