In the month of May in Ontario we recognize the contributions of Canadians from the Asian and South Asian diaspora. The Government of Canada officially declared May as Asian Heritage Month in 2002 but it has been celebrated across Canada since the 1990s. The University of Toronto proudly celebrates the contributions that Asian communities have made to Canadian history, heritage, and identity.
During Asian heritage month, we can learn about the rich history, achievements, and contributions of Asian Canadians and the Asian diaspora. The impact of these contributions has led to advancements in all areas of society and the University. We also acknowledge the continued resilience and activism of people of Asian descent in their fight for human rights and social justice.
Asian Heritage Month is also a time to act against the ongoing discrimination and harassment Asian community members and colleagues face. People of Asian descent are experiencing individual and institutional anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, both now and in the past. A recent report by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter showed that more than 40% of hate incidents targeting East and Southeast Asian communities occurred in Ontario over the past year. Asian women are disproportionately targeted. Incidents like the tragic shooting on March 16 that took the lives of six Asian-American women in Atlanta, Georgia are horrific reminders of this hatred.
Dismantling systemic racism requires us to address the increase in racial discrimination against East and Southeast Asian communities. The University will continue the necessary and ongoing work to address all forms of racism and to create a sense of belonging in our community. In addition to creating a series of collective healing spaces to denounce anti-Asian racism, misogyny, and all forms of racial and gender-based violence, the University has planned a series of upcoming initiatives to build community and awareness during these challenging times. Beginning this May, events will include a film screening of “Under the Willow Tree – Pioneer Chinese Women in Canada” and a celebration of LGBTQ2S+ Asian Heritage through performances and conversation.
As a community, this month we can reflect on and examine our collective efforts, personal attitudes, practices, and allyship to ensure we are working together to advance equity and inclusion at the institution.