Celebrating Asian Heritage Month

Apr 28, 2023

May is a time to celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions, and contributions of people of Asian descent and ensure the ongoing protection of their rights and freedoms in Nova Scotia and across Canada.

Canada is home to a large and diverse population of people of Asian descent with ties to all regions of the continent. Their communities have contributed significantly to Canada's social, cultural, and economic fabric, and have helped to shape our nation's identity.

Despite the contributions and successes of people of Asian descent, many continue to face systemic discrimination, racism, and violence. From the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act of 1923, the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II,  the Komagata Maru incident, to recent increases in anti-Asian hate crimes, people of Asian descent have faced significant threats to their rights, safety and freedom for generations in this country.

Grassroots community efforts led to the first celebrations of Asian Heritage Month in the 1990s. In December 2001, the Senate of Canada adopted a motion by Senator Vivienne Poy to designate May as Asian Heritage Month and this was officially declared in May 2002.

By celebrating Asian Heritage Month, we acknowledge the importance of diversity, and the contributions and successes of all people of Asian descent to our society. Throughout the month we are asked to reflect on the challenges that these communities have faced, and to commit to addressing the systemic discrimination and racism that continue to threaten their safety and sense of belonging.

The Human Rights Commission calls on all Nova Scotians to continue to be vigilant and stand up against discrimination to ensure our collective safety and security, in particular, in the ongoing climate of polarization, fear, and tension. This month is a reminder for all Canadians to come together to combat anti-Asian racism and discrimination in all its forms.

Cheryl Knockwood is the Chair of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She is a lawyer and currently works for the Membertou First Nation as its governance coordinator. She has taught Aboriginal and Treaty Rights at Cape Breton University.

What can you do to celebrate the month?

  • Participate in events and celebrations around the province
  • Organize events and share information on social media
  • Speak out against racism and misinformation
  • Continue to learn and raise awareness