By Bill Tam, Co-Founder and COO of Digital Supercluster
In May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration designating May as Asian Heritage Month. Fast-forward almost 20 years and Asian Heritage Month is more relevant than ever. The theme this year is “Recognition, Resilience and Resolve”. In addition to honouring my culture’s contributions and strengths, this theme is a rallying cry for all Canadians to come together to oppose all forms of anti-Asian racism and discrimination.
Like many Chinese Canadians, for me, growing up in Canada wasn’t easy. Many of us spent our lives trying to compensate for the things that made us different. We tried our best to fit in – hoping that doing so would earn us the privilege of belonging.
This yearning to belong motivated us to constantly prove ourselves. And prove ourselves we did. We are now entrepreneurs, tech leaders, community icons, teachers, front-line and first responders, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, business executives, parents, friends and…your neighbor. Most of all, we’re Canadians. We are passionate about contributing to our communities and supporting the cultural diversity that defines our country.
We were making steady progress in demonstrating that we matter. Then COVID-19 hit.
In March 2020, the former U.S. President squarely blamed the pandemic on China by referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus.” Donald Trump’s inflammatory statement stoked the fires of intolerance and racism. Equally troubling, there have been countless cases of verbal and physical abuse against Canadians of Asian descent – fellow citizens, young and old. Innocent citizens who have been wrongly singled out and targeted.
It has been heartening recently to see Canadians taking a stand against anti-Asian racism. In late March, about 500 people gathered in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery to denounce systemic racism and hate crimes against Asian people. The people at this demonstration and other events across the country represented a variety of cultures and backgrounds. We are standing together to combat anti-Asian racism.
Coming together is what we do in Canada. We are all better and stronger when we celebrate our history and heritage while building understanding, celebrating diversity and fostering inclusion. It defines Canada. It defines Canadians.