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May 1, 2012
May 31, 2012
12:00 am
12:00 am

Asian Heritage Month

May is Asian Heritage month as declared by the Canadian government exactly 10 years ago. This year's theme is "Advancing Democracy, Strengthening Canada," as pronounced by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Mr. Kenny: "Each May we recognize the valuable contributions of Canadians of Asian descent in the development of Canadian history, identity, and society. Canadians of Asian descent will continue to shape our national story."

Let us celebrate the wonderful and meaningful contributions of all Canadians of Asian heritage.

Vivienne Poy

Born in Hong Kong, Poy moved to Canada in 1959 as a university student. She received a PhD in history at the University of Toronto. She enjoyed success as a fashion designer after founding Vivienne Poy Mode in 1981. In 1998, Poy became the first Canadian of Asian descent to be appointed to the Senate. As a member of the Senate, Poy proposed that May be Asian Heritage Month. As a result, May 2002 was Canada’s first celebrated Asian Heritage Month.

Adrienne Clarkson

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson came to Canada from Hong Kong as a child in 1942. She had an award-winning 18 year career with the CBC as one of Canada’s first female television personalities. In 1999, Clarkson became the first immigrant appointed Governor General of Canada. As Governor General, she worked to forge strong ties between the Aboriginal communities of the north and the rest of Canada.

Carol Huynh

Born to Chinese-Vietnamese refugees in British Columbia, Huynh started wrestling at the age of 15. She went on to win the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing for wrestling.


Chandrakant Shah is an Indian-born Canadian doctor and social activist. He has been a staff physician at Anishnawbe Health Toronto where he provides primary health care to Toronto’s aboriginal community as well as the homeless, the unemployed and children living in poverty. His textbook, Public Health and Preventive Medicine in Canada, is widely used by students from a range of health disciplines. He has won the Order of Ontario and an Outstanding Physician award from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

Zaib Shaikh was born in Toronto and is of Pakistani descent. He studied theatre at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He went on the direct and write the CBC adaptation of Othello. He is most known for his starring role on Little Mosque on the Prairie, a popular sitcom about a Muslim community living in rural Saskatchewan.

Sandra Oh was born in Ottawa to Korean immigrant parents. She studied drama at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, even though she had received a journalism scholarship from Carlton University. Her decision paid off: in 1994, Oh won a Genie Award for best actress for the Canadian film Double Happiness. She went on to star in the American film Sideways and her most notable role as a doctor in Grey’s Anatomy, a role for which she won a Screen Writers Guild Award and a Golden Globe.

David Suzuki  was born as a third-generation Japanese-Canadian in Vancouver. He suffered internment in British Columbia during World War II.  Suzuki grew up to earn a PhD in zoology. After studying in the states he returned to Canada to host several CBC programs, eventually leading up to The Nature of Things - a popular program on nature, the environment, and sustainability. In 1991, the David Suzuki Foundation was founded to promote environmental sustainability. In recent years, he has become a prominent spokesperson on climate change.

Rey Pagtakhan

Born and raised in Manila, Pagtakhan received his Doctor of Medicine at the University of the Philippines. He moved to Canada and became a Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health at the University of Manitoba. In 1988, he became the first Filipino-born Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons. In 2002, he became Minister of Veterans Affairs, and in 2003 - Minister of Western Economic Diversification, a post with which he created funding for the Winnipeg based International Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Baljit Sethi

Born in Lahore, India, Sethi immigrated to Canada in 1972.  In 1974, she began working with the Immigrant Services Society of BC as a family counselor and then as a Settlement Counselor, assisting newcomers to Canada with settlement services. Through 38 years of dedicated service to newcomers’ integration and the promotion of multiculturalism, Sethi has changed the community’s outlook. Although better known as an activist and advocate for immigrant women and seniors; she is also a known author, painter and performing artist and has been a source of inspiration to many.

Tak Wah Muk

Raised in Hong Kong, Dr. Mak is an award-winning researcher in the fields of biochemistry, immunology, and cancer genetics. His research concentrates on understanding the elemental biology of cells to determine how the immune system works and tumors form. He began his research at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, where in 1984 he solved one of immunology’s most complex problems when he discovered how the immune system recognizes pathogens. He continues to study the molecular biology of the immune system and of cancer. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada.