May is Asian Heritage Month, an opportunity to celebrate the rich and varied contributions of people of Asian descent to Canada’s social, economic and cultural fabric. It’s important for each of us to reflect on how cultural diversity today continues to strengthen us as a labour movement and in our communities.
It’s also important to remember the significant human rights struggles that Asian people have experienced in Canada since they began to arrive 200 years ago. Some of these struggles included 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.
Recently, people of Asian decent living in Canada have faced a number of challenges, including the following:
- Bill C-51, Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act, threatens the civil liberties and democratic freedoms of all people living in Canada, putting people of colour at particular risk.
The Temporary Foreign Worker and Live-In Caregiver programs are designed to supply a source of cheap, highly exploitable labour for Canadian businesses. As of April 1, 2015, the government’s recent ‘4 and 4’ rule, which limits how long temporary foreign workers can stay in Canada, is causing what some have called the largest deportation in Canadian history.
This year, during Asian Heritage Month, take some time to learn about and celebrate Asian cultures, and learn about the struggles many continue to face.
- Write to your MP to protest Bill C-51 – Despite mass protests across the country, the Harper government refuses to budge on the Anti-Terrorism Act. Learn more here.
- Learn about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Live-In Caregiver Program and how you can get involved.
Register for CUPE’s new human rights course to develop the skills and perspectives needed to build a stronger, more inclusive and diverse union. Look for it at a CUPE school near you.
CUPE stands in solidarity with Asian workers and recognizes the enormous contributions they have made in building our communities, our labour movement and our country. Asian Heritage Month is an invitation to celebrate human rights and labour activism, within Asian communities and to engage in conversations about current struggles for human rights.