This Asian Heritage Month, Canada’s unions are standing in solidarity with Asian workers and communities by calling for an end to anti-Asian racism.
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified historical xenophobic, anti-Asian sentiment and rhetoric, which has resulted in increased violence against members of Asian communities. Live data from Fight COVID Racism shows that from March 10, 2020 to mid-April 2021, there were 994 reported incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes across Canada.
“May is Asian Heritage Month, and we’re taking this opportunity to highlight the struggle Asian communities are currently facing,” said Larry Rousseau, CLC Executive Vice-President. “There is no place for hate in Canada, and Canada’s unions are committed to advancing anti-racism efforts to confront and counter hate, and promote safer workplaces and communities.”
Canada’s unions are marking Asian Heritage Month by honouring the historical struggles of people of Asian descent in Canada and the community activism that challenged this country’s racist and discriminatory laws, practices and policies.
Asian communities helped build this country, yet they have faced exploitation, discrimination and racism, both in their workplaces and broader society. From the internment and property seizure of Japanese Canadians, to Chinese migrant workers who were first brought to Canada to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, to the Vancouver anti-Asian riots in the early 1900s, to the Continuous Journey Regulation and the Komagata Maru incident, the history of Asian communities in Canada includes experiences of significant adversity, as well as hard-won triumphs.
Members of Asian communities overcame these struggles by coming together and organizing in order to successfully challenge racist and discriminatory immigration laws and practices. Today, Asian community members continue to contribute greatly to the economy and to Canadian society, and provide a rich diversity of heritage, culture and perspectives across all sectors and industries.
In addition to a rise in anti-Asian sentiment, the pandemic has also increased the exploitation of workers in Canada, including migrant workers—many of whom are South Asian and South-East Asian women.
Throughout the pandemic, essential and migrant workers have made critical contributions to the wellbeing and safety of our communities. However, many have been working in dangerous conditions and without adequate protections, leaving them vulnerable and dependant on employers.
“While we welcome the recent federal announcement regarding the introduction of pathways to permanent residency for temporary essential workers, more action is needed for workers,” said Rousseau. “The limited nature of this new policy means that countless workers will continue to fall through the gaps. We urge the federal government to offer these pathways to permanent residency to all migrant workers, which would provide them with access to the government supports and labour protections they need.”