Noteworthy Canadians of Asian origin — Asian Heritage Month
These photographs and stories highlight some of the many valuable contributions made by Canadians of Asian origin. They reflect historical and cultural milestones that help define the rich and significant history of Canada's Asian communities.
Professor Payam Akhavan is a renowned human rights scholar, who teaches and researches on public international law, international dispute settlement, international criminal law, human rights and cultural pluralism. Born in, Iran, he fled to Canadaas child to escape persecution from the Iranian government His life changed when 16 year old Mona Mahmudnizhadwho was the same age as him and from the same persecuted Baha'i community in Iran, was killed by the Iranian government for her faith. After this event, Akhavan committed himself to fighting for justice and human rights. 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 the Juridical Science (S.J.D.) from Harvard Law School, and was a senior fellow at Yale Law School. Today, he is a Professor at McGill University. Payam Akhavan is also the founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, Prosecutor of the Iran People’s Tribunal, a member of the UK Child Sexual Abuse People’s Tribunal, and has contributed to the activities of numerous non-governmental organizations and grassroots survivors’ groups.
Patrick Chan, born in Ottawa, is a Canadian figure skater and Olympic silver medalist. Chan grew up in Toronto and started skating at the age of 5. He is of Chinese origin and speaks English, French, and Cantonese. 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 nine-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 two world records. Off the ice, he has received numerous awards as well. 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.
William "Bill" Gun Chong
William Chong, born in Vancouver, British Columbia, is the only Canadian of Chinese origin 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 in 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. Chong was one of more than a hundred Chinese who were voluntarily recruited into the military for their language skills. Their service became an affirmation of their commitment to Canada and of their equality.
Jim Chu was born in 1959 in Shanghai, China before immigrating to Canada with his parents and three other siblings. . He received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University, and an MBA from the University of British Columbia while also pursuing police training. Chu has acted in a number of different roles 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 Police Forces, and in 2015, he was promoted to the rank of Commander of the Order of Merit for service beyond the call of duty. On June 21, 2007, Chu was named as Chief Constable , and for the next 8 years, he headed 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 honour 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 the 26th governor general in Canada. She came to Canada as a child in 1942 when her family left Hong Kong after the colony surrendered to the Japanese. 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 publisher 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. Among her successes in the vice-regal position were forging stronger ties between Canada and its northern Indigenous population and bringing a sense of modernity to the traditional role.
Herb (Harbance) Dhaliwal
Herb (Harbance) Dhaliwal, was born in the Punjab in 1952. He immigrated to Canada at age six with his family, and he did not speak a word of English. He grew up in Vancouver, and graduated from the University of British Columbia where he was active in student politics. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1993, representing Vancouver South. Some of Dhaliwal’s accomplishments include being the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, serving on the Steering Committee for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, becoming the Minister of National Revenue, being the Vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Health and the Task Force on Aquaculture, and being named one of the hundred most influential British Columbians of the last 100 years by the Vancouver Sun.
Inspector Baltej Singh Dhillon
When Baltej Singh Dhillon was accepted into the RCMP, he had to find a way to merge his sense of duty to Canada and religion. 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 a beard and wearing a turban. He chose to fight for his religious rights and 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. The federal government removed the ban on turbans on March 15, 1990. Following graduations from RCMP training, Dhillon went on to a long career. First serving as a Constable at the small RCMP detachment in Quesnel, BC, he later worked in Surrey as a specialist in interrogation and polygraph testing, and helped investigate the 1985 Air India bombing case. 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 is a Hong Kong-born Canadian of Chinese origin, businessman, and philanthropist. Fung founded the Fairchild Group, which is a 350 million-dollar 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 him as one of the most influential people in Canada. He immigrated to Canada in 1967, and graduated from Magee High School in Vancouver. Fung provides philanthropic support to non-profit organizations such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Royal Conservatory of Music, Children’s Hospital, United Way, World Vision, and others.
Sudarshan Gautam was born in the Ramechhap district in Nepal. He was the first individual without arms to climb Mount Everest without the use of prosthetics. As a result of an accident during his childhood, Gautam had to have both of his arms amputated. He was determined to be successful regardless of his physical disability by having his name in the Guinness Book of World Records. He immigrated to Canada in 2007 to show 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, the national organization of Nepali Diaspora in Canada, honored Gautam as an outstanding Nepali Diaspora member. In 2014, he was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame. Furthermore, in May 2017, he received the South Asian Canadian Trailblazers Award.
Margaret Jean Gee was the first woman of Chinese origin to be called to the Bar in British Columbia. She was born in Vancouver, and grew up in Chinatown. She graduated from the University of British Columbia. Gee was called to the Bar on May 31, 1954, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen the following day and in Chitty’s Law Journal of 1954. She opened her law office at 510 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. She reported in a CBC interview in 1957 that she liked being referred to as a "lady lawyer", and had been "forced to face only a few racial incidents either at school, in university or her private practice."
Chan Hon Goh
Chan Hon Goh, was born in Beijing, China, she was a ballerina, an entrepreneur, and a past principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada (1994). As a dancer, she was known for her delicacy and charm. 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. She left dancing in 2009 with a farewell performance of Giselle. She is the co-founder of Principal Shoes, which has a successful line of pointe shoes and dance footwear. Since 2010, she has been the director of the Goh Ballet Academy and Youth Company. Goh is in demand as a speaker, particularly in the Canadian of Asian origin community.
Goto was born in Chiba'ken, Japan and immigrated to Canada with her family in 1969. They lived in British Columbia before moving to Nanton, Alberta, where her father farmed mushrooms. In 1989, Goto earned her B.A. in English from the University of Calgary.
Her work is influenced by her father's life stories 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 midst of alienation and explicit differences. She was the 1995 recipient of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book Canada and 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 Writer's 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.
Naranjan Singh Grewall
Naranjan Singh Grewall, from India, was a prominent business owner and municipal official in Mission in British Columbia. Grewall moved from Toronto to Mission in 1941. In 1951, he ran for a seat on the board of governors of the Village of Mission. Then, in 1954, he was elected chairman of the board of governors; which made him one of the first Canadians of Indian origin 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 the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling. She fled Vietnam with her family in the late 1970s as a refugee. They settled in Hazelton, British Columbia, where they were sponsored by the local United Church. 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 and 2005, and silver in 2001. Women’s wrestling debuted at the Olympic Games in 2004. She failed to qualify for the team, and instead was Lyndsay Belisle’s wrestling training partner. Huynh won a gold medal at the Pan-Am Games in 2007, and went on to repeat her performance at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She had not been favoured to win, but she defeated the reigning world champion, Japan’s Chiharu Icho.
Rupi Kaur is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator. She was born in 1992 in Punjab, India, and immigrated to Canada with her family at the age of four. 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, Ontario. All of Rupi Kaur’s (rupi kaur) work is written exclusively in lower case letters. Her first book entitled Milk and Honey (stylized as milk and honey) was published in 2014. Her second book The Sun and Her Flowers (stylized as the sun and her flowers) was published in October of 2017. Kaur has performed her poetry all over the world, and her poems have been translated into over 30 languages.
Born in Vancouver, Douglas Jung was the first Canadian of Chinese origin elected to federal office. During the Second World War, Jung served with Pacific Command Security Intelligence. After the war, he earned a law degree at the University of British Columbia. He was the first Canadian of Chinese origin veteran 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. He worked to establish strong ties between Canada and 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, a Canadian of Filipino origin, was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1990. 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 encouragements. Junio became known internationally as a result of an incredible display of sportsmanship at the Olympic Games held in Sochi, Russia in 2014. He decided to give his spot in the 1000m race to Denny Morrison, as Morrison had not qualified for the event after he fell during the Canadian qualifiers. As a result of his kindness, Junio was given a commemorative crowd-funded award. Junio was also the top Canadian for the 500m during the 2014 Olympics. In 2018, Junio finished 17th in the 500m race at the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Juliette Kang, born in Edmonton to Korean parents, was a child prodigy who began violin lessons at age four and made her debut in Montréal at seven. At age nine, she was accepted as a violin student on scholarship at 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 performed some of the world’s most challenging violin repertoires; including Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, performed with the Reno Chamber Orchestra, and William Walton’s Violin Concerto, with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Larry "King" Kwong
In 1948, Larry "King" Kwong became the first Canadian of Asian origin to play in the National Hockey League. Born Eng Kai Geong in British Columbia to Chinese parents, he grew up listening to hockey games on the radio. As a young boy, he convinced his mother to buy him skates and he played shinny on local ponds with mail-order catalogues strapped to his shins. His passion for hockey brought him a successful amateur, minor, professional, and British hockey career spanning 20 years from 1939-1958.
King Kwong played for the New York Rangers, but sadly, only in one game.
The Honourable Norman L. Kwong
Norman Kwong became Alberta’s first Lieutenant-Governor of Asian origin in January 2005. However, many people know him as the first Canadian of Chinese origin to play in the Canadian Football League. He was born in Calgary afterhis 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 the Chinese gained the right to vote in Canada. Known as the "China Clipper," he played for the Calgary Stampeders for three years before joining the Edmonton Eskimos. By the time he had retired from football in 1960, he won six Grey Cups, was named "All Canadian Fullback" five times, won two Schenley trophies as the league’s most outstanding player, and 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 became British Columbia’s 25th Lieutenant-Governor in September 1988.He was the first person of Asian origin to hold a vice-regal post in Canada. Born in Hong Kong, he immigrates to Canada with his family in 1967, , and chose Vancouver as their home 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. In 1939, he became the first Canadian of Chinese origin to join Canada's civil service when he joined the Department of Transport as a wireless operator. In 1943 he was the first Canadian of Chinese origin to join the Royal Canadian Navy, and later became the first officer of Chinese origin 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 upon 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, 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.
Community activist Jean Lumb was the first Canadian of Chinese origin to receive the Order of Canada. Jean Bessie Lumb born Toy Jin Wong in 1919, in Nanaimo, British Columbia moved to Toronto in 1935. 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 is a Canadian of Filipino origin born in 1970. She is well-known as a sportscaster on a number of different sports networks. She began her career on Rogers Sportsnet in 2001 where she hosted for 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, and she appeared 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 is back with Sportsnet as a reporter.
Shaun Majumder is a Gemini award winning actor and comedian. He was born in Burlington, Newfoundland and Labrador. Majumder is of European Canadian and Bengali Hindu Indian origin. He started his entertainment career on YTV before eventually starring in his best-known role as co-host of This Hour Has 22 Minutes in 2003. Majumder has hosted 15 episodes of 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 that 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 chronicled his dream of transforming his hometown of Burlington, Newfoundland into a popular tourist destination.
The Honourable Gurbax Singh Malhi
When the Honourable Gurbax Singh Malhi was elected in 1993 to represent Bramalea-Gore-Malton (Ontario) he became the first Sikh who wears a turban to be elected to the House of Commons. He served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry Canada with Special Emphasis on Entrepreneurs and New Canadians. He also acted as an Opposition Industry Critic. Furthermore, the Honourable Gurbax Singh Malhi was a member of a number of standing committees including Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and government operations such as Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, and Human Resources Development. He was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his commitment and contributions to Canadian society.
Dr. Tak Wah Mak
Dr. Tak Wah Mak, who was born in southern China. He is a renowned Canadian of Chinese origin scientist whose work in microbiology and immunology had a significant effect on public health worldwide. 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. In 1984, he solved one of immunology’s most complex problems when he discovered how the immune system recognizes pathogens. Then, he 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 been recognized around the world with many distinguished awards, including the Order of Canada.
Brian McKeever, a Canadian of Japanese origin, is a cross-country skier and a biathlete. His grandparents on his mother’s side immigrated to Canada from Japan, and owned a berry farm in Vancouver. During the Second World War, they were taken to a Japanese internment camp in Sandon, British Colombia, but they were released later on. McKeever was born on June 18, 1979 in Calgary, Alberta, and he started losing his vision at the age of nineteen as a result of Stargardt's disease. In 2010, he was the first Canadian athlete to be named to both Paralympic and Olympic teams. In 2018, he became the most decorated Winter Paralympian when he won his fourteenth medal in the men's 20-kilometre cross-country ski freestyle event at the Paralympics held in PyeongChang.
Deepa Mehta 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), which was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film, and attained Canadian and global success. Both 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). Mehta is the recipient of the 2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement.
Roy Akira Miki, is a Canadian poet, scholar, editor, and activist. He was born in Ste. Agathe, Manitoba (10 October 1942) to second generation Canadians of Japanese origin parents. During the Second World War, his family was forcibly relocated to Western Canada and interned.
Miki earned his B.A. from the University of Manitoba, M.A. from the Simon Fraser University, and 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 questions about 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 origin during the Second World War. As part of the 1988 Japanese Canadian Regress Agreement, the Government created a community fund to undertake educational, social and cultural activities or programs that contributed to healing or to the promotion of human rights. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation was created on behalf of Canadians of Japanese origin and in commemoration of those community members who had suffered wartime injustices. Citizenship was restored to those Canadians of Japanese origin 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.
Of the redress agreement, Roy Miki said that it “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.
At Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Masumi Mitsui, a Canadian of Japanese origin soldier, earned the Military Medal for bravery. 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 origin the right to vote. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, Mitsui and his family, like all people of Japanese ancestry in Canada, were declared enemies and sent to an internment camp. Their home and possessions were confiscated. After the war, Mitsui participated in the lobbying for a public apology and compensation. He died in 1987 at the age of 99, he was the last surviving Canadian of Japanese origin veteran of the First World War—a year before the government made its apology.
Raymond Moriyama is an internationally acclaimed Canadian of Japanese origin architect and urban planner. He describes architecture as a social force that is "a relentless, investigative process." His architecture is innovative, functional, and 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, won Governor General’s Medals for Architecture, the 2010 Sakura Award from Toronto’s Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and is a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Paul Nguyen, filmmaker and advocate, was born in Toronto and is a second-generation Canadian of Vietnamese origin whose parents fled Vietnam and came to Canada during the migration of the "boat people." He uses the Internet and his passion for filmmaking to promote unity among people of diverse backgrounds. As a boy, he was avidly interested in creating films, and made movies with his best friend that they then distributed throughout their neighbourhood, the Jane and Finch area of Toronto. Nguyen’s early life prompted an interest in narrating the gap between second-generation Vietnamese kids and their parents. He dedicated his life to improving race relations, promoting multicultural understanding in Canada, as well as speaking out on youth crime, gang violence and the social issues of marginalized communities. In 2010, Nguyen received the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship and the Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism in the outstanding achievement category. In 2012, he was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for fighting stereotypes and acting as a role model and mentor for at-risk youth in his community
Emily Nishikawa, born in Whitehorse, Yukon in 1989, is a Canadian cross-country skier of Japanese origin. Nishikawa was inspired to begin skiing by her brother, Graham Nishikawa, at the age of four. She was the overall North American Champion of 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. Again in 2018, she won 7th place in the team sprint, and 13th in the relay race for cross-country skiing. Nishikawa is also studying psychology at Athabasca University, and she hopes to become an elementary school teacher.
The Canadian of Japanese origin, Graham Nishikawais a cross-country skier. He was born on November 19, 1983 in Whitehorse, Yukon, and he is the older brother of Canadian
cross- country skiing Olympian, Emily Nishikawa. Nishikawa stated that he was interested in competing in cross-country skiing as it fuses camaraderie, physical activity, and being outdoors. He qualified for the first time as a Canadian representative at the elite level for the International Skiing Federation World Cup in 2013. Nishikawa has acted as a guide for cross-country skiing and biathlon Olympian and Paralympian, Brian McKeever. Their partnership resulted in winning three medals at the 2018 Paralympic Games, three medals at the 2017 Para Nordic World Championships, a gold medal at the 2014 Paralympic games in the one-kilometre sprint, and other titles.
Canadian of Japanese origin singer, George Nozuka, was born in 1986. H. He is the brother of a number of 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 into fame. As a Canadian United Nations peacekeeper, George Nozuka produced a song called "Hurting Child" for the documentary, Forgotten Children: The Story of Haiti's Restavecs, directed by Craig Goodwill.
Canadian of Japanese origin singer Justin Nozuka was born in 1988. He 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 and brightest artists on a reworked version of K'naan's "Wavin' Flag."
Sandra Miju Oh was born July 20, 1971, and is a Canadian actress best known for her role as Dr. Cristina Yang on ABC's medical drama Grey's Anatomy. For her portrayal, she has been recognized with a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild awards, and five nominations for Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
Wally Oppal operated his own legal practice in Vancouver prior to serving as a Judge for 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 Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism until 2009. Oppal was involved in many significant reforms of the justice system, including the establishment of Canada’s first community court to deal with chronic offenders, developing new Rules of Court in order to promote quicker resolution for disputes, and developing new initiatives to deal with violence against women.
Dr. D.P. Pandia
Dr. D.P Pandia was a central figure of the Indo-Canadian community in British Colombia. He was an advocate in the fight for equal representation for East Indians 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 East Indians.
Jon Kimura Parker
Jon Kimura Parker is recognized worldwide for his virtuosity. His family originally came from Japan, however he grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. 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 is infused with classical music of the Romantic era, and 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, including 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 to organize a benefit concert, Dear Japan – With Love, 2011.
Senator Vivienne Poy
Senator Vivienne Poy, the first Canadian of Asian origin appointed to the Senate of Canada. She is an entrepreneur, author, historian, and fashion designer. She was integral to establishing May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. Poy was educated in Hong Kong, England, and Canada, in addition, she earned a PhD 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 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. She was born in Switzerland and 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 from the University of Alberta; and in 1996 she received a fine arts award from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Born in Toronto, Ontario in 1960, Kerri Sakamoto is a novelist whose works commonly deal with the Japanese Canadian experience. Her first novel, The Electrical Field (1998), won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, the Canada Council's biennial Canada-Japan Literary Award and she was a finalist for a Governor General's Award. For her third novel, Floating City, she was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award and she earned the Canada-Japan Literary Award for the second time.
Sakamoto also co-wrote (with director Rea Tajiri) the screenplay to 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.
On November 17, 1981, Conrad Santos became the first Canadian of Filipino origin to be elected to office in Canada. At the time, he served the Manitoba Assembly for the New Democratic Party (NDP). He was a member of the Legislative Assembly between 1981-1988 and 1990-2007. Santos was born in the Philippines, and educated at Harvard University and the University of Michigan. He earned a PhD in Political Science during his studies. He moved to Winnipeg in 1965 when he procured a teaching position at the University of Manitoba. His first political bid, a New Democratic Party nomination in the Winnipeg-Fort Garry riding, was unsuccessful. He also failed in two subsequent runs at 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 NDP election in the riding of Wellington by a considerable margin. After re-election in 2003, Santos stepped down before the 2007 election.
Rana Sarkar was appointed as Consul General of Canada in San Francisco, Silicon Valley in 2017, with accreditation for Northern California and Hawaii. He is also a member of Canada’s NAFTA Advisory Council.
Sarkar previously served as National Director for High Growth Markets & India at KPMG Canada, and co-chairman of the advisory board and a senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. From 2009 to 2013, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada-India Business Council.
In 2005, Sarkar co-founded Content Partners, a global content agency (sold in 2009), and, in 2001, the advisory firm Rawlings Atlantic Limited. He began his career as a consultant at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants in London and Munich and helped establish Roland Berger in India. He also served as a visiting lecturer at the London School of Economics and the CASS Business School at the University of London.
Born in Calcutta, India, Sarkar moved to Canada with his family as a child. He attended the London School of Economics, Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, and the INSEAD Executive Program in France. He is currently a member of the advisory council of the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation, Canada2020, The Literary Review of Canada and Magic Bus. In 2011, he was a candidate for the Canadian Parliament.
Novelist Shyam Selvadurai was born in Sri Lanka, 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, of 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 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 was 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-born actor, writer and director of Pakistani origin. 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 brings a fierce intelligence and flustered naiveté to a role that has 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, and co-founded the Whistler Theatre Project in Whistler, British Columbia. He is committed to making a lasting contribution to Canadian drama.
Jagmeet Singh was born on January 2, 1979, in Scarborough, Ontario, 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 High School in 1997, obtained a Bachelor of Science 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 ran unsuccessfully 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: where 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 the Consumer Services. Singh also served as his party's deputy house leader. October 1, 2017, Singh returned to federal politics when he was elected leader of the federal New Democratic Party 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 by-election for Burnaby South (British Columbia). Upon his election, Singh became the first person of a visible minority group to lead a major Canadian federal political party on a permanent basis.
Lilly Singh is a Scarborough native of Punjabi origin. She is also a major YouTube personality, vlogger, author, and actress. She began her Youtube Channel, IISuperwomanII, in October of 2010. Since then, her channel has accumulated over 2 billion views, and over 13 million subscribers. Singh was named one of the most successful influencers on 2017 Forbes Top Influencers List in the entertainment category. She has worked on a number of campaigns including Girl Love which promotes an end to girl-on-girl hate, and became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Alfred Sung is born in 1948 in Shanghai, China, he grew up in Hong Kong. He dedicated his life to creating new fashions, apparel, fragrances, accessories and home fashions for women and men. He studied couture and graduated with first-place honours at Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, France. Sung moved to New York City to study at the Parsons School of Design, and in 1972 he decided to move to Canada. In 1985, Sung co-founded Club Monaco, a high-end casual clothing retailer, with Saul and Joseph Mimran.
David Suzuki is a third generation Canadian of Japanese origin, 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 such as; Officer of the Order of Canada in 1977 (later elevated to Companion to the Order of Canada in 2006); the Royal Bank Award and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Kalinga Prize for science writing in 1986; a lifetime achievement award from the University of British Columbia in 2000, along with 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, which is known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize," and recognizes outstanding vision and work for the planet and its people.
Born in Shiroishi, Japan, Mutsumi Takahashi began studying piano at the Toronto Conservatory of Music at the age of six. She is a graduate of Vanier College and Concordia University, holding both a B.A. and M.B.A. In spring of 2013, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by her alma mater, Concordia University. Most recently, she was co-chairing the Best Care for Life Campaign of the McGill University Health Centre with Montreal Canadiens great Jean Béliveau, and she currently sits on McGill’s Beatty Memorial Fund Committee, which oversees the annual Beatty Memorial Lecture Series.
Kim Thúy is an award-winning author. She fled her native 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 origin to receive Canada's Top 25 Immigrants Award. His life story shows courage, resilience, and an indefatigable 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. Finally, he arrived in Canada in 2001. At the time, on top of having to face the newcomer's typical challenges, he had to deal with psychological and emotional trauma left over from having lived 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 the world over 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 and risks to maintain a strong vision of helping others.
Yuki Tsubota, a Canadian of Japanese origin, is an Olympic slopestyle skier. She was born in 1994 in Vancouver, British Columbia. 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 with substantial injuries. Despite this set back, 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 place at the AFP World Tour Finals in 2014-2015, getting the gold medal for 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
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 reserve 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 origin 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. Kew Dock Yip was a leader within Toronto's Chinese Canadian community, and he worked out of his office in Chinatown for 47 years until his retirement in 1992. 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 led to the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 that barred 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, the Chinese 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 1st 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 origin in the Royal Canadian Navy and the first officer of Chinese origin in all the Navies of the British Commonwealth. Midfielder K. Dock Yip became Canada's first lawyer of Chinese origin in 1945, and lobbied for the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act, finally repealed in 1947.
Asahi baseball team
The Asahi was a Canadian of Japanese origin baseball club in Vancouver (1914–42). 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 origin interned by the federal government. The Asahi were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
Canadians of Sikh origin 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 attain Canadian citizenship. Amongst them, eight served in Europe, and two were killed in action. Buckam Singh who was first living in British Columbia, and later moved toToronto, is the Sikh veteran about whom we know the most out of the ten. He was wounded twice and died after returning to Canada. His grave in Kitchener, Ontario, is the only known First World War Canadian of Sikh origin soldier’s grave in Canada. 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 enlisted at Smiths Falls, Ontario; Ram Singh of Grand Forks, British Columbia; and Sewa Singh of Vancouver.
Canadian of Chinese origin Second World War veterans
Photo of Canadians of Chinese origin veterans Roy Mah and George Ing, courtesy of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum
Hundreds of Canadians of Chinese origin 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 the Royal Canadian Navy until March 1944. Many Canadians of Chinese origin volunteered for active duty, even though they were exempt from the National Resources Mobilization Act of 1940 (NRMA), which allowed the Canadian government to requisition property and services for defense. In 1944, the British War Office petitioned the Canadian Government for Canadians of Chinese origin to work for the Special Operations Executive in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. Canadians of Chinese origin were later called up under the NRMA. They played an active role in the Second World War, and made unique contributions to the war effort. Intense lobbying by returning Canadian of Chinese origin veterans led to the repeal of the Chinese Immigration (Exclusion) Act. Their efforts turned out to be a great success.
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