May is Asian Heritage Month. As we celebrate, we also take this opportunity to honour the activism of people of Asian descent for human rights and social justice in Canada. It’s important for each of us to reflect on how diverse struggles against oppression strengthen us as a labour movement and in our communities.

Some of these struggles include 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, the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, and the Komagata Maru incident.

For this year’s Asian Heritage Month, CUPE is calling on the federal government to take the following actions:

  • Repeal Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which threatens the civil liberties and democratic freedoms of all people living in Canada, putting people of colour at particular risk.

  • Respond to the demands of migrant workers in relation to the Temporary Foreign Worker 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, and ensure that labour legislation in Canada recognizes and protects these vulnerable workers.

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

  • Add your voice to the No More Operating in the Dark campaign, to compel Mark’s, Sport Chek and Canadian Tire to raise their human rights standards in the factories they source from Bangladesh.

  • Endorse the Sanctuary City concept, so that people are able to access public services without fear of their migrant status. Learn about Sanctuary city movements in cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa.

  • 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.