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What does Asian Heritage Month mean to you?

As part of Behaviour’s Asian Heritage Month celebrations, we are dedicating this edition of People of Behaviour to the reflections of six team members of Asian heritage on what this important month means to them and what they hope others get out of it.  

Their answers will inspire and challenge you, and we are truly thankful for the time and effort they put into writing them.

Va Diep – 葉玉華 

My Asian heritage is what defines me as a person. From an early age, I was immersed in the values of two Asian communities.

My parents fled the Cambodian civil war. They lost family members and close friends. They survived terror, famine, fled the Khmer Rouge, and saw their country collapse under bombardment. Born in Cambodia during those dark years, it was through their painful past that I learned sharing, solidarity, perseverance, resilience and above all, compassion.

My maternal grandfather being of Chinese origin, respect for elders, loyalty and the importance of family are values that have been instilled in me since my earliest days.

Asian Heritage Month is a good time to discover different Asian cultures, whether by participating in different cultural events, attending traditional shows, tasting different Asian dishes, or simply strolling through Chinatown to discover restaurants or specialty shops.

I hope that everyone will appreciate the culture and different values of each Asian community and that this will help combat racism, which has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each Asian community has its own history, values, traditions, and gastronomy, which are so worth discovering!

Chris Han – 한인철

The recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes and xenophobia underscores the urgent need to respect and celebrate the rich history, traditions, and achievements of Asian communities. As a South Korean immigrant, I have personally witnessed the invaluable contributions Asian Canadians have made across various sectors, such as technology, food and hospitality, healthcare, and culture.

The true essence of Asian Heritage Month lies in emphasizing the inherent equality of all ethnicities and races. We can join hands in shaping a more inclusive and harmonious society for present and future generations by recognizing and cherishing the contributions of every community.

During Asian Heritage Month, it is my heartfelt hope that individuals will open their hearts and minds to not only learn about Asian contributions but also to embrace the countless ways other countries have enriched our world. By exploring the diverse cultures, traditions, and accomplishments of Asian communities, we can cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation for the beautiful harmony that connects us all.

In Canada, a multicultural society, there is no such thing as a 100% Canadian. We all come from different backgrounds, yet we live together, united in our mission to nurture our society for the next generation. Our collective strength and unity stem from embracing and celebrating our unique differences, understanding that each culture and tradition holds equal value and warrants equal respect.

Sylvia Pan – 潘欣蕾

Asian Heritage Month is not only an occasion to celebrate the rich Asian histories and diverse cultures that have contributed to our society, but to highlight the different stories, experiences and challenges that come with having an Asian background. Like many young Asian Canadians, I have once felt that I had to choose between my Asian and Canadian identity. I was made to believe that to belong or to succeed in my own country of birth, I had to reject and dissociate from my Chinese heritage. It took personal growth to realize that it was a baseless rejection. This is why it is important to celebrate the duality of both Asian and Canadian backgrounds and that our differences are something to be valued and respected.

Through Asian Heritage Month, I want to welcome and encourage everyone to learn more about Asian-Canadian histories, cultures and life stories, creating an environment that facilitates cross-cultural communication and, through this dialogue, allowing us to break the barriers stemming from cultural unfamiliarity.

Lynn Lam

For me personally, Asian Heritage is a time for me to reflect on how my heritage has shaped me into the person I am today. My parents kept their traditional views and values when they immigrated to Canada and raised me and my sister as such. Inside our home, it was very traditional while outside the house we were Canadian. It was confusing and left me feeling like there were two versions of myself, the Vietnamese one and the Canadian one, and there was always this internal conflict between them.

Today, however, I’m grateful that my parents raised me in such a way, and that they passed on those traditional values to me. It’s a reminder to myself of who I am and my roots. And that’s very important to me – to not see the two cultures within me as a dichotomy, but as parts of a whole.

I hope people get to learn the stories of those from Asian heritage this month. With knowledge comes an opportunity to better understand one another and celebrate our differences.

Vi Le – Lê Vũ Vi

For a lot of my life, Asian Heritage Month was always simply about celebrating our accomplishments. It used to be just about recognizing Asian figures who made it in their respective fields and seeing the group shot of everyone who was successful and looked a little bit like me. Due to recent world events as well as my own coming into adulthood, Asian Heritage Month has since evolved into a much more nuanced discussion about the Asian diaspora and the challenges that come with it. It’s about recognizing our successes, but also about navigating our hardships. This time is important to me because it’s a platform to re-open and re-ignite important discussions about the Asian experience when it comes to racism, discrimination, identity, and history. Although these discussions can and should happen year-round, having this dedicated month is a great vehicle to concentrate our efforts and gain more visibility.

The main thing that I hope people take away from Asian Heritage Month is how diverse our community really is. We are not a monolithic group, and it’s important to remember that every region, country, and ethnic group has their own unique culture and experiences. East Asians tend to have more visibility in America, so it’s natural that their image may come to mind first. I would encourage people to take Asian Heritage Month as a push to explore cultures that don’t get as much attention.

Noeul Kang – 노을

Very often, understanding the modern history of a country allows you to deepen your knowledge and clarify questions you had about a specific aspect of a culture. For example, a friend asked me during a discussion about Korean cuisine why there are so many eggs in Korean recipes because he didn’t like eggs. I replied that meat is expensive, but an egg is an excellent source of protein that is cheap, so many recipes use eggs. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Korea hasn’t always been among the top 10 GDPs in the world – it endured colonization, a war and a dictatorship that caused enormous hardship and suffering. People who only know Korea’s modern K-Pop era may have trouble understanding this curious aspect of Korean cuisine. With history, you can take a step back and see things in context, which is very useful to fully understanding a culture.

I would like this month to allow people who are interested in Asian Heritage Month to:

  • Understand that we are all part of Quebec’s cultural fabric;
  • Reading and learning about history, heritage and culture is cool and helpful;
  • Engage in a healthy and intelligent discussion on these topics.
  • Not be embarrassed! We’re all learning together.