Special Recognition Award in memory of Gloria David



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” 100 Years of Loss” The Residential School System in Canada

100 Years of Loss Poster



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Save OMNI Campaign

#SaveOMNI Petition

On May 7, 2015, during Asian Heritage Month, Rogers Communications Inc. (Rogers) announced the elimination of all newscasts on its OMNI TV Stations. This decision was made without consultation of community members and leaders, who have watched and benefitted from OMNI TV for decades. Rogers has abandoned the spirit of OMNI TV’s license by eliminating local Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, and Italian news programming and systematically dismantling OMNI’s ability to meaningfully serve multilingual audiences. In doing so, Rogers has declared that Canada’s ethnocultural communities are unworthy of accessible, representative, meaningful news broadcasting. As in 2013, Rogers eliminated Portuguese news, South Asian news, and Diversity Programming (cutting 21 shows broadcast in 12 languages)*.

As concerned Canadians and community members, we ask the CRTC to review Rogers Communications Inc.’s breach of the mandate of Canada’s Broadcasting Act via their decision to eliminate all OMNI TV ethno-specific, multilingual newscasts.

Please see the attached open letter to the CRTC: http://urbanalliance.ca/2015/05/26/rogers-communications-inc-et-al-and-omni-tv-an-open-letter-from-concerned-canadians/

Here’s how you can help!

  1. Call your MP and MPP. Tell them to press Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), to convene an immediate hearing to review OMNI’s licence.
  2. Spread the word to friends and family, by circulating this email, and share it on social media like Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #SaveOMNI
  3. Tweet, blog, and sign the petition on change.org


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ACLA Member, Winnie Ng Receives Pioneers of Change Award



Migrating for a better future for their children, parents make huge personal sacrifices that sometimes take decades for them to recover.

When Toronto Police Services deputy chief Peter Sloly’s parents made the decision to leave Jamaica in 1976, they were successful professionals. Bringing their three boys to Toronto, however, came at a price as they had to give up a lot.

“I watched my mother (she was a social worker) for the better part of a decade struggle with depression about leaving her home, family, friends and career,” said Sloly, who is one of six recipients of this year’s Pioneers for Change (formerly New Pioneer) Awards. “Although she was bringing her kids for a better life, she was losing the best part of her life. My father left Jamaica as a lawyer with over a decade and a half experience as a partner in a major law firm in Kingston to arrive here, in another Commonwealth country, and find that his law degree was not accepted.

“Having arrived with a young family and a limited amount of liquid assets to keep us going, he was told he had to go back to complete his exams and then article again. That was not financially feasible. It was a huge loss in terms of his human capital and it took nearly two decades for him to reach back to a relative level of accomplishment.”

In his acceptance speech after being formally presented as a 2015 award winner, Sloly said more has to be done to capitalize on skilled foreign workers and expedite their entry into Canada for jobs that aren’t being filled by people already in Canada.

“We have an incredibly underemployed and underutilized group of workers driving taxis and doing menial jobs,” he said. “It’s amazing. We have communities that need capacity building, experts, doctors and engineers and yet there seems to be this experience of coming, having being recruited in some cases, only to find out that the ability to actually get through those doors are limited.”

While his parents’ transition wasn’t as seamless as they would have hoped, Canada has been a big beneficiary of their son’s athletic and administrative talents.

Sloly represented Canada in soccer at the junior and senior levels and when an injury cut short his playing career, he turned to policing and made the leap from beat constable to deputy chief in just 21 years.

The senior police officer is being recognized in the Excellence in Community Engagement category. He was the executive sponsor of the Police & Community Engagement Review (PACER) undertaken to re-evaluate the way in which law enforcement engages with the community. “One of the things that bind us together as recipients is courage to try to make difficult changes in a complex society like Canada,” said Sloly. “I believe that policing is at a crossroads. I believe we need courage and we need change and I will continue to do my very best within the policing context to provide that courage and make that change.”

Storyteller and businesswoman, Itah Sadu, is being honoured in the Excellence in Entrepreneurship category.

She and her husband, Miguel San Vicente, took ownership of A Different Booklist 19 years ago from Dr. Wesley Crichlow, a tenured associate professor who sold academic books that appealed to his Caribbean-Canadian gay and lesbian studies.

Sadu was unable to attend last week’s reception as she was at York University celebrating with graduating high school students. Three years ago, she conceived the idea for a one-kilometre walk that started at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute and concluded at York University with a celebration that included the presentation of medals, dancing, drumming and singing.

Other Pioneers for Change Award winners are Sri Lanka-born writer, Shyam Selvadurai; South Asian Autism Awareness Centre founding executive director, Geetha Moorthy; website editor, Gerard Keledijan; and educator and activist, Dr. Winnie Ng.

Skills for Change administer the awards that have been bestowed on 121 immigrants since 1993.

“Pioneers for Change represent the vision of a diverse and inclusive Canada,” said Skills for Change executive director, Surranna Sandy. “It is an ongoing commitment to identify the achievements of immigrants as well as breaking down barriers so that newcomers not only succeed, but thrive. Pioneers for Change are nation builders, incredible people who have made a significant and lasting contribution to Canada. As nation builders, they inspire newcomers to work towards their own success and follow their vision. They are exemplary citizens who have an immigrant story to tell.”

This year’s awards ceremony takes place on June 11 at St. James Cathedral Centre, starting at 6 p.m.

Proceeds accrued from the fundraiser will go towards programming for immigrant women and young people and help to launch the centre’s immigrant women breast cancer awareness program.

“This exciting new initiative will build on relationships between and across women to increase newcomer women’s knowledge of female-specific health issues and provide women with the tools they need to ensure that they become capable of conducting breast self-examinations and seek available medical treatment,” said Sandy.

Previous winners include Toronto Police Service Board chair, Alok Mukherjee; artistic director and choreographer, Patrick Parson; former City of Toronto diversity management manager, Ceta Ramkhalawansingh and educators, Vernon Farrell and Dr. Carl James.


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ACLA participants in City of Hamilton’s Road to Justice Exhibit and Educational

The City of Hamilton is currently displaying a special exhibit entitled “Road to Justice” which highlights the legal struggle for equal rights for Chinese Canadians.  The exhibit, curated by the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, has been on display since the beginning of April.  To draw attention to this important piece of work, the city’s Access and Equity Office organized an educational workshop on April 24, 2015 that was attended by local community members and schools.  ACLA was invited to participate in the event and presented on the topic of social activism within the Chinese community.

In recognition of Asian Awareness Month which is celebrated every year in May, we would like to share with you a piece of Asian Canadian history.  Jennifer Mak talks about the exhibit and the important contribution Chinese Canadians have made.


The “Road to Justice” exhibit is a great opportunity to learn about the legislated racism that people of Chinese descent have experienced in Canada. Essentially, legislated racism is racism that is legal based on laws passed by the government.

History includes all events, both good and bad, many of which are interconnected. Take for instance the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).  The building of this railway system in the late 1800s is a great moment in our history, as it connected Canada from coast-to-coast.

However, while Chinese workers played an important role in the construction of the CPR, the racism they faced represents a not-so-great aspect of our history.  Due to a shortage of workers in B.C., Chinese workers were brought in from China to help with the construction of the CPR and sent back to China after the railway was completed.

It is important to understand that the past has not necessarily ‘passed’ in that the consequences of some historical events have played a part in shaping the present-day realities of some communities.  As such, there is a connection between the past and the present, and this connection may have an impact on the future.

Furthermore, some practices, laws, and systems continue today, appearing in slightly different forms.  For instance, you may have heard about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which recruits workers from other countries to fill work shortages; once workers’ employment contracts are over, they must return to their home countries. One could say that the Chinese workers, who helped build the CPR, were one of the first temporary foreign workers in Canada.

Racism, in its many different shapes and forms, is not a thing of the past.  This is why we must continue to discuss, address, and stand-up against racism, both individually and together as a community.

Canada is made up of multiple communities with multiple histories.  However, the histories, struggles, achievements, and contributions of some groups, e.g. Aboriginal peoples and communities of color or racialized communities, are often sidelined, selectively represented, or misrepresented.

It is therefore difficult to understand how Canada became what it is today without understanding the histories and contexts of all communities. Moreover, this isn’t just Chinese history, it’s everyone’s history.  It is Canadian history.

62 years of legislated racism  Road to justice pic with Jen Mak who belongs

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ACLA on Talking Radical Radio


Pro-Worker, Anti-Racist: The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance
By Scott Neigh

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Anna Liu and Patricia Chong. They are both long-time labour activists and members of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA), a network of Asian-Canadian labour and community activists with chapters in Ontario and British Columbia.

It’s a well-worn labour movement slogan: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” It’s an expression of unity, of solidarity, of shared burden. But of course the labour movement is constituted by human beings, and it is not separate from our broader social world that is so painfully riven with oppressions, marginalizations, and exclusions, so sometimes that slogan of determined unity is more aspirational than actual, or is at least incomplete in its realization — some injuries get treated as less important or nonexistent, and some people are excluded from or marginalized within the “all.” To name just one axis along which this sometimes occurs, though decades of anti-racist struggle within and beyond the labour movement have won important victories to reduce barriers, there is still the need for further work to ensure that racialized workers and the issues of racialized communities are at the centre of labour’s agenda.

In one instance of how this work has been and continues to be pushed forward, a handful of Asian-Canadian trade union activists in the late 1990s decided that they needed to create a more formal network bringing together worker-activists of East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, and West Asian heritage as a way to push for a more thorough-going realization of that slogan in a number of different senses. And still today, ACLA works to strengthen an Asian-Canadian labour identity and labour presence in Asian communities; to raise the profile of Asian-Canadian labour issues; to fight for social, economic, and political justice for all; to foster Asian-Canadians in leadership roles in the labour movement and in the broader society; and to challenge racism in the labour movement. Anna Liu and Patricia Chong talk with me about the origins of the group and about the important pro-worker and anti-racist work that it does within the labour movement and in the broader community.

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Globe and Mail: Op-Ed by Avvy Go, Dora Nipp and Winnie Ng in Response to UNB Professor

What This UNB Professor Practices Is Intolerance, Not sociology
By Avvy go, Dora Nipp and Winnie Ng

Ricardo Duchesne’s intolerant statements will run the risk of inciting fear and resentment toward Canadians of Asian heritage by reinforcing stereotypes

Avvy Go is clinic director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic; Dora Nipp is CEO of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario; and Winnie Ng is the CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University.

Amid growing controversy over the published views of Professor Ricardo Duchesne, who has repeatedly argued that Asian-Canadians are harmful to the country, the University of New Brunswick is cowering behind academic freedom without adhering to its tenets. Mr. Duchesne spreads falsehoods about an entire community and in doing so betrays the standards of academia by engaging in racial caricature and perpetuating intolerance.

Mr. Duchesne’s writing has anti-Asian themes; most recently, he asserted that Asian immigration has “damaged Vancouver” and the speed of this migration has transformed Vancouver from a once “beautiful British city” to one of “Asian character.” Mr. Duchesne’s posts appear on a website he co-founded, which self-describes itself as a “group of public-minded individuals who believe the European heritage and character of Canada should be maintained and enhanced.” In a May, 2014, post he warned of a “re-imagining the history of Canada in such a way that white Europeans are portrayed as oppressors and non-whites as victims with the goal of taking Canada away from the Europeans and transforming the nation into multicultural and multiracial society.” Efforts by Asian- and African-Canadians to claim their rightful place in Canadian history are framed by Mr. Duchesne as “assaulting European civilization.”

In claiming this, Mr. Duchesne ignores the historical fact that the “founding” of Canada took place on the land of indigenous peoples, and that in the name of “preserving European civilization” systemic exclusion and colonial domination has been inflicted on the First Peoples. It is hard to avoid reading Mr. Duchesne’s notion of “European civilization” and “Britishness” as something resembling white supremacy.

It matters not to individuals like Mr. Duchesne that Chinese people first landed on Canada’s west coast in 1744, came to pan for gold in 1858, and in 1881 were brought to Canada to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway. It appears immaterial to Mr. Duchesne that Chinese-Canadians have a longstanding presence in Canada. Similarly, South Asians have made Canada their home since the turn of the last century.

Despite their contributions, Chinese faced tremendous discrimination in Canada. As soon as the railroad was completed, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald imposed a head tax on all Chinese immigrants and denied them the right to vote. In the shadow of federal anti-Chinese legislation emerged provincial and municipal laws and regulations that had impacts on the social, economic and political life of the Chinese – including those born in Canada. These were carried out in the name of preserving the “European” character of Canada. Meanwhile, South Asian immigrants – who were part of the British Empire – did not fare well either, as their entrance was curtailed by the Continuous Passage Regulations in 1908.

Mr. Macdonald’s legacy, both good and bad, is now being examined as Canadians celebrate his 200th birthday. His supporters argue we should not apply today’s ethical standard to judging his racially discriminatory acts. If the first Prime Minister had time as his defence, what is Mr. Duchesne’s excuse? After all, it is 2015 and one expects a more enlightened populace today – one that includes all peoples and rejects the portrayal of Canada as one preserved for “Europeans” only.

Duchesne is a professor of history and sociology, but he has brought the academic profession into disrepute.

Mr. Duchesne’s intolerant statements will run the risk of inciting fear and resentment toward Canadians of Asian heritage by reinforcing stereotypes of the ethnic Chinese as perpetual foreigners. He glorifies scholarship and writing that fuels xenophobia and provides fodder for white supremacy. Mr. Duchesne is a unicultural ideologue. As an academic discipline, sociology is interested in examining the truths and motives behind cultural mythologies, not in perpetuating them. Duchesne’s rants are an apostasy to sociological thinking.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada’s Statement on Academic Freedom (2011) affirms that unlike the broader concept of freedom of speech, academic freedom must be based on institutional integrity, rigorous standards for enquiry and institutional autonomy. The Statement sets out the responsibilities of academic freedom, which include: evidence and truth must be the guiding principles; academic freedom should be exercised in a reasonable and responsible manner; faculty must be committed to the highest ethical standards in their teaching and research; faculty should examine data, question assumptions and be guided by evidence; and faculty and university leadership are obligated to ensure that students’ human rights are respected.

The purpose of academic freedom is to prevent a chill on the pursuit of knowledge and to safeguard diverse viewpoints. However, in Canada no right is absolute; in the case of academic freedom, this right starts to unravel when academics hide behind academic freedom to espouse untruths that actually inflict harm. If the staff and faculty of UNB are truly committed to academic freedom and academic excellence, they should join the Asian Canadian community in condemning racism in any form in Canada.


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ACLA at the 2014 Chinese Railroad Workers Ceremony

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Saturday, May 31, 2014 Asian Awareness Event

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The Continuing Legacy of the Komagata Maru/May 23, 2014
A century ago on May 23rd in 1914, the Komagata Maru, a ship of migrants from India sailed into the western shores of what is now called British Columbia, Canada, in the traditional territories of the Coast Salish groups of First Nations Peoples.  Upon the Komagata Maru’s arrival to Canadian shores, immigration and security officials intercepted the vessel and the 375 passengers on board were prohibited from disembarking. For months the passengers remained detained on board the ship, with dwindling supplies, while Canadian immigration officials plotted means to remove them from Canada for violating the continuous journey provision of the Immigration Act.  The continuous journey provision, drafted with the specific intention to prevent “undesirable” migrants from India, required that all immigrants must come to Canada by a continuous journey from their country of birth or citizenship, an impossible feat from India.
Komagata Maru in Vancouver Harbour.jpg

The passengers of the Komagata Maru, led by Gurdit Singh, launched a legal challenge to be allowed to remain in Canada arguing that the continuous journey provisions were discriminatory.  The case was heard by the British Colombia Court of Appeal, which ruled that the passengers aboard were inadmissible to Canada for violating the continuous journey regulation.  This was the first instance in Canadian history where a boat of migrants was explicitly rejected from Canada’s shores.   Decades later Canada would repeat this failure to uphold humanitarian ideals when it refused to allow the S.S. St. Louis, a ship of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany, to dock in Canadian shores.

The Komagata Maru is exemplary of Canada’s history of racism and exclusion in its social, political and legal institutions.  In his reasoning, Justice McPhillips one of the three judges to hear the case, stated that it is “[b]etter that peoples of non-assimilative – and by nature properly non-assimilative – race should not come to Canada, but rather, that they should remain residence in their country of origin and there do their share, as they have in the past, in the preservation and development of the Empire.”  Justice McPhillips attitude towards non-white migration was reflective of many white Canadians at the time, including both working class and organized labour movements as well as the capitalist classes.

Weeks after the court’s decision, the Komagata Maru, and its defeated passengers, were escorted out of Canada by a military warship.  Two months later, when the Komagata Maru reached colonial British India, the ship was intercepted and police opened fire on the passengers as they disembarked in Budge Budge. Twenty-two people were massacred. The continuous journey provision remained a fixture in Canadian immigration law until1948 when it was removed by a government led by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who ironically drafted the regulations in the first instance.

The Komagata Maru tragedy was not the first, nor was it the last, instance of exclusionary laws that targeted racialized migrants. The Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion laws, the internment of thousands of Japanese Canadians during World War II, and turning away the SS St. Louis, indicate that Canada has long and sordid history of racist migration laws designed to exclude and limit the arrival of migrants constructed to be undesirable.

Moreover, Canada’s history of racial exclusion through policies, practices and laws that continue to subjugate the First Nations peoples in Canada, as well as racialized groups, should not be overlooked or forgotten because of its present day diversity. Canada’s ethnic, racial, cultural and religious diversity is a result of resistance by those groups to legally instituted practices of exclusion and racism.

In fact, many of these exclusionary policies continue to persist in modern forms, such as the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, which creates a pool of low wage vulnerable workers who have limited avenues to achieve permanent residency or citizenship in Canada, while being separated from their families for years. The Temporary Foreign Workers Program largely exploits the labour of racialized workers by placing them in a perpetual state of temporariness, without adequate avenues for these workers to achieve permanent immigration status.

Canada has often straddled the spectrums between exclusion and inclusion in its migration policies largely shaped by economic and capital interests.  Over the course of the last century this has not changed much as exemplified by the current debates and discourses around the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

Let us not only reflect upon and actively remember our past injustices and closely examine our current practices, but also strive to ensure that vulnerable and marginalized migrants are given fair opportunities to achieve full citizenship rights.

Harini Sivalingam is a lawyer, community activist and a PhD student in Socio-Legal Studies at York University.

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