The Asian Profile in Canada

Asian-Canadian students convocating at the University of Western Ontario (courtesy Joey deVilla).

Canada's multicultural history now spans generations. There are differences among ethnic groups as to when each began to come in number, and therefore there are differences in their acculturation. Canada's Asian character is now regarded as simply part of the multicultural and multiethnic reality of Canadian society.

The participation of Asians in mainstream Canadian life has accelerated, firstly, because barriers of discrimination began to fall, especially after the Second World War, and also because Asians are an increasing presence in the larger population. Certainly, early "firsts" of achievement by Asians in what were previously White-dominated fields were notable, including for example, Asians who pioneered entry into certain professions or who held public office. However, first generation immigrants, recognized and lauded in their achievements, from sports to science and from business to literature, have also been and are the face of Canada to the world. Moreover, voices such as writer Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient, Anil's Ghost) and Rohinton Mistry (Such a Long Journey) evoke what may be a particularly Canadian sensibility, where we can speak with as much relevance of places far-away as near.

Canada's inclusiveness of minority groups is a process always in the making. Having visible minorities in our population is one thing, but the opportunity to fully participate and be fairly represented in work and play in daily life is another. Indeed, a perusal of job advertisements in newspapers reveals that many organizations, from governments to universities to police forces to corporations, recognize that further progress must still be made. Many of them dedicate staff, programs and positions to promote diversity and as well, "employment equity" (defined by federal legislation as fair representation of women, visible minorities, Aboriginals and the disabled).

As immigrant communities mature, their focus begins to shift from the necessities of jobs and economic security to engaging in and contributing to a society's cultural life. In Canada's artistic life, its Asian writers, who first began to publish in Canada in the 1960s, provide a feast at the national literary table. As of the late 1990s, Asian Heritage Month, with readings, film showings and live artistic performances, is celebrated every May in several cities across the country.

Learn more:
Multiculturalism
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act