This month workers from East Asia, South Asia, Western and Southeast Asia will celebrate Asian Heritage Month, recognizing the contributions and sacrifices made, and adversity overcome, by generations of Asians in Canada.
The Canadian Labour Congress recognizes the rich history of, and contribution by, Asian Canadians to the Canada we live in today. Celebrations will take place during the month of May, as will discussion and debate around finding collective solutions to end systemic racism.
Chinese labourers were first brought to Canada in the 1800s to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. They and other Asian immigrants worked in dangerous and difficult jobs, enduring rampant systemic racism, from government, their employers and in the communities they lived and worked in.
Over the years, Asian communities challenged that discrimination, became leaders in their communities and won the repeal overtly anti-Asian immigration laws and practices.
Today, however, legislation such as the so-called anti-terrorism Bill C-51, and the rhetoric being used to promote it, continues to target racialized communities, especially Muslims, the majority of which are of West and South Asian heritage (from Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey).
Bill C-51 is purportedly about protecting Canadians from terrorism, but undermines the freedom of Canadian citizens, especially those in racialized communities. It infringes on online privacy rights, encourages the continued use travel restrictions and no-fly lists, and censors advocacy and freedom of speech. This puts racialized communities at risk for direct discrimination. Bill C-51 not only competes with our charter of rights, it directly impacts the Muslim community.
Many Asian-Canadians continue to face discrimination based on creed. That will only get worse unless, in the 2015 federal election, we can win a new government that is truly committed to challenging and ending systemic and overt racism.