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Senators reflect on contributions of Asian heritage as Canada turns 150
PEOPLE
Senators reflect on contributions of Asian heritage as Canada turns 150
May 4, 2017

In 150 words or less, what would you like Canadians to know about Asian Heritage in Canada, particularly as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation?

Senator Salma Ataullahjan

There are millions of Asian Canadians from many backgrounds living in our country today, many of whom faced significant challenges on their path to Canada, as well as upon their arrival. Canadian history informs us about dark times faced by certain Asian-Canadian communities in the past. When dealing with challenges that some of these communities are facing today, let the lessons learned from those moments serve as reminders as we move forward in our next 150 years.


Senator Lillian Eva Dyck

Chinese Canadians have prospered in Canada and contributed to the fabric of society despite the fact that Canada did not always welcome Chinese immigrants the way it does today.

For example, my father came to Canada from China in 1912 as a 14-year-old. He faced many challenges, including discriminatory laws. He had to pay a head tax.  When he opened a business, a provincial law prevented him from hiring white women in his café. And he was unable to vote until 1945.

It has been more than 130 years since Chinese migration to Canada began. Chinese Canadians have thrived as business leaders, professionals, academics, artists and even as politicians.

The lesson to draw from the experience of Chinese migrants is how much a country can be strengthened by people looking for a new start.


Senator Tobias C. Enverga Jr.

In Canada’s 150th year, I think that Asian Heritage Month is more important than ever as a vehicle to assess and share Asian contributions to our country and its history. 

Asian countries like the Philippines, China and India have been the top source of Canadian immigrants for several years. 

As a Canadian of Filipino heritage, I am proud of being part of the group of immigrants with the highest employment rates in Canada.

When it comes to other contributions by Asian Canadians, I can proudly let you know that the Canada 150 logo that we have seen in so many places this year was designed by a Filipino-Canadian. Ariana Mari Cuvin won the nationwide design competition with her submission, making her community, of which I am a member, exceptionally proud. 


Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer

The past 150 years have given us much to celebrate about Canada. To me, our greatest gift is our pluralistic and multicultural society.

As a Senator of South Asian and African origin, I have worked diligently towards helping us learn about each other and our cultures.

This understanding creates an environment of collaboration, where we can work together to enrich our country by using our diverse experiences and backgrounds.

For example, one of the greatest strengths of South Asian culture is that our families are tied by close bonds that reach as far as our extended families and communities.

As members of the Canadian family, this means we look out for our fellow Canadians.

Please look forward to future events in your communities, which will help improve your understanding of our rich Asian culture.

I wish all Canadians a happy 150th anniversary of Confederation.


Senator Yonah Martin

Asian Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the long and rich history of Asian Canadians and their significant contributions to Canada.

Canadian missionaries first went to Korea in the 1880s to contribute in many ways. The first Koreans to arrive in Canada thereafter were seminary students; others followed.  In the 1950’s, more than 30,000 Canadians served in defence of democracy during the Korean War and after the signing of the Armistice.  Shortly after the war, the next wave of Koreans arrived in Canada in search of economic opportunities, dreaming of a better life for their children.

Today, Korean Canadians live in every major city and town, and own and operate businesses in nearly every corner of our vast country. Korean Canadians are represented in every profession and serve in uniform as proud members of various forces.

During Canada’s 150th birthday, we remember all those who have sacrificed and toiled to make Canada the magnificent country it is today.‎


Senator Thanh Hai Ngo

I think that many Canadians are unaware of the role that our country played in encouraging people of Asian heritage to choose to immigrate to Canada. Canadian society celebrates freedom and cultural diversity; today it provides a welcoming atmosphere to people from all cultures and regions, including Asian Canadians.

Beyond that, Canadian support for freedom and human rights abroad has had a huge impact on the Vietnamese-Canadian community. Many of us trace our roots in Canada back to the exodus of the boat people from Vietnam after 1975. Canada provided more than 60,000 of us with a refuge; today nearly 300,000 of us Canadians consider it home.

I and many other Vietnamese Canadians are proud to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and will champion our shared Canadian values in the future.


Senator Victor Oh

For Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, I sincerely hope that Canadians take the time to experience the rich cultural diversity of our great country. We are fortunate to live in a country that welcomes differences and views diversity as a strength.

Asian Heritage Month provides a wonderful opportunity to honour and celebrate the valuable contributions made by Asian Canadians as well as their histories, cultures and cuisines. It is important for all of us to explore and recognize the differences within our own cultures and those of others.

The Chinese-Canadian community, of which I am a proud member, is diverse in its origins, languages and traditions. While some arrived in recent decades, others are descendants of immigrants who came to Canada more than two centuries ago. However, as Canadians we all come together in support of the values we hold dear such as tolerance, respect and understanding.


Senator Ratna Omidvar

“Diversity is our strength” resounds down any immigration pathway from Asia to Canada. In these journeys of immigration and refuge, taken throughout our history, we find the ingredients that make Canada and Canadians who we are today. We find ambition, innovation, resilience and equanimity.

During this month of celebration and reflection, when we revisit the history of Asian immigration to Canada, we will find the good, the bad and the ugly. We will remember those who experienced the Chinese head tax, the Japanese internment, and the Komagata Maru denial of entry. At the same time, we will mark the contributions of Canadians like Samir Sinha, Deepa Mehta, Lata Pada, Rahul Singh, Kim Thuy, and Thorncliffe Park’s own Sabina Ali.

In each of their stories we can find this cause for celebration: Canadians of any background and immigration status can be active participants in shaping our country.


Senator Yuen Pau Woo

Canada’s connections to Asia are nearly as old as Confederation itself. One only needs to look at the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to come to this realization. The construction of the CPR, which used Chinese labourers, was not only a key factor in bringing the West into Confederation, but it was key in connecting Canada to Asia. As George Stephen, then-president of the railway noted in a message to former prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald, “The CPR is not completed until we have an ocean connection with Japan and China.”

Connections with Asia have been a fundamental part of Canada’s history. This connection between our two regions has produced meaningful economic and cultural ties, and continues to be an area of continued growth and opportunity.