May is Asian Heritage Month, an opportunity to learn about the culture and the history of activism of people of Asian descent. It’s an important occasion for all people to reflect on how challenging  oppression strengthens our labour movement and our communities.

Oppression has presented itself in many forms, including the Chinese Exclusion Act and the so-called Head Tax, the denial of the right to vote or to run for public office, the exploitation of Chinese railway workers, and the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

The Komagata Maru incident was a particular low point in Canada’s human rights history, and CUPE welcomes Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement of his intention to offer an apology for the federal government’s racist actions. 

Beyond apologies, government action is required to challenge oppression that exists today. CUPE calls on the federal Liberal government to:

  • Repeal Bill C-51, Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act, which threatens the civil liberties and democratic freedoms of all people living in Canada, putting racialized and marginalized communities at particular risk.
  • Respond to the demands of migrant workers for the same basic rights as other workers in relation to the Temporary Foreign Worker and Live-In Caregiver programs, which supply a source of cheap, highly exploitable labour for Canadian businesses.
  • Ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention 189 for Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention, and ensure that labour legislation in Canada recognizes and protects these vulnerable workers.

CUPE also encourages members and locals to take action during Asian Heritage Month:

  • Support the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada’s demands to the federal government and sign the petition
  • Endorse the Sanctuary City concept, that people are able to access public services without fear of revealing their migrant status.Learn about sanctuary city movements in cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Hamilton.
  • Register for CUPE’s new human rights course to develop the skills and perspectives needed to build a stronger union. Look for it at a CUPE school near you.