Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

May 10, 2011 16:45 ET

Recognizing Asian Workers as Part of Canadian Heritage

OFL Statement on Asian Heritage Month, 2011

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 10, 2011) - This month, as Canadians celebrate May as Asian Heritage Month, a fleet of Toronto airport limo drivers – nearly all of which are of South Asian decent – remain locked out by their employer. Only last month, the Supreme Court of Canada denied an almost entirely racialized farm worker population the right to union representation and collective bargaining. These setbacks are a stark reminder of the precarious employment conditions that face so many new immigrants and racialized people in Canada.

"Many Asian and South Asian people in Canada continue to face harassment and discrimination in the workplace and in society. They have become a very active and vibrant community in challenging racism in all of its forms and making Canada a better place to live and work for everyone," said OFL President Sid Ryan.

Asian Heritage Month provides annual recognition and celebration of the presence, heritage and cultures of Asian and South Asian people in Canada. For many, the month of May is a time to recognize the early arrival of Asian people from various Asian countries and the Indian subcontinent to the Americas. However, many other Asians have travelled to Ontario from such places as Uganda, Kenya, Australia, South Africa, Mauritius, Fiji, United Kingdom, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, to name a few. Today, a diverse Asian population makes up a significant proportion of Ontario's population. Proudly drawing upon their richly varied traditions and heritage, Asian people contribute to many aspects of culture, commerce and public service across the province.

Unfortunately, Asian workers are no strangers to exploitation and racism in Canada. Since the first Asian workers arrived in Canada to build transcontinental railway or work in the lumber mills, coal mines and fisheries, Asian immigrants often face racism, unsafe work and attacks on their rights. Racist attitudes towards Asian people have informed discriminatory laws and policies and continue to appear in society and in the media.

"The now infamous 'Too Asian' article, published in Maclean's magazine last year, demonstrated that need to continue to challenge such toxic and hateful mindsets," said OFL Vice-President Representing Workers of Colour Elizabeth Ha.

"The trade union movement must not only support our Asian members and allies, but we must also acknowledge their activism in our communities and unions everyday. Their accomplishments are a vital part of Canadian history," said OFL Executive Vice-President Terry Downey.

The OFL and its affiliates are encouraging their members to participate in the celebrations of Asian Heritage Month across Ontario. On May 3, the OFL joined the CLC and several affiliates in co-hosting the 3rd Annual May Day & South Asian Heritage Celebration with the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA). Please see pictures from the event on our website at www.OFL.ca.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. The OFL continues to challenge racism, prejudice, discrimination and exploitation in all of its forms.

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