As the month of May comes to a close, it bears reflecting on the centuries worth of transformative impact that Canada has experienced from members of its Asian community.
The designation of May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada can be credited to the Honourable Vivienne Poy. During her term, from 1998 till her retirement in 2012, as senator, in December 2001, her proposal to designate this month as Asian Heritage Month was motioned by the Senate of Canada which resulted in the Government of Canada signing an official declaration in May 2002.
Photo Credit: viviennepoy.com – Luncheon speaker, University Arts Women’s Club, University of Toronto Women’s Association, Faculty Club, UofT, Toronto, April 21, 2022.
According to an article on The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Asia-Canada timeline begins over 200 years ago since the first Chinese settlers helped build a trading post in Nootka Sound in 1788. This article also shares an eye-opening timeline of significant dates and events that shaped the history of the Asian community in Canada.
In their long history, many incredible Asian Canadians have made a mark in a number of industries. Here are a few present-day individuals representing Canada and forging the way for future generations in their respective fields:
Politics and Sports:
Photo Credit: Stannard, G., 2022. The Honourable Norman L. Kwong. [online] Alberta.ca. Available at: <https://www.alberta.ca/aoe-norman-l-kwong.aspx> [Accessed 30 May 2022].
The Honourable Norman L. Kwong was born of Chinese heritage on October 24, 1929, in Calgary. Kwong became Alberta’s first Lieutenant Governor of Asian heritage in January 2005.
Before that he was known as the first Canadian of Chinese heritage to play in the Canadian Football League. He was born in Calgary after his parents immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s from Canton, China, despite having to pay the $500 head tax. Kwong began his professional football career in 1948, one year after Canadians of Chinese heritage gained the right to vote. Known as the “China Clipper,” he played for the Calgary Stampeders for three years before joining the Edmonton Eskimos. He retired from football in 1960 with six Grey Cup wins, being named “All Canadian Fullback” five times, two Schenley trophies as the league’s most outstanding player, and thirty league records. In recognition of his football career, Kwong was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998.
Photo Credit: David Suzuki Foundation. 2022. David Suzuki Archives – David Suzuki Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://davidsuzuki.org/expert/david-suzuki/> [Accessed 30 May 2022].
David Takayoshi Suzuki is a Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist born of Japanese heritage in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 24, 1936. Suzuki has received numerous honours and awards, including Officer of the Order of Canada in 1977 (later elevated to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2006); the Royal Bank Award; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Kalinga Prize for science writing in 1986; and a lifetime achievement award from the University of British Columbia in 2000. He is also the recipient of twenty-four honourary degrees from universities in Canada, the United States, and Australia; five Gemini Awards for his Canadian television efforts; and the John Drainie award for broadcasting excellence in 2002. In 2009, David Suzuki won the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” which recognizes outstanding vision and work for the planet and its people.
Photo Credit: Biography. 2022. Sandra Oh. [online] Available at: <https://www.biography.com/actor/sandra-oh> [Accessed 30 May 2022].
Sandra Miju Oh is a Canadian-American actress of Korean heritage born in Nepean, Ontario, on July 20, 1971. She is best known for her starring roles as Cristina Yang on the ABC medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy (2005–2014) and Eve Polastri in the spy thriller series Killing Eve (2018–present). She has received numerous accolades, including two Golden Globe Awards, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, and twelve Primetime Emmy Award nominations. In 2019, Time magazine named Oh one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Photo Credit: photo by David Holland, courtesy of Canadian Olympic Committee
Patrick Lewis Wai-Kuan Chan was born of Chinese heritage in Ottawa on December 31, 1990. Patrick is a Canadian figure skater and an Olympic gold and silver medalist. He is the 2018 Olympic gold medalist in the team event, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist in the men’s and team events, a three-time World Champion (2011–2013), a two-time Grand Prix Final Champion (2010, 2011), a three-time Four Continents Champion (2009, 2012, 2016), and a ten-time Canadian National Champion (2008–2014, 2016–2017). In 2011, Chan was named the recipient of the prestigious Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete, for setting three world records. Off the ice, he has also received numerous awards and recognitions. In 2007, he won the Chinese Canadian Youth of the Year award, and in 2008 he was named Asian of the Year in arts and sports by Asia Network magazine in 2008.
Check out this compelling TED Talk: “Redefining Asian American Narratives Through Storytelling” presented by Katarina Jeng and Kristie Mak who are co-founders of Slant’d, a media company that celebrates Asian American identity and the stories that make us human, at TEDxJHU.
To learn more about all the Asian Canadians who are flourishing in their fields, visit canada.com.