May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, a time to reflect on and celebrate the contributions that Canadians of Asian origin continue to make, to the growth and prosperity of Canada. Canadians are invited to take part in the events that honour the legacy of Canadians of Asian origin who, throughout Canadian history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate and prosperous nation we know today.
Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated across Canada since the 1990s. In December 2001, the Senate of Canada adopted a motion proposed by Senator Vivienne Poy to officially designate May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. In May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month.
Some interesting factoids around Asian Heritage:
*The first Chinese arrived in Canada in 1788, when about 50 settlers, who were artisans by training, accompanied Captain John Meares. These settlers helped to build a trading post and encouraged trade in sea otter pelts between Nootka Sound (in what would become British Columbia) and Guangzhou, China.
* After 1885, Chinese emigrants were required to pay a $50 head tax to enter Canada. In 1900, the “head tax” was doubled to $100, and raised again in 1903 to $500. This was the result of complaints that were summed up by one senator, who concluded that the Chinese “are not of our race and cannot become part of ourselves.”
*Chinese Canadians were not allowed to vote until 1947.
*The first Japanese immigrants arrived in 1877. Thirty years later, Japanese immigration to Canada was restricted to 400 males per year, and, in 1928, limited to 150 people annually.
*During the Second World War, Japanese Canadians were interned and their property was placed under “protective custody” — only to be sold off later.
Today, many of these injustices have been corrected, and acknowledged, and the communities are thriving. In the 2011 census, South Asians, Chinese and Black Canadians accounted for 61 per cent of the country’s visible minority population. They were followed by Filipinos, Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese. The Canadian population now reflects the presence of the strengths of people from around the world.
There are many noteworthy Asians in Canadian history from actors, writers, athletes to politician. Check out the link for bios and pictures of these Canadians.