Honouring Asian Heritage Month

May 11, 2022

Asian heritage is a tapestry of many diverse cultures, geographies, and languages.

In this month we welcome time to celebrate the joys of Asian Canadian heritage, along with recognizing the challenges facing the Asian community.

Under the leadership of Senator Vivienne Poy, Canada officially established Asian Heritage Month in 2002.  In her interview with U of T News, Poy shares that her motivation was to “give visibility to all Asians in Canada.”

The 2016 census reported there are more than six million people in Canada who have Asian origins.

There are many Asian Canadian leaders who are currently shaping the landscape of Canada’s healthcare system, and many Asian Canadian leaders who have broken barriers in the past.

For example, there’s the work of Dr. Theresa Tam, who has led Canada throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as Chief Public Health Officer, advising leaders and communicating key updates to the public.

There is also the historical achievements of Dr. Victoria Chung, who was the first Asian Canadian to earn a medical degree in Canada, at the University of Toronto in 1922.

However, there are still many unjust barriers that hinder opportunities and success for all people who identify as Asian.

People who identify as Asian are affected by xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and the intergenerational impacts of colonialism.

COVID-19 related anti-Asian violence is continuing to increase. Reports of racism increased by 47 per cent in 2021, with 51 per cent of incidents affecting people who identify as East Asian.

Within medical education, only 11 out of 1388 students across 14 Canadian medical schools identify as Filipino, despite being the fourth largest visible minority in Canada.

Anti-Asian discrimination is connected to all forms of explicit and internalized oppression that exist in our society.

As Amy Go shared in last month’s Diversity Dialogue, “when any community is being trampled on, we are being trampled on… if we are fighting for one, we are fighting for all.”

The Temerty Faculty of Medicine is committed to promoting awareness of racism against Asian people, and to the work needs to be done particularly within education and healthcare.

The Office of Inclusion & Diversity welcomes any feedback, collaboration or ideas from Asian community members in tackling this issue.

We respond to Amy Go’s call to action for U of T community members to question and challenge ourselves in advancing racial justice.

Here are some events and resources people can that you can begin to engage with for Asian Heritage Month:

Dr. Elsie Nguyen
University of Toronto Vice Chair on SIDE (Support, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity)
Temerty Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Lisa Richardson
Associate Dean, Inclusion & Diversity
Temerty Faculty of Medicine