Celebrating Canada this Asian Heritage Month

Celebrating Canada this Asian Heritage Month

As someone of Chinese descent who grew up in the bustling city of Mumbai, India, my love for Canada and its diverse tapestry has deepened over the years. However, this was not always the case.

My family moved to Toronto in 1990, fuelled with dreams of a better life, a new beginning, and a brighter future. The Welcome to Canada brochure we received showed amazing pictures of the Rockies, a friendly Mountie and the iconic CN Tower – symbols of a promising new world. I was amazed by this beautiful new country and couldn’t wait to get here. My first impression of the city was magnificent! It was everything that I had imagined. But, as my family settled in, the sense of possibility and acceptance we were presented started to fade.

Stock image of Canada
Typical images in Welcome to Canada brochures.

I remember a stark incident shortly after our arrival, when we were looking for an apartment in East York. We walked past a middle-aged couple who glared at us with palpable hostility and told us to “Go back to where you came from.” I was shocked and stunned. That moment shattered my perception of what I thought Canada was and highlighted the challenges my family would face here. I saw the disappointment in my parents’ faces. After all, they had given up everything to be here. Despite their entrepreneur experiences, my parents had to accept lower-level jobs, while my brother went from an advertising leader to a salesman before working his way back into the industry he loved. I was fortunate to come at an age where I could go to school and build the future I wanted.

This Asian Heritage Month, I would like to acknowledge the immigrant journey, acknowledging the resilience, courage and challenges many face.  I want to raise awareness of the richness and impact of newcomers to the amazing mosaic and multiculturalism of our beautiful country.

Today, 20% of Canada’s population is of Asian origin, a figure that continues to grow. In Toronto and Vancouver, this diversity is even more prominent – a group formerly known as visible minorities is now the majority in these cities. We see this change in our streets, restaurants, coffee shops and culture. My children who are now 18 and 12, thrive amidst Canada’s multicultural landscape, enjoying everything from bubble tea shops, spicy foods from Korea, China and India to the many Japanese Anime, Bollywood and Korean selections on Netflix.

As an East Asian who grew up in India, I no longer feel like an outsider but a proud participant in the Canadian narrative, blending my Chinese heritage with Canadian values.

This Asian Heritage Month, let’s celebrate the richness of Canadian culture, which is enriched by its newcomers who call Canada home. And let’s continue to extend a warm welcome to the many newcomers who might join us as colleagues or neighbours and do our best to help and support them. Here’s to a reflective and joyful Asian Heritage Month.

Patrick's mom and kids enjoying the many Asian desert restaurants on Bloor Street
Patrick's mom and kids enjoying the many Asian desert restaurants on Bloor Street

Written by Patrick Bhang