Noteworthy Canadians of Asian descent— Asian Heritage Month
These short biographies highlight some of the many valuable contributions made by Canadians of Asian descent. They reflect historical and cultural milestones that help define the rich and significant history of communities of Asian descent in Canada.
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Professor Payam Akhavan was born in Iran and became a Canadian citizen in 1980. At the age of 26, he became the youngest prosecutor of war crimes in the history of the United Nations.
He received his Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree from Harvard Law School, and was a senior fellow at Yale Law School. Payam Akhavan is also the founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, Prosecutor of the Iran People’s Tribunal, and a member of the UK Child Sex Abuse People’s Tribunal. He has contributed to the activities of numerous non-governmental organizations and grassroots survivors’ groups.
He is an international lawyer and a professor at McGill University. He is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague and a designated arbitrator/conciliator at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank Group. He is a senior fellow at Massey College at the University of Toronto, and is a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He is also a senior fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
The Honourable Bardish Chagger was born in Waterloo, Ontario and is of South Asian descent. Minister Chagger was elected in 2015 as the Member of Parliament for Waterloo. She was the first woman to serve as Government House Leader in Canada and is the first Minister of Diversity and Inclusion.
Minister Chagger is devoted to inclusion and community building. From assisting with recreational sports for kids to volunteering with seniors, she is committed to strengthening the bonds of the Waterloo community.
In an earlier role with the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, Minister Chagger worked to foster diversity within the community and provide opportunities for social and economic engagement. As an executive assistant to former Member of Parliament Andrew Telegdi, she gained a deep understanding of the issues of importance to residents of Waterloo, including manufacturing, technology, and innovation.
Passionate about community involvement, Minister Chagger has lent her support to many different causes and organizations, including the Rotary Club of Waterloo, Interfaith Grand River, and the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin.
Minister Chagger considers herself part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms generation, and has participated in policy conferences on many issues, including the advancement of same-sex marriage rights and a national manufacturing strategy.
She graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Science. In 2012, the Waterloo Region Record recognized Minister Chagger as one of “40 under 40” who would lead the Region of Waterloo into the future.
Patrick Lewis Wai-Kuan Chan was born in Ottawa on December 31, 1990. Patrick is a Canadian figure skater of Chinese descent, and an Olympic gold and silver medalist. He is the 2018 Olympic gold medalist in the team event, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist in the men’s and team events, a three-time World Champion (2011–2013), a two-time Grand Prix Final Champion (2010, 2011), a three-time Four Continents Champion (2009, 2012, 2016), and a ten-time Canadian National Champion (2008–2014, 2016–2017). In 2011, Chan was named the recipient of the prestigious Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete, for setting three world records. Off the ice, he has also received numerous awards and recognitions. In 2007, he won the Chinese Canadian Youth of the Year award, and in 2008 he was named Asian of the Year in arts and sports by Asia Network magazine in 2008.
William "Bill" Gun Chong
William “Bill” Gun Chong was born in Vancouver on October 14, 1950. He is the only Canadian of Chinese descent to be awarded the British Empire Medal, the highest honour given by the British government to non-British citizens. In 1941, while visiting his sister in Hong Kong, he was captured by the Japanese. He escaped and volunteered with the British Army Aid Group of the British Military Intelligence Section, MI-9, and served as “Agent 50” (“five-oh”). Between 1942 and 1945, Chong travelled alone through China, dressed as a peasant to avoid outlaws and enemies. His mission was to bring escapees from occupied territories to freedom and to deliver medical supplies. He was captured by the enemy three times and escaped each time. The exact number of escapees rescued by William Chong is unknown, but there were many who owed their freedom, or even their lives, to “Agent 50.” After the war he moved to Vancouver Island, where he operated a Chinese café. William Chong died in 2006; he was 95 years old.
Jim Chu was born in 1959 in Shanghai, China; he is a Canadian of Chinese descent.
He received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Simon Fraser University, and an MBA from the University of British Columbia while also completing police training. Chu has held a number of different positions in the police force, including Sergeant, Inspector, and Deputy Chief. In May 2007, the Governor General of Canada awarded Chu the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, and in 2015, he was promoted to the rank of Commander within the Order of Merit of the Police Forces for service beyond the call of duty. On June 21, 2007, Chu was named as Chief Constable of the Vancouver Police Department, and for the next eight years, he headed up initiatives to reduce crime, improve relations with marginalized people in downtown Vancouver, and advocate for the mentally ill. In May 2015, Chu was recognized for his decades of service, becoming the first municipal police officer in British Columbia to be issued a provincial commission.
The Order of Merit of the Police Forces recognizes senior members of police departments for their rank, professionalism, and dedication to policing, and takes after the military tradition of officer commissions.
The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Adrienne Clarkson was born on February 10, 1939, in Hong Kong; she is a Canadian of Chinese descent. Adrienne immigrated to Canada as a child in 1942, when her family left Hong Kong after the colony surrendered to the Japanese.
Adrienne Clarkson was the 26th Governor General of Canada. The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson was also one of television’s first female on-camera personalities. She had an award-winning 18-year career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as host-interviewer for the programs Take Thirty, Adrienne at Large and The Fifth Estate. She served as Ontario’s Agent General in Paris from 1982 to 1987 and as president of McClelland & Stewart from 1987 to 1989. In 1989, she returned to broadcasting as executive producer and host of CBC’s national arts showcase Adrienne Clarkson Presents. On September 8, 1999, Adrienne Clarkson became the Governor General of Canada. Among her successes in the vice-regal position were forging stronger ties between Canada and its northern Indigenous populations and bringing a sense of modernity to the traditional role.
The Honourable Harbance Singh (Herb) Dhaliwal
Harbance Singh (Herb) Dhaliwal, was born in Punjab, India, in 1952; he is a Canadian of Indian descent. He grew up in Vancouver, and graduated from the University of British Columbia, where he was active in student politics. In 1993, he was elected to the House of Commons, as the Member of Parliament for Vancouver South. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien recommended Dhaliwal’s appointment to Cabinet, where he served as the first Indian Canadian to become a federal cabinet minister (in 1997 as Minister of Revenue). In 1999, he became Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and in 2002 he was appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Minister with political responsibility for British Columbia. To mark Canada’s 150th birthday in 2007, Dhaliwal was profiled as one of 150 noteworthy British Columbians by the Vancouver Sun on June 14, 2017.
Inspector Baltej Singh Dhillon
Baltej Singh Dhillon was born in Malaysia in 1966 and immigrated to Canada in 1982.
When Baltej Singh Dhillon was accepted into the RCMP, he had to find a way to reconcile his sense of duty to Canada with his religion. At the time, service in the RCMP required a clean-shaven face and wearing the historic uniform, including the issued headgear. As a Sikh, Dhillon’s religious obligation required having a beard and wearing a turban. He chose to fight for his religious rights, which sparked a debate across the country. Some contended that tradition was being sacrificed, while others argued that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in granting freedom of religion as well as the right to equality, disallows discrimination based on religion. On March 15, 1990, the federal government removed the ban on turbans. Following graduation from RCMP training, Dhillon went on to enjoy a long career in the RCMP. His first posting as a Constable was with a small RCMP detachment in Quesnel, BC. He later worked in Surrey as a specialist in interrogation and polygraph testing, helping to investigate the 1985 Air India bombing. By 2016, he had risen to the rank of Inspector, and was in charge of the force’s Operational Readiness and Response program.
Thomas Fung was born in Hong Kong in 1951; he is a Canadian of Chinese descent who immigrated to Canada on July 1st, 1967.
He is a businessman and philanthropist who graduated from Magee High School in Vancouver. Fung founded the Fairchild Group, a $350 million media and real estate empire which runs Chinese-language television networks and radio stations. He also built Asian-themed shopping malls, such as the Aberdeen Centre. Time Magazine ranked Fung as one of the most influential people in Canada. Fung provides philanthropic support to non-profit organizations such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Conservatory of Music, Children’s Hospital, United Way, World Vision, and others.
Sudarshan Gautam was born in the Ramechhap district in Nepal in 1978, and is a Canadian of Nepalese descent. He is the first individual without arms to climb Mount Everest without the use of prosthetics, having accomplished this feat on May 20, 2013. Gautam had to have both of his arms amputated as a result of a childhood accident. He was determined to be successful despite his physical disability, by getting his name into the Guinness Book of World Records. Gautum immigrated to Canada in 2007, intent on showing off his athletic abilities. Prior to conquering Mount Everest (8,848 metres), he reached the peaks of Mount Ramdung (5,925 metres) and Mount Yala (5,732 metres). In June 2013, NRN Canada honoured Gautam as an outstanding Nepali Diaspora member. In 2014, he was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame. In May 2017, he received the South Asian Canadian Trailblazers Award.
Margaret Jean Gee was born in 1927 in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is a woman of many firsts. Three years after the Law Society lifted the restrictions against females of Chinese heritage joining the profession, Gee enrolled in law school at the University of British Columbia and became the first woman of Chinese descent to graduate from law in 1953. At the age of 26, she was called to the bar in British Columbia and became the first woman of Chinese descent to be admitted to the bar in Canada in the process. Having opened her private practice in 1955 in Vancouver, she also became the first Chinese-Canadian woman to become a lawyer in British Columbia. Moreover, Gee was also the first Canadian female of Chinese heritage to have served as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserves.
Chan Hon Goh
Chan Hon Goh was born in 1969 in Beijing and is of Chinese descent.
Her beginnings in ballet were not auspicious; her parents, both dancers, thought she was unsuited for ballet and encouraged her to play the piano. However, at age 9, Goh began studying ballet with her aunt at the Vancouver Academy of Music. Chan Hon Goh was trained at the Goh Ballet Academy, which was founded by her parents, Choo Chiat Goh and Lin Yee Goh, in 1978. She entered the National Ballet of Canada in 1988, and was appointed Second Soloist in 1990 and First Soloist in 1992. She became a Principal Dancer in 1994. She left dancing in 2009, with a farewell performance of Giselle. She is the co-founder of Principal Shoes, which offers a successful line of pointe shoes and dance footwear. Since 2010, she has been the director of the Goh Ballet Academy and Youth Company.
Hiromi Goto was born on December 21, 1966, in Chiba, Japan, and is a Canadian of Japanese descent. Hiromi is a writer, editor and instructor of creative writing. Her work is influenced by her father’s stories of life in Japan and the Japanese stories her grandmother told her when she was growing up. Her writing commonly explores race, gender and cultural experiences.
Her first novel, Chorus of Mushrooms, is about finding one’s identity in the face of alienation. She was the 1995 recipient of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in Canada and the Caribbean Region, and the co-winner of the Canada-Japan Book Award. In 2001, she was awarded the James Tiptree, Jr., Award and was short-listed for the regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best Book Award, the Sunburst Award and the Spectrum Award.
Goto has been the writer-in-residence for numerous institutions, including Athabasca University, the University of Alberta, Simon Fraser University, the Vancouver Public Library and Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
Shadow Life, Hiromi Goto’s first graphic novel, was released on March 30, 2021, and is #3 on the Vancouver Sun’s International Bestseller list.
Naranjan Singh Grewall
Naranjan Singh Grewall was born in East Punjab. Elected in 1954, he was the first Indo-Canadian Mayor of Mission, British Columbia, and the first Indo-Canadian mayor within any city in Canada. Elected to public office in Mission in 1950, he was Canada’s first Sikh city councillor, and believed to be the first not only in Canada, but in all of North America. This would make him one of the first Canadians of Indian descent to hold public office in Canada. He came to own six sawmill companies across the Fraser Valley, becoming one of the most influential business leaders in the area.
Carol Huynh was born on November 16, 1980, in Vietnam. She fled Vietnam with her family in the late 1970s as a refugee. Huynh began freestyle wrestling in high school, and continued in the sport through university. She won several medals at the World Championships over a number of years—bronze in 2000, 2005, 2010, and silver in 2001.
Despite failing to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games, Huynh won the gold medal in her weight class at the Pan American Games in 2007, and went on to repeat her gold-medal winning performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Huynh was the first gold medalist for Canada in women’s wrestling and was the first gold medalist for Team Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She continued to perform at a top level, winning the title at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and successfully defending her title at the 2011 Pan American Games.
Following her retirement from competitive wrestling, Huynh was inducted into the World Wrestling Hall of Fame and into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. She also served as a chairwoman to the international wrestling federation and as Canada’s Assistant Chef de Mission for 2016 Rio Olympics.
Rupi Kaur was born on October 4, 1992, in Hoshiarpur, India. She is a Canadian of Indian descent who immigrated to Canada with her family at the age of four. Rupi is a best-selling Canadian poet, illustrator, and author. The first time she performed her work was in 2009 at the Punjabi Community Health Centre in Malton, Mississauga. She studied professional writing and rhetoric at the University of Waterloo. All of Rupi Kaur’s (rupi kaur’s) work is written exclusively in lower case. Her first book, entitled milk and honey, was published in 2014. Her second book, the sun and her flowers, was published in October 2017. Kaur has performed her poetry all over the world, and her poems have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Douglas Jung was born on February 25, 1924, in Victoria, British Columbia; he is of Chinese descent. Douglas was the first racialized person elected to the Parliament of Canada, as well as the first Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) of Chinese and Asian descent in the House of Commons of Canada. During the Second World War, Jung served with Pacific Command Security Intelligence. After the war, he earned a law degree from the University of British Columbia, making him the first Canadian veteran of Chinese descent to receive a university education under the auspices of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was called to the bar in 1954. On June 10, 1957, Jung was elected as the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre. Shortly afterward, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appointed him to represent Canada at the United Nations as the Chair of the Canadian Legal Delegation. Jung worked to establish strong ties between Canada and the Pacific Rim countries. Jung became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1991. His career as a lawyer, politician, and international delegate broke many cultural barriers.
Gilmore Junio was born in 1990 in Calgary, Alberta; he is a Canadian of Filipino descent. He is a long-track speed skater and a World Cup gold medalist. He began short-track speed skating at the age of 13, thanks to his father’s encouragement. Junio found international recognition for his incredible display of sportsmanship at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, when he gave his spot in the 1000m race to Denny Morrison, who had not qualified for the event after falling during the Canadian qualifiers. As a result of his kindness, Junio was given a commemorative crowd-funded award. Junio also placed as the top Canadian in the men’s 500m event at the 2014 Olympics. In 2018, Junio finished 17th in the 500m race at the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Juliette Kang was born on September 6, 1975, in Edmonton; she is a Canadian of Korean descent. She is an internationally renowned violinist who earned the gold medal at the 1994 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. She has held the position of first associate concertmaster with the Philadelphia Orchestra since 2005.
Juliette was a child prodigy who began violin lessons at age four and made her debut in Montréal at seven. At age nine, she received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and became a student of Jascha Brodsky. By age 11, she had attracted international attention, winning top prizes at the 1986 Beijing International Youth Violin Competition in China. In 1989, at 13, she became the youngest artist to win New York’s Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Kang has performed with every major orchestra in Canada and many orchestras from around the world. Her repertoire ranges from baroque to contemporary, including the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Ravel. In 1996, the New York Times predicted that Kang would change our culture. She has performed some of the world’s most ambitious pieces of music in the violin repertoire.
Larry “King” Kwong
Larry “King” Kwong was born in 1924 in Vernon, British Columbia; he is of Chinese descent. In 1948, Kwong became the first Canadian of Asian descent to play in the National Hockey League when he made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers. Born Eng Kai Geong to Chinese parents in British Columbia, he grew up listening to hockey games on the radio. As a young boy, he convinced his mother to buy him skates and played shinny on local ponds with mail-order catalogues strapped to his shins. His passion for hockey led to a successful amateur, minor, professional, and British hockey career spanning 20 years, from 1939 to 1958.
The Honourable Norman L. Kwong
Norman Kwong was born on October 24, 1929, in Calgary; he is of Chinese descent.
Norman Kwong became Alberta’s first Lieutenant Governor of Asian descent in January 2005. However, many people know him as the first Canadian of Chinese descent to play in the Canadian Football League. He was born in Calgary after his parents immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s from Canton, China, despite having to pay the $500 head tax. Kwong began his professional football career in 1948, one year after Canadians of Chinese Descent gained the right to vote. Known as the “China Clipper,” he played for the Calgary Stampeders for three years before joining the Edmonton Eskimos. By the time he retired from football in 1960, he had won six Grey Cups, was named “All Canadian Fullback” five times, had won two Schenley trophies as the league’s most outstanding player, and had set 30 league records. Kwong was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998 in recognition of his football career.
The Honourable David See-Chai Lam
The Honourable David See-Chai Lam was born on July 25, 1923, in Hong Kong; he is of Chinese descent. He became British Columbia’s 25th Lieutenant Governor in September 1988. He was the first person of Asian descent to hold a vice-regal post in Canada. Born in Hong Kong, he immigrated to Canada with his family in 1967, choosing Vancouver because he had been awed by the city’s beauty during a business trip. He became a Canadian citizen in 1972. Upon immigrating, he established himself in realty, and began developing properties with investment capital from Hong Kong. He became one of Vancouver’s leading land developers, and was instrumental in bringing Hong Kong investors to Canada’s west coast. Lam understood Vancouver as a Pacific Rim city, and made great efforts to fortify economic ties between the city and major Asian centres. He believed in the power of immigration as an economic tool, and contributed philanthropically to the community. Lam was awarded the Order of Canada in 1988.
Lieutenant Commander (Retired) William K. L. Lore
William K. L. Lore was born in Victoria, British Columbia, on February 28, 1909; he is of Chinese descent. In 1939, he joined the Department of Transport as a wireless operator; in doing so, he became the first Canadian of Chinese descent to join Canada’s civil service. In 1943, he was the first Canadian of Chinese descent to join the Royal Canadian Navy, and later became the first officer of Chinese descent to serve in any of the British Commonwealth navies. He served with Canadian and British intelligence throughout the war. Lieutenant Lore was an intelligence staff officer for Rear Admiral Sir Cecil Harcourt, the commander of the fleet that sailed into Hong Kong harbour on Japan’s surrender in August 1945. Harcourt was aware of the support provided by the Canadian Forces in defending Hong Kong in 1940, which is why he ordered the young Canadian naval officer to lead the marines ashore. Lore led a platoon of marines to take control of the shore base HMS Tamar. Rear Admiral Harcourt assigned him to free the Canadian, British, and Hong Kong prisoners from the Sham Shui Po camp. Following the surrender of the Japanese forces on September 16, 1945, in Hong Kong, then Lieutenant Lore served with the occupational forces as an intelligence officer and Staff Lieutenant to Admiral Harcourt. He subsequently rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Canadian Navy. He later retired from the Navy, obtained his law degree from Oxford University and returned to Hong Kong to set up his law practice. Mr. Lore died in September 2012 in Hong Kong at the age of 103.
Jean Lumb was born in 1919 in Nanaimo, British Columbia; she is of Chinese descent. Jean was the first Canadian of Chinese descent to receive the Order of Canada for her community work. She became the unofficial spokesperson of the Chinese community in Toronto, and worked to change immigration laws in the 1950s. She may be best remembered as the energy behind the “Save Chinatown” campaigns. Lumb owned a fruit store and the Kwong Chow restaurant with her husband, Doyle. Lumb’s community work was far-reaching and earned her considerable recognition, including appointments to the Women’s College Hospital Board of Governors and to the Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism.
Hazel Mae was born on April 7, 1990, in Tagbilaran City, Philippines; she is a Canadian of Filipino descent. She is well-known as a sportscaster on a number of different sports networks.
She began her career in 2001 on Rogers Sportsnet, where she hosted various shows, including Sportsnetnews and JZone. Later on, she became the lead anchor for the New England Sports Network’s SportsDesk, The Ultimate Red Sox Show, and The Buzz, from 2004 to 2008. In August 2009, she was a reporter on the Major Baseball League Network, appearing on the shows Hot Stove, MLB Tonight, 30 Clubs in 30 Days, and Quick Pitch. In 2011, she became the host for a new program, The Rundown, alongside Matt Yaloff. Since September 2011, Mae has been back as a reporter with Sportsnet.
Shaun Majumder was born on January 29, 1972, in Burlington, Newfoundland. He began his entertainment career on YTV before eventually starring as co-host of This Hour Has 22 Minutes in 2003. Majumder has hosted 15 Just for Laughs specials on television and has also starred in Cedric the Entertainer Presents. He was the focus of HBO’s feature-length documentary Every Word is Absolutely True, which followed him across Canada on his first national stand-up comedy tour. In January 2013, he started a documentary series called Majumder Manor, in which he chronicles his dream of transforming his hometown of Burlington, Newfoundland, into a popular tourist destination.
Dr. Tak Wah Mak
Dr. Tak Wah Mak was born October 4, 1946, in China; he is a Canadian of Chinese descent. He is a renowned scientist whose work in microbiology and immunology has had a significant effect on public health worldwide. His research concentrates on understanding the elemental biology of cells in order to determine how the immune system works and how tumors form. He began his research at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto. In 1984, he solved one of immunology’s most complex problems when he discovered how the immune system recognizes pathogens. He then joined the faculty of the University of Toronto’s Department of Medical Biophysics. Over the next 25 years, Dr. Mak’s research solved many mysteries concerning the molecular biology of the immune system and cancer. He has been the director of the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research since 2004. Dr. Mak has received the Order of Canada and been recognized around the world through many distinguished awards. Through his company, Agios Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Mak has also developed IHIFA―the first licensed drug able to stop the metabolism of mutated isocitrate dehydrogenase enzymes, which are associated with acute myeloid leukemia.
Brian McKeever was born on June 18, 1979, in Calgary, Alberta; he is of Japanese descent. Brian is a cross country skier and a biathlete. His maternal grandparents immigrated to Canada from Japan and owned a berry farm in Vancouver. During the Second World War, they spent time in a Japanese-Canadian internment camp in Sandon, British Columbia. McKeever began to lose his vision at the age of nineteen as a result of Stargardt disease. In 2010, he was the first Canadian athlete to be named to both the Paralympic and Olympic teams. In 2018, McKeever became Canada’s most decorated winter Paralympian when he finished the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Games with a career total of 17 medals, including 13 gold medals.
Deepa Mehta was born on January 1, 1950, in Amritsar, India and is a prominent and respected filmmaker whose work is known worldwide for its honesty, beauty, and universality. Her award-winning films have been shown at major film festivals and distributed worldwide. Her elemental trilogy comprises Fire (1996), Earth (1998), and Water (2005); the latter was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film, and would become very successful with audiences in Canada, and around the world. Water and her comedy Bollywood/Hollywood (2002) remain two of the top 10 grossing English Canadian films. Other movies in her oeuvre are Sam and Me (1991), Camilla (1993), and A Heaven on Earth (2008). In 2003, she won a Genie Award for the Bollywood/Hollywood screenplay. In May 2012, Mehta received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts. Mehta is also the recipient of the 2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement.
Roy Akira Miki was born on October 10, 1942, in Ste. Agathe, Manitoba; he is a Canadian of Japanese descent. Miki is a poet, scholar, editor, and activist. During the Second World War, his family was forcibly relocated to a Japanese-Canadian internment camp.
Miki earned a B.A. from the University of Manitoba, an M.A. from Simon Fraser University, and a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia. He went on to teach contemporary literature at Simon Fraser University before retiring. In 2002, Miki's book of poetry, Surrender, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry. His poetry focuses on issues of identity, citizenship, race, and place. He is the author of the critical study Broken Entries: Race, Subjectivity, Writing (1998), of Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing (2011), of The Prepoetics of William Carlos Williams (1983), and of an annotated bibliography of the poet and novelist George Bowering (1990).
In the 1980s, Miki was “instrumental” in fighting for redress from the federal government for the internment of Canadians of Japanese descent during the Second World War. His work led to the signing of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement in 1988. Under the Agreement, the Government created a community fund to undertake educational, social and cultural activities or programs that contribute to healing or to the promotion of human rights. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation was created on behalf of Canadians of Japanese descent and in commemoration of those community members who had suffered wartime injustices. Citizenship was restored to those Canadians of Japanese descent who had lost it through deportation or revocation, and convictions were cleared for infractions of war-related Orders in Council. The War Measures Act was repealed in 1988.
Roy Miki said that the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement “will remain a significant moment in the record of [the] late 20th century history [of Canada], an unusual achievement by a small group of citizens who, because of a nation’s violation of their citizenship rights, launched a movement to negotiate a settlement with the federal government.”
In 2006, Miki was made a Member of the Order of Canada and received the 20th annual Gandhi Peace Award for the truth, justice, human rights, and non-violence exemplified in his redress work. The same year, he also received the Thakore Visiting Scholar award and the Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy. In 2007, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2009, he was made a Member of the Order of British Columbia.
Masumi Mitsui was born on October 7, 1887, in Japan; he is a Canadian of Asian descent.
Masumi Mitsui, a Canadian soldier of Japanese descent, earned the Military Medal for bravery at Vimy Ridge in April 1917. After the war, he returned to British Columbia. He resumed his life, had a family, helped to establish a Japanese-Canadian war memorial in Stanley Park, and became the president of Branch 9 of the Royal Canadian Legion. He was a member of the contingent that lobbied the British Columbian legislature to give Canadians of Japanese descent the right to vote. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, Mitsui and his family were declared enemies and sent to a Japanese-Canadian internment camp, like all people of Japanese ancestry in Canada. Their home and possessions were confiscated. After the war, Mitsui participated in lobbying for a public apology and compensation. He died in 1987 at the age of 99—a year before the government made its apology. He was the last surviving Japanese-Canadian veteran of the First World War.
Raymond Moriyama was born on October 11, 1929, in Vancouver; he is a Canadian of Japanese descent. Raymond is an internationally acclaimed architect and urban planner. He describes architecture as a social force that is “a relentless, investigative process.” His architecture is innovative and functional, and has enhanced Canada’s reputation for architectural innovation. Moriyama’s work includes the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, which symbolizes the Canadian spirit, the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, and Sudbury’s Science North. His most notable project is the Canadian War Museum, which is devoted to exploring themes of memory and regeneration in the face of war. Considered an iconic national monument, it is richly symbolic and an elegant tribute to the Canadian Forces. The project is described in Moriyama’s book, In Search of a Soul (2006). He has been awarded numerous honorary degrees, has won the Governor General’s Medals for Architecture and the 2010 Sakura Award from Toronto’s Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and is a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Emily Nishikawa was born in Whitehorse, Yukon, in 1989; she is of Japanese descent. A former Canadian cross-country skier, Nishikawa was inspired to begin skiing by her brother, Graham Nishikawa at the age of four. She was the overall North American Champion at the International Federation of Skiing World Cup in 2013–14 and 2014–15. She competed in the Olympics in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, and in 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. Also in 2018, she won 7th place in the team sprint, and 13th in the women’s relay. Nishikawa is studying psychology at Athabasca University, and hopes to become an elementary school teacher.
Graham Nishikawa was born in Whitehorse, Yukon, on November 19, 1983; he is of Japanese descent. Nishikawa is a Canadian cross-country skier and the older brother of Canadian cross country skiing Olympian, Emily Nishikawa. He stated that he was interested in competing in cross-country skiing, because it combines camaraderie, physical activity, and being outdoors. Nishikawa qualified for the first time at the elite level to represent Canada at the World Championships Cup in 2013. He has also acted as a guide for cross-country skiing and biathlon Olympian and Paralympian, Brian McKeever. Their partnership has resulted in numerous victories, including at the 2014 and 2018 Paralympic Games, at the 2017 Para Nordic World Championships, and they are on a golden track to the 2022 Beijing Games.
George Nozuka was born in New York City, on April 28, 1986; he is of Japanese descent. A Canadian singer, Nozuka is the brother of several other successful musicians and actors, including Justin Nozuka, Henry Nozuka, and Philip Nozuka His debut album was entitled Believe (2007). Three of his singles, including “Talk to Me,” “Lie to Me,” and “Last Time,” helped propel him to fame. As a Canadian United Nations peacekeeper, George Nozuka produced the song “Hurting Child” for the documentary Forgotten Children: The Story of Haiti’s Restavecs, directed by Craig Goodwill.
Justin Tokimitsu Nozuka is a Canadian singer, songwriter and actor born in New York City on September 29, 1988. He is of Japanese descent and has been a singer and songwriter since the age of 12. He has six other siblings, including musician George Nozuka, musician Henry Nozuka, and actor Philip Nozuka Justin Nozuka has released three albums, including “Holly” (2007), “You, I, Wind, Land, and Sea” (2010), and “Ulysees” (2014). In 2010, Nozuka sang alongside 50 of Canada’s best artists on a reworked version of K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag.”
Sandra Miju Oh is a Canadian-American actress born in Nepean, Ontario, on July 20, 1971. She is of Korean descent and is best known for her starring roles as Cristina Yang on the ABC medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy (2005–2014) and Eve Polastri in the spy thriller series Killing Eve (2018–present). She has received numerous accolades, including two Golden Globe Awards, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, and twelve Primetime Emmy Award nominations.
Oh won two Genie Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Last Night and Double Happiness, and won a Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series for The Diary of Evelyn Lau.
Oh hosted the 28th Genie Awards in 2008, and became the first Asian woman to host the Golden Globe Awards at the 76th ceremony in 2019. In March 2019, she became the first Canadian woman of Asian descent to host Saturday Night Live, and was just the third actress of Asian descent to do so. She was also the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, and the first Asian woman to win two Golden Globes. In 2019, Time magazine named Oh one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Wallace Taroo “Wally” Oppal is a Canadian lawyer, former judge and provincial politician. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1940, Oppal is of South Asian descent, the elder of two sons born to immigrant parents from India. Wally Oppal ran his own legal practice in Vancouver prior to serving as a Judge on the British Colombia Supreme Court in 1985. In 2005, Oppal sought a career in provincial politics. He was appointed as the second Indo-Canadian Attorney General of British Columbia, and served as the Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism until 2009. Oppal was involved in many significant reforms of the justice system, including establishing Canada’s first community court to deal with chronic offenders, developing new Rules of Court in order to promote quicker dispute resolution, and developing new initiatives to deal with violence against women.
Dr. D.P. Pandia
Dr. Durai Pal Pandia came to Canada in 1939; he was of South Asian descent. Pandia was a central figure of the South Asian community in British Columbia who successfully advocated for Canadians who immigrated from India to have the right to vote in municipal elections. Pandia was an advocate in the fight for equal representation and making immigration policy more equitable for South Asians in Canada. In 1948, Dr. Pandia met with the Director of Immigration, Department of Mines and Resources, and with the Cabinet Committee on Immigration Policy to fight for the rights of South Asians.
Jon Kimura Parker
Jon Kimura Parker was born in Burnaby, British Columbia, on December 25, 1959. He is a Canadian pianist virtuoso of Japanese descent whose talents have received worldwide recognition. As guest solo pianist, he has toured the world with several orchestras and performed for heads of state and dignitaries. He made his musical debut at the age of five with the Vancouver Youth Orchestra. Parker’s eclectic repertoire includes music from the classical and romantic periods as well as a variety of 20th-century composers. His repertoire ranges from Beethoven to Alanis Morissette’s song One Hand in my Pocket. Parker has also hosted the Whole Notes series on Bravo! Canada, and the CBC Radio series Up and Coming. He has won more than 200 competitions and received the Governor General’s Arts Award. He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1999. In the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Parker helped organize a benefit concert, Ganbare Japan, 2011.
Senator Vivienne Poy
Senator Vivienne Poy was born in Hong Kong on May 15, 1941. She came to Montreal, Quebec, in 1959. Senator Poy is the first Canadian of Asian descent appointed to the Senate of Canada. She is an entrepreneur, author, historian, and fashion designer. She was integral in establishing May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. Poy was educated in Hong Kong, England, and Canada, earning a Ph.D. in History from the University of Toronto. After founding her own fashion label, Vivienne Poy Mode, in 1981, she enjoyed tremendous success in fashion and retail. Poy was appointed to the Senate in 1998, and in 2001 proposed a motion to designate May as Asian Heritage Month. In May 2002, the Government of Canada declared the celebratory month in a formal ceremony. Senator Poy works closely with Asian Heritage Month Societies across Canada. She served as Chancellor of the University of Toronto from 2003 to 2006 and is active in many community and cultural organizations. She has authored five books and co-edited one other.
Regula Qureshi is an ethnomusicologist, a scholar of Urdu and Hindi language and literature, and a scholar of the art music of India and Pakistan. Born on July 13, 1929, in Switzerland, she became a Canadian citizen in 1968, when she followed her husband, a political scientist from India, to the University of Alberta. She gave numerous lecture-recitals on sarangi, Indian music, and Muslim chant in Canada, the United States, Pakistan, India, and Western Europe. She was awarded the Jaap Kunst Prize by the Society for Ethnomusicology in 1968 for the article “Tarannum: The Chanting of Urdu Poetry.” In 1995, she was granted a Killam Annual Professorship by the University of Alberta, and in 1996 she received a fine arts award from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Kerri Sakamoto is a Canadian novelist born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1960. Sakamoto’s works commonly deal with the Japanese-Canadian experience. Her first novel, The Electrical Field (1998), won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book and the Canada Council’s biennial Canada-Japan Literary Award. It was also a finalist for a Governor General’s Award. Her third novel, Floating City, was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award and won Sakamoto another Canada-Japan Literary Award.
Sakamoto also co-wrote (with director Rea Tajiri) the screenplay for the 1997 film Strawberry Fields. She often collaborates with filmmakers as story editor or script editor on narrative, experimental, and experimental documentary works. She has also written on visual art for museums and galleries in Canada and the United States, such as the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Fine Arts Centre, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Honolulu Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2004, she contributed a catalogue essay on the work of Painters Eleven abstract expressionist Kazuo Nakamura for an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
In 2005, Sakamoto was appointed the Barker Fairley Distinguished Visitor at the University of Toronto, and a member of the Toronto Arts Council in 2007. She has also served as a member of the Canadian jury at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Conrad Santos was a Canadian politician born in the Philippines on November 26, 1934. On November 17, 1981, Conrad Santos became the first Canadian of Filipino descent to be elected to office in Canada. At the time, he represented the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the Manitoba Assembly. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1981–1988 and 1990–2007. Santos was born in the Philippines, and was educated at Harvard University and the University of Michigan, obtaining a Ph.D. in Political Science. He moved to Winnipeg in 1965 upon securing a teaching position at the University of Manitoba. His first political bid, an NDP nomination in the Winnipeg–Fort Garry riding, was unsuccessful. He also failed in two subsequent runs for Winnipeg City Council, in 1977 and 1980. In 1990, Santos made a successful run for the Assembly, and was re-elected in 1995 in the Broadway riding. He also won the election in the riding of Wellington, by a considerable margin. After re-election in 2003, Santos stepped down before the 2007 election.
Shyam Selvadurai is a Canadian novelist born in Sri Lanka on February 12, 1965. He is of Tamil and Sinhala heritage. The possibilities and impossibilities of “mixing” dominate his fiction. He immigrated with his family to Canada following the 1983 riots in Colombo, when he was 19. He has a remarkable ability to portray a world threatened by intolerance but still possessing beauty, humour and humanity. Selvadurai’s first novel, Funny Boy, won several awards for its frank depiction of its main character’s coming of age during the tumultuous years before the 1983 riots. His second novel, Cinnamon Gardens, returns the reader to Sri Lanka in the 1920s, when the country was called Ceylon. Selvadurai’s characters navigate an uncertain world accompanied by their own insecurities as the political and the personal merge. In 2005, he published a novel for young adults, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, which garnered a Lambda Literary Award.
Baljit Sethi was born in Sheikhupura Village, West Punjab, in 1943, and immigrated to Canada from India in 1972. She is the founder and executive director of the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society of Prince George. The Society provides settlement services to communities in northern British Columbia. Sethi understood that newcomers could not become part of their new communities without multicultural programs and the active promotion of racial harmony. She worked to encourage interaction between immigrants and the population of Prince George. The benefits of her work were felt across northern British Columbia. Many of the programs Sethi developed throughout her nearly 40-year career continue to be used to promote multiculturalism and equality. She is also an advocate for immigrant women and has become an inspiration to many people. Her contributions have been recognized with many awards, including the Order of British Columbia and the Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism in the lifetime achievement category.
Zaib Shaikh is a Canadian actor, writer and director who was born in Toronto, Ontario, on May 25, 1974. He is of Pakistani descent. His early work included Metropia and Da Vinci’s City Hall. In 2007, he received international attention for his portrayal of lawyer-turned-imam Amaar Rashid in the popular CBC comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie. The series portrays the Muslim inhabitants of a fictional Saskatchewan town who establish a mosque in the rented parish hall of the local Anglican Church. Shaikh brought a fierce intelligence and flustered naiveté to a role that had no precedent in Canada or Hollywood and for which he won the 2008 Leo Award for best performance in a comedy series. He has worked extensively in theatre as well, in addition to co-founding the Whistler Theatre Project in Whistler, British Columbia. He is committed to making a lasting contribution to Canadian drama.
Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal is a Canadian lawyer and politician. He was born in Scarborough, Ontario, on January 2, 1979, to Harmeet Kaur and Jagtaran Singh, who had immigrated to Canada from the Indian state of Punjab. His family lived in Newfoundland before relocating to Windsor, Ontario. Singh graduated from high school in 1997, obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Western Ontario in 2001, and then a Bachelor of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2005. After he was called to the bar in 2006, Singh worked as a criminal defence lawyer in the Greater Toronto Area before entering politics.
Singh began his political career in 2011 when he unsuccessfully ran as the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in the riding of Bramalea—Gore—Malton. That year, Singh also ran in the Ontario provincial election as the NDP candidate in the overlapping provincial riding: he became the first Ontario NDP MPP to represent the Peel Region, as well as the first turban-wearing MPP. Singh was eventually appointed as the NDP critic for the Attorney General of Ontario and for consumer services. Singh also served as his party’s deputy leader. On October 1, 2017, Singh returned to federal politics when he was elected leader of the federal NDP after having won on the first ballot with 53.8 per cent of the vote. After winning the federal NDP leadership race, Singh resigned as MPP. On February 25, 2019, he became a Member of Parliament when he won in the Burnaby South by-election (British Columbia). Upon his election, Singh became the first member of a racialized community to lead a major Canadian federal political party on a permanent basis.
David Takayoshi Suzuki is a Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist who was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 24, 1936. Suzuki is a third generation Canadian of Japanese descent who earned a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961. He was a professor in the Genetics Department at the University of British Columbia from 1963 until he retired in 2001. Suzuki has received numerous honours and awards, including Officer of the Order of Canada in 1977 (later elevated to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2006); the Royal Bank Award; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Kalinga Prize for science writing in 1986; and a lifetime achievement award from the University of British Columbia in 2000. He is also the recipient of 24 honorary degrees from universities in Canada, the United States, and Australia; five Gemini Awards for his Canadian television efforts; and the John Drainie award for broadcasting excellence in 2002. In 2009, David Suzuki won the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” which recognizes outstanding vision and work for the planet and its people.
Mutsumi Takahashi is a graduate of Vanier College and Concordia University, holding both a B.A. and an M.B.A. In the spring of 2013, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by her alma mater, Concordia University. Most recently, she co-chaired the Best Care for Life Campaign of the McGill University Health Centre with Montreal Canadiens great Jean Béliveau. She currently sits on McGill’s Beatty Memorial Fund Committee, which oversees the annual Beatty Memorial Lecture Series.
Kim Thúy is an award-winning Canadian author of Vietnamese descent who was born in Vietnam on September 18, 1968. She fled Vietnam with her parents and two brothers in 1978 to escape the country’s oppressive communist regime. Their journey included a harrowing escape in the nauseating hold of a fishing boat and staying in a Malaysian refugee camp before arriving as “boat people” in Quebec. The family’s incredible journey and adaptation to their new home form the narrative of her debut novel Ru, which tells of the changes in a young girl’s life as she moves from a state of unrest to the security of a peaceful life. Ru was a runaway bestseller in Quebec, winning the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award for French fiction in 2010 and the Grand Prix littéraire Archambault in 2011. Before discovering her skill as a novelist, Thúy worked as a vegetable picker, seamstress, and cashier. She completed degrees in linguistics and translation (1990) and law (1993).
Ai Thien Tran
Ai Thien Tran became the first Canadian of Vietnamese descent to receive Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants Award. His life story shows courage, resilience, and a tireless quest to succeed. It was an arduous journey for Tran when he left Vietnam as a 20-year-old boat person. He spent 12 years as a stateless refugee in the Philippines before finally arriving in Canada in 2001. At the time, in addition to facing a newcomer’s typical challenges, he had to deal with psychological and emotional trauma left over from living in isolation.
Through it all, Tran showed great resilience. He worked full time while studying social work at McGill University, where he graduated with honours. He was invited to be a lifetime member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. In 2006, he was one of 10 students around the world to receive the Golden Key scholarship.
Tran’s leadership and outstanding contribution to the McGill School of Social Work earned him the Sadie Aronoff Award. He was the executive director of the Vietnamese Canadian Federation in 2009, and is currently active in several community organizations, including the Citizen Advisory Committee, Ottawa Parole, and the Ukrainian National Federation in Ottawa-Gatineau. He continuously takes on new challenges in order to maintain a strong vision of helping others.
Yuki Tsubota is a Canadian Olympic slopestyle skier who was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, on February 3, 1994; she is of Japanese descent. Tsubota started skiing competitively at the age of 10, and then focused on slopestyle skiing in 2011. Tsubota was ranked fourth in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, when she fell during her second run, sustaining substantial injuries. Despite this setback, she returned to the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018, ranked sixth overall, and was the top Canadian in slopestyle skiing. Some of her other accomplishments include finishing first at the AFP World Tour Finals in 2014–2015, getting the gold medal at the International Skiing Federation World Cup in 2016, and winning a bronze medal at the World Championships presented by the Association of Freeskiing Professionals in 2012.
Kew Dock Yip
Kew Dock Yip (1906–2001) was a community leader in Toronto’s first Chinatown, and the first Canadian lawyer of Chinese descent. He played a critical role in helping repeal the Canadian Chinese Exclusion Act in 1947. He is the third youngest son of Yip Sang, who was a prominent Chinese merchant and paymaster of the CP Railway in Vancouver in the 1900s.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1906 to Cantonese parents, Kew Dock Yip was the 17th of 19 sons. Although he earned a degree in pharmacology from the University of Michigan in 1931, he went on to work as a secretary in the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver in the 1930s. In 1940, he moved to Toronto and was serving as a reservist with the Queen’s Own Rifles when he entered Osgoode Hall Law School in 1942. Three years later, he became the first lawyer of Asian descent in Canada. After graduating from law school, he worked with Jewish civil rights lawyer Irving Himel and activists from across Canada to repeal the Chinese Immigration Act. In 1998, he was awarded the Law Society Medal from the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Chinese Students’ Soccer Team of 1933
Formed in 1920, Vancouver’s Chinese Students’ Soccer Team played during a period of anti-Chinese sentiment, which culminated in the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923, barring Chinese immigration. At the time, Canada’s Chinese community was comprised largely of “bachelor societies” of men who were separated from their families in China. Also denied the right to vote, Canadians of Chinese descent were prevented from entering most professions.
As the only non-white soccer team in British Columbia, the squad provided much needed hope and inspiration to Vancouver’s Chinese community during a time of continuing discrimination. Known for their skill, speed, and sportsmanship, the team won the First Division provincial championship in 1933, claiming the British Columbia Mainland Cup and winning respect for their community. They were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Several players made history in later years. In 1943, William K.L. Lore became the first Canadian of Chinese descent in the Royal Canadian Navy and the first officer of Chinese descent in all the Navies of the British Commonwealth. Midfielder K. Dock Yip became Canada’s first lawyer of Chinese descent in 1945; he lobbied for the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act, which was finally repealed in 1947.
Asahi baseball team
The Asahi was a Japanese-Canadian baseball club in Vancouver (1914–1942). The team was based in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park, in the city’s Japantown. As one of the city’s most dominant amateur teams, the Asahi used skill and tactics to win multiple league titles in Vancouver and along the Northwest Coast. In 1942, the team was disbanded when its members were among more than 21,000 Canadians of Japanese descent interned by the federal government. The Asahi was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. The team was designated an Event of National Historic Significance in 2008, with a plaque unveiled in Oppenheimer Park on September 18, 2011. On April 24, 2019, the team was honoured with a postage stamp issued by Canada Post.
Canadians of Sikh descent during the First World War
Few Canadians realize that ten Sikhs joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, before Sikhs could actually obtain Canadian citizenship. Of those ten, eight served in Europe and two were killed in action. The veteran we know the most about is Buckam Singh. He first lived in British Columbia and later moved to Toronto. He was wounded twice and died after returning to Canada. His grave, located in Kitchener, Ontario, is the only known grave in Canada belonging to a Canadian soldier of Sikh descent who fought in the First World War. His comrades in arms were John Baboo of Winnipeg, who was wounded at Vimy Ridge; Suntfer Gougersingh, who enlisted in Montréal; Hari Singh from Toronto; Harnom Singh from Chilliwack, British Columbia; John Singh of Winnipeg; Lashman Singh and Waryam Singh, who both enlisted in Smiths Falls, Ontario; Ram Singh of Grand Forks, British Columbia; and Sewa Singh of Vancouver.
Canadian Second World War veterans of Chinese descent
Hundreds of Canadians of Chinese descent fought in the Second World War. They were able to enlist in the Canadian Army but were barred on racial grounds from enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force until October 1942 and in the Royal Canadian Navy until March 1944. Many Canadians of Chinese descent volunteered for active duty even though they were exempt from the National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA) of 1940, which allowed the Canadian government to requisition property and services for defense purposes. In 1944, the British War Office petitioned the Canadian Government to have Canadians of Chinese descent work for the Special Operations Executive in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. Canadians of Chinese descent were later called up under the NRMA. They played an active role in the Second World War, making unique contributions to the war effort. Intense lobbying by returning Canadian veterans of Chinese descent led to the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act (Chinese Exclusion Act).
Won Alexander Cumyow
Won Alexander Cumyow (溫金有) was an activist and interpreter who was born in 1861 in Port Douglas, British Columbia, and died on October 6, 1955 in Vancouver. Won Cumyow was the first person of Chinese descent born in British North America, which later became Canada. He spoke several languages in the course of his work as a Chinese community leader and court interpreter. Despite training to be a lawyer, Won Cumyow was unable to take the bar exam and become a lawyer, because he was not on the voter list. This was because Canadians of Chinese descent were largely denied the right to vote. British Columbia started stripping Canadians of Chinese descent of the right to vote as early as 1871. Won Cumyow was an activist for the rights of Canadians of Chinese descent for much of his life. The Chinese community faced many injustices and racist restrictions, which Won Cumyow and others fought to overcome. These policies included the Chinese Head Tax, the disenfranchisement of Chinese Canadians, and racial segregation.
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