Noteworthy Canadians of Asian heritage

These short biographies highlight some of the many valuable contributions made by Canadians of Asian heritage. They reflect historical and cultural milestones that help define the rich and significant history of communities of Asian heritage in Canada.

Mary Kitagawa

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. She received her secondary teaching credential from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and taught at Kitsilano Secondary School.

She, along with her husband Tosh, was a member of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association (JCCA) Human Rights Committee for 23 years. In 2008, they began lobbying for UBC to give honorary degrees to the 76 Japanese Canadian students who were expelled from UBC in 1942. In 2012, UBC held a special congregation for those students, digitized historical documents, and created a new minor course in the Faculty of Arts called the Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies Program.

Mary is on the Community Council of the Landscapes of Injustice project at the University of Victoria, and she continues to educate the public by speaking out about Japanese Canadian history and social justice. In 2013, Mary was also the recipient of the National Association of Japanese Canadians’ Leadership Award for the contributions she has made to Japanese Canadian communities.

Chow Quen Lee (1911–2017)

Chow Quen Lee was born in China on October 18, 1911.

Nicknamed “Nooey Quen” (meaning “women’s rights” in English), she was one of 3 immigrant litigants who led a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa over its discriminatory Chinese head tax. She continued this fight for justice until her passing in 2017 at the age of 105.

Chow Quen was known to be a determined, committed, and stubborn person who had a strong sense of justice, as well as a loving mother and grandmother. Her toughness helped her overcome war, poverty, a 14-year separation from her husband, and the drawn-out legal battle for government redress.

A native of Taishan, Chow Quen married Guang Foo Lee in 1930, when he returned to China from Canada to find a wife. He was born in 1892, also in Taishan, and paid a $500 head tax in 1913 to come to Canada.

Chow Quen would travel in her wheelchair to fundraising events and rallies between Toronto and Ottawa to raise public awareness about Canada’s racist past against people of Chinese origin.

Although the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed and subsequent appeals were denied, the efforts of Chow Quen and others set into motion talks with the government that ended in an official apology in the House of Commons on June 22, 2006.

Chow Quen was in the audience when then prime minister Stephen Harper apologized in Cantonese to Chinese Canadian communities.

Kew Dock Yip (1906–2001)

The first lawyer of Chinese origin in Canada, Kew Yock Dip (also known as Yock Dip) was born into a large family in Vancouver in 1906. He graduated from Michigan University in 1931 with a degree in Pharmacology, intending to practise in British Columbia. However, due to the racial segregation of Asian communities in Canada at the time, he was unable to enter the field. He attended the University of British Columbia and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 1941, to then pursue studies in Law. He would go on to apply 3 times before being accepted to Osgoode Hall Law School, which he graduated from in 1945. He also opened his own law firm in Toronto’s first Chinatown, where he would serve his clients for 47 years.

In 1942, during World War II, Dock Yip managed to enlist as an army reservist with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, despite Canada initially restricting people of Chinese origin from joining the military. During his time with the military, he befriended Irving Himel, a Jewish man who was also a fellow lawyer, whom he would work with closely even after serving in the military. Yip and Himel collaborated with various activists and organizations to fight injustice. One of their many accomplishments was the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1947. Having this big achievement under his belt did not slow Yock Dip’s tenacity; he lobbied the government until 1966 to lower entrance barriers for immigrants of Chinese origin.

At the age of 79, Kew Yock Dip ventured into the world of showbusiness and acted in the Year of the Dragon, Diamonds (1987) and Fearless Tiger (1991).

Finally, in 1992, he retired from his law practice. In 1998, he was awarded the Law Society Medal from the Law Society of Upper Canada for outstanding service to the legal profession.

Tareq Hadhad

Tareq Hadhad is a Syrian Canadian entrepreneur, philanthropist, and social activist, known for his work in the field of refugee resettlement and for founding Peace by Chocolate, a successful chocolate company based in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

Tareq was born on October 19, 1988, in Damascus, Syria, into a family with a long tradition of chocolate making. In 2012, Tareq’s life took an unexpected turn when his family’s chocolate factory was destroyed during the Syrian civil war, forcing them to flee to Lebanon, where they lived in a refugee camp for 3 years. While in Lebanon, Tareq provided medical services to those in need, as he had studied medicine and had 2 years left to study to become a doctor before he was forced to leave his country.

In 2015, Tareq and his family were granted refugee status and resettled in the small town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. With the determination to rebuild their lives and pursue their passion for chocolate making, Tareq and his family founded Peace by Chocolate in 2016, with the goal of not only creating delicious chocolates, but also spreading a message of peace, inclusion, and resilience.

A major milestone in Tareq’s life was obtaining Canadian citizenship in January 2020. Author Jon Tattrie wrote a book on the Hadhads’ story that became a best-seller. A feature film based on the family’s story, Peace by Chocolate, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2022 and was subsequently shown in Cineplex theatres across Canada.

He was named one of the Top 25 Immigrants in the Maritimes, was selected by Google as the National Hero Case, and was awarded RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards in 2020, in addition to receiving Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal.

Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri is a Canadian professional ice hockey player for the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League. Nazem was born in London, Ontario, on October 6, 1990, the second of 5 children. Nazem began ice skating at the age of 2, joined his first hockey team when he was 4 years old, and was playing at the elite level within the next 2 years. He played his junior career in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), first with the Kitchener Rangers, where he was awarded the J. Ross Robertson Cup, and then with the London Knights. Nazem represented Canada internationally at the 2010 World Junior Championships, where the team received the silver medal after losing the final to the United States. Nazem went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2022, becoming the first Muslim player to hoist the Cup. As part of his celebrations, Nazem travelled to his hometown of London and visited the London Muslim Mosque, marking the first time the Stanley Cup has visited a mosque.

Domee Shi

Domee Shi is an Academy Award-winning director, writer, and storyboard artist for Pixar.

Domee was born in Chongqing, China on September 8, 1989, and immigrated to Canada with her parents at the age of 2. After spending 6 months in Newfoundland, she and her family settled in Toronto, where she grew up.

Domee wrote and directed the animated short film Bao for Pixar in 2018, which garnered her first Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 91st Academy Awards. The film also earned nominations at the 43rd Annie Awards, the International Online Cinema Awards, and the Tribeca Film Festival. She directed and wrote the 2022 feature film Turning Red based on her experiences growing up as a Canadian of Chinese origin in Toronto, becoming the first woman with sole director’s credit on a feature film for Pixar.

Domee started her career at Pixar as an intern and has worked as a storyboard artist on notable films such as Inside Out (2015), The Good Dinosaur (2015), Incredibles 2 (2018) and Toy Story 4 (2019). She was recently named Vice President of Creative at the company.

Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya is a transgender artist of colour whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, TV, and film. She is a Canadian Screen Award winner and a Polaris Music Prize nominee, and her best-selling book I’m Afraid of Men was heralded by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel.” She is also the founder of the award-winning publishing imprint VS. Books, which supports emerging Indigenous, Black and racialized writers.

Vivek has been a brand ambassador for MAC Cosmetics and Pantene. She is a director on the board of the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which fights for economic justice, health, and representation for 2SLGBTQI+ girls and women, and is currently adapting her debut play, How to Fail as a Popstar, as a digital series with CBC.

Vicky Sunohara

Vicky Sunohara is a women’s ice hockey legend, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a seven-time world champion. She was born in Scarborough, Ontario, on May 18, 1970. She is of Japanese and Ukrainian heritage.

Vicky won an Olympic silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. She continued with an Olympic gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, and another gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Besides the Olympics, Vicky represented Canada in numerous international ice hockey competitions. A member of the women’s national program from 1989 until her retirement in 2008, Vicky appeared in 8 IIHF World Championships as Canada won gold 7 times (1990, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, and 2007) and silver once (2005). In those 8 world championships, Vicky played in 40 games and totalled 41 points.

Vicky played collegiate hockey for Northeastern University from 1988 to 1990 and for the University of Toronto from 1990 to 1992. She went on to play for the Brampton Thunder of the NWHL/CWHL from 2005 to 2008, winning the league championship in 2007 and 2008.

After retiring from playing, Vicky pursued a coaching career, utilizing her wealth of experience and knowledge of the game to mentor young players. She has been involved in coaching at various levels, including serving as an assistant coach with Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Wisconsin.

Throughout her career, Vicky has been recognized for her contributions to the sport of ice hockey. She was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012 with her teammates from the Turin 2006 Olympic hockey team. She continues to be a respected figure in the world of women’s ice hockey, inspiring future generations of players with her talent, passion, and dedication to the sport.

Margaret Lyons
Portrait of Margaret Lyons

The first female vice-president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Margaret Lyons CM, was born Keiko Margaret Inouye on November 21, 1923, in Mission, British Columbia, to Japanese immigrants Yoshinobu Inouye and Teru Tsuji.

Lyons and her family left Mission in 1942 after the expulsion of Canadians of Japanese heritage from the area. The family settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where Lyons worked as a domestic worker. After moving to Hamilton, Ontario, in 1944, Lyons served as a housemaid at McMaster University while completing her high school education. Then, she attended the university and obtained an economics degree.

A year and a half after starting as a typist with the BBC, Lyons became a producer for BBC's Asian current affairs service, where she remained for six years. In 1957, Lyons interviewed Lester Pearson after he received the Nobel Peace Prize, and he encouraged her to enter the Canadian journalism industry. So, she moved to Toronto in 1960 and began working as CBC Radio’s public affairs producer. Afterword, Lyons was promoted to director of the AM radio service and then to vice-president of network radio at the CBC, becoming the first woman elected to that position. Lyons held a reputation of "benevolent ferocity" and was affectionately referred to as the "Dragon Lady".

In 1996, McMaster University awarded Lyons an honorary Doctorate of Letters. The Lyons New Media Center at McMaster was named in her honor. For her broadcasting achievements, Lyons was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2010.

Gurdeep Pandher
Portrait of Gurdeep Pandher
Photo courtesy of: MarkHilton, via Wikimedia Commons

Gurdeep was born into a farming family in a village called Siahar in Punjab. By grade 10, Gurdeep had written numerous creative literature and compositions, including poetry, prose, a full novel, hundreds of stories, and a play. By the age of 23, he became a published author of two books, the first entitled Mitti De Ghar and his second, Among the Stars, is based on the life of Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. Writing is Gurdeep’s passion and lifetime craft.

As a part of Punjabi-Sikh culture, Gurdeep was born into the world of Bhangra. In his youth, at the age of 17, he began taking professional Bhangra classes in Ludhiana, Punjab. This allowed him to learn to dance from the heart and adopt dance as a part of his lifestyle. Since his days in Punjab, his love for dance has continued to grow and evolve.

He moved to Canada in 2006 and has lived in many great Canadian cities, towns, and villages, including Squamish, Vancouver, Abbotsford, Saskatoon, Edmonton, North Battleford, Turtleford, Lloydminster, Yellowknife, and now, Whitehorse. After moving to the Yukon in 2012, Gurdeep pursued his passion for dance, providing Bhangra lessons at many locations in Canada.

Gurdeep began posting Bhangra dance videos filmed in the beautiful landscapes of the Yukon. Over time, his posts went viral, and his work has been featured on CBC Yukon, CBC National, CTV National News, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, SBS Australia, and many other platforms.

In his free time, Gurdeep enjoys sharing a laugh with his fellow Yukoners at coffee shops or in the streets of the many unique Yukon communities. He pursues other passions as well including photography, video-editing, web-art, digital-designs, languages, and music. However, written wordography and Bhangra remain his favourites.

The vast land, open-air, wide mountains, smiling sun and, even sometimes beautiful drizzles, all taught him to be a free spirit. Gurdeep celebrates life with an open heart that he found through his love for nature.

The Honourable Avvy Yao-Yao Go
Portrait of The Honourable Avvy Yao-Yao Go

Madam Justice Avvy Yao-Yao Go has 30 years of advocacy and litigation experience on behalf of low-income racialized clients, mostly through her role as Clinic Director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.

As a first-generation Canadian of Chinese heritage, Justice Go devoted the bulk of her legal career to breaking down barriers for marginalized groups, while challenging long-standing Canadian issues including anti-Asian racism, xenophobia, structural inequalities in the labour market, as well as systemic racism and other forms of discrimination within the legal system.

She had appeared before all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, on behalf of clients and public interest litigants seeking to promote equity and racial justice. She served as a Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario for 14 years and sat on the LSO’s Access to Justice Committee, Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee, and Human Rights Monitoring Group.

Justice Go has also served as a part-time member of several administrative tribunals in Ontario. She has volunteered for many non-governmental and community-based organizations, including serving as the Vice-Chair of the Court Challenges Program of Canada and President of the Chinese Canadian National Council, Toronto Chapter. She co-founded the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) and the Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change Network.

Justice Avvy Yao-Yao Go received her B.A. from University of Waterloo, her LL.B. from University of Toronto, and her LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School. She was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1991.

In 2021, Justice Go became the first Chinese Canadian to be appointed to the Federal Court.

For her contributions to disadvantaged communities and to the legal profession, Justice Go has received many awards, including the Order of Ontario (2014), the FACL Lawyer of Distinction Award (2012), the City of Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations (2008), and the Women’s Law Association of Ontario President’s Award (2002).

Ian Hanomansing
Portrait of Ian Hanomansing
Photo courtesy of: Urban Mixer (Raj Taneja), via Wikimedia Commons

Born in Trinidad and raised in Sackville, New Brunswick, veteran host and reporter Ian Hanomansing began his broadcasting career at CKDH Radio in Amherst, Nova Scotia, working at radio stations in Moncton and Halifax before joining CBC in Halifax in 1986. His assignments took him to Toronto the following year and eventually to Vancouver, where he was a national reporter for fourteen years.

Among his major assignments: the Exxon Valdez oil spill and San Francisco earthquake (both in 1989), the Los Angeles riot (1992), Vancouver's two Stanley Cup riots (1994 and 2011), the Hong Kong handover (1997) the Slave Lake Alberta wildfire (2011), the Humboldt bus crash (2018) and seven Olympic Games, the most recent in Sochi in 2014. He has hosted a wide range of programs including: Pacific Rim Report (1995-1999), which focused on Canada's connection to Asia; Times 7 (2005), a joint venture between CBC News and the New York Times; Canada Now (2000-2007), a national supper-hour newscast; Still Talking Hockey (2004), a sports-themed late night program on CBC British Columbia; Feeling the Heat (2007), a summer series about the environment on CBC Radio One and CBC News Network with Ian Hanomansing (2012-2017) which won a Canadian Journalism Award in 2014 and shared a Canadian Screen Award in 2015, both for breaking news coverage.

Hanomansing also developed and hosted a series of innovative live specials, including Downtown Drugs (1998), which explored the problems and potential solutions in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside from the streets of that troubled neighbourhood, and 2005's Crime on the Streets, which may be the only national news show broadcast live from the cells of a Canadian federal institution, in this case Manitoba's Stoney Mountain. That program won a Justicia Award from the Canadian Bar Association for Excellence in Legal Journalism. Other national awards include the 2008 Gemini for Best News Anchor and the 2016 Canadian Screen Award for Best National News Anchor.

He also co-hosted with Johanna Wagstaffe the CBC podcast UNCOVER: BOMB ON BOARD in 2018. It investigated one of the biggest unsolved mass murders on Canadian soil, Canadian Pacific Airlines Flight 21. It crashed near 100 Mile House B.C. in 1965, killing all 52 passengers and crew.

Senator Vivienne Poy
Portrait of Senator Vivienne Poy
Photo courtesy of: Neville G. 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 heritage 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.

Patrick Chan
Portrait of Patrick Chan

Patrick Lewis Wai-Kuan Chan was born in Ottawa on December 31, 1990. Patrick is a Canadian figure skater of Chinese heritage, 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.

Julie Quynh Nhi Tran
Portrait of Julie Quynh Nhi Tran

Julie Quynh Nhi Tran was born on January 7, 1996, in Montreal, Quebec. She is a second-generation child of Vietnamese immigrants. Growing up in the Saint-Michel district, social injustices have always motivated her to get involved with marginalized populations since the age of 15. Julie began her career in the social sciences as a special educator. She then pursued a Bachelor's degree in Sexology at the University of Quebec in Montreal and a Master's degree in Social Work at the University of Ottawa.

During the resurgence of anti-Asian racism in March 2020, Julie regularly spoke out in the mainstream media to highlight the systemic racism on Asian communities. She helped set up a social networking service called the Groupe d'Entraide Contre le Racisme Envers les Asiatiques au Québec (GECREAQ) during the pandemic to provide psychological support and guidance to people of Asian heritage who have experienced racism. She is also a founding member of the Coalition Asiatique pour une Relève Émancipatrice (CARÉ), a group people of Asian heritage who carry out community-based social justice projects while promoting the well-being of their home community. This activism has been recognized with the Paul Gérin-Lajoie Diversity Award.

Her expertise and life experience led her to work at Hoodstock as a project manager for (The) Hoodstop Sexual Violence. Working with several Afrofeminist activists, she is helping to develop a prevention and intervention service "by, for and with" racialized people to fight against sexual violence in Montreal-North and the outlying areas.

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Portrait of The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

Adrienne Clarkson was born on February 10, 1939, in Hong Kong; she is a Canadian of Chinese heritage. 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.

Payam Akhavan
Payam Akhavan
Photo courtesy of Peter Bregg

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.

Bardish Chagger
Portrait of Bardish Chagger

The Honourable Bardish Chagger was born in Waterloo, Ontario and is of South Asian heritage. 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.

William "Bill" Gun Chong
Portrait of William "Bill" Gun Chong
Photo courtesy of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum

William “Bill” Gun Chong was born in Vancouver on July 15, 1911. He is the only Canadian of Chinese heritage 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.

The Honourable Steve A. Coroza

Justice Steve A. Coroza was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal in April 2020. His position is the highest attained by a Canadian of Filipino Heritage in the Canadian judiciary system so far.

In 1995, he received his LL.B. from the University of Windsor Law School. Two years later, he was called to the Bar in Ontario and in 2003, Justice Coroza received his LL.M. from University of Windsor, Osgoode Hall Law School.

From 1997 to 1998, he was a staff duty counsel for Ontario Legal Aid in Toronto. From 1998 to 2009, he was senior counsel with the Department of Justice and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, where his main area of practice was criminal law. Justice Steve Cardoza formerly served as a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice in St. Catharines from 2009 to 2013 and the Superior Court of Justice in Brampton from 2013 to 2020.

He was a member of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers and a frequent panelist for continuing education programs for lawyers and judges. He was also a former adjunct instructor for the Trial Advocacy Course at Osgoode Hall Law School and guest instructor at Notre Dame Law School.

Jim Chu

Jim Chu was born in 1959 in Shanghai, China; he is a Canadian of Chinese heritage.

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 Honourable Harbance Singh (Herb) Dhaliwal

Harbance Singh (Herb) Dhaliwal, was born in Punjab, India, in 1952; he is a Canadian of Indian heritage. 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
Portrait of Baltej Singh Dhillon
Photo courtesy of the Sikh Museum

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

Thomas Fung was born in Hong Kong in 1951; he is a Canadian of Chinese heritage 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

Sudarshan Gautam was born in the Ramechhap district in Nepal in 1978, and is a Canadian of Nepalese heritage. 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 Gee
Portrait of Margaret Gee
Photo courtesy of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum

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 heritage 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 heritage 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
Portrait of Chan Hon Goh
Photo courtesy of the National Ballet of Canada (Photographer: Cylla von Tiedemann)

Chan Hon Goh was born in 1969 in Beijing and is of Chinese heritage.

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

Hiromi Goto was born on December 21, 1966, in Chiba, Japan, and is a Canadian of Japanese heritage. 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
Portrait of Naranjan Singh Grewall
Photo courtesy of Mission Community Archives

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 heritage 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
Portrait of Carol Huynh
Photo courtesy of Ewan Nicholson

Carol Huynh was born on November 16, 1980, in Hazelton, British Columbia. 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

Rupi Kaur was born on October 4, 1992, in Hoshiarpur, India. She is a Canadian of Indian heritage 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.

Manny Jacinto
Portrait of Manny Jacinto
Photo courtesy of Aitchisons from United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Manny Jacinto is a Canadian actor of Filipino Heritage who has been active in the entertainment industry since 2012. Following several minor television roles, he made his big breakthrough playing Jason Mendoza in the NBC sitcom The Good Place.

Jacinto was born in Manila, Philippines on August 19, 1987. His family emigrated to Canada when he was about three years old. He was raised in Richmond, British Columbia and attended the University of British Columbia where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering.

He began his professional career as a dancer before turning to acting. However, it wasn’t long until he started starring in well-known TV series like, Supernatural, Once Upon a Time and iZombie. In 2015, he landed the role of Wing Lei in The Romeo Section where he was nominated for the “Best Supporting Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series”.

After his role in various TV series, fans also saw him in the movie The Unauthorized Save.

Jacinto was also a nominee for “Ensemble of the Year” in 2018 for his role in The Good Place. He was the second runner-up when he participated in the “Artist Emerge National Competition” and placed 10th in the Hip Hop category at the International World Championships representing Canada.

Douglas Jung
Portrait of Douglas Jung
Photo courtesy of The Province, Vancouver/VPL41609

Douglas Jung was born on February 25, 1924, in Victoria, British Columbia; he is of Chinese heritage. 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 heritage 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 heritage 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
Portrait of Gilmore Junio
Photo Courtesy of the CBC

Gilmore Junio was born in 1990 in Calgary, Alberta; he is a Canadian of Filipino heritage. 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
Portrait of Juliette Kang
Photo courtesy of Amanda Hall Studios

Juliette Kang was born on September 6, 1975, in Edmonton; she is a Canadian of Korean heritage. 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 heritage. In 1948, Kwong became the first Canadian of Asian heritage 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
Portrait of Norman L. Kwong
Photo courtesy of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta

Norman Kwong was born on October 24, 1929, in Calgary; he is of Chinese heritage.

Norman Kwong became Alberta’s first Lieutenant Governor of Asian heritage in January 2005. However, many people know him as the first Canadian of Chinese heritage 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 heritage 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
Portrait of David See-Chai Lam
Photo by Glenn Baglo, courtesy of The Vancouver Sun (71106)

The Honourable David See-Chai Lam was born on July 25, 1923, in Hong Kong; he is of Chinese heritage. He became British Columbia’s 25th Lieutenant Governor in September 1988. He was the first person of Asian heritage 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.

Simu Liu
Portrait of Simu Liu
Photo courtesy of Sliu253, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Simu Liu is a Canadian actor of Chinese Heritage, writer and producer known for his breakout role as the first Asian Marvel superhero Shang-Chi in the movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings.

Born on April 19th, 1989, in Harbin, China, his family later immigrated to Canada when he was 5 years old and was raised in Mississauga, Ontario.

Liu is a graduate of the Ivey Business School where he studied financial planning and analysis at the University of Western. He later went on to work as an accountant before discovering his true calling in entertainment. He started his career as an extra and stuntman. Liu was then featured in the film Pacific Rim and series such as Heroes Reborn, Nikita and Warehouse 13.

His breakthrough performance was on the CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience, which got him nominated for many awards, including the “Canadian Screen Award for Best Lead Actor, Comedy”. In 2019, he was nominated for an ACTRA Award for “Outstanding Performance – Ensemble”.

Off screen, Simu Liu is known for being a vocal advocate against Anti-Asian racism and discrimination.

Lieutenant Commander (Retired) William K. L. Lore
Portrait of William K. L. Lore
Photo courtesy of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum

William K. L. Lore was born in Victoria, British Columbia, on February 28, 1909; he is of Chinese heritage. In 1939, he joined the Department of Transport as a wireless operator; in doing so, he became the first Canadian of Chinese heritage to join Canada’s civil service. In 1943, he was the first Canadian of Chinese heritage to join the Royal Canadian Navy, and later became the first officer of Chinese heritage 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
Portrait of Jean Lumb
Photo courtesy of the Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage

Jean Lumb was born in 1919 in Nanaimo, British Columbia; she is of Chinese heritage. Jean was the first Canadian of Chinese heritage 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

Hazel Mae was born on April 7, 1990, in Tagbilaran City, Philippines; she is a Canadian of Filipino heritage. 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
Portrait of Shaun Majumder
Photo courtesy of Hess Entertainment

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
Portrait of Tak Wah Mak
Photo courtesy of the University Health Network Photography Department, Toronto

Dr. Tak Wah Mak was born October 4, 1946, in China; he is a Canadian of Chinese heritage. 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
Portrait of Brian McKeever
Photo Courtesy of the CBC

Brian McKeever was born on June 18, 1979, in Calgary, Alberta; he is of Japanese heritage. 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
Portrait of Deepa Mehta
Photo courtesy of Deepa Mehta

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 Miki
Portrait of Roy Miki
Photo courtesy of Talonbooks

Roy Akira Miki was born on October 10, 1942, in Ste. Agathe, Manitoba; he is a Canadian of Japanese heritage. 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 heritage 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 heritage and in commemoration of those community members who had suffered wartime injustices. Citizenship was restored to those Canadians of Japanese heritage 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
Portrait of Masumi Mitsui
Photo courtesy of David Mitsui

Masumi Mitsui was born on October 7, 1887, in Japan; he is a Canadian of Asian heritage.

Masumi Mitsui, a Canadian soldier of Japanese heritage, 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 heritage 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
Portrait of Raymond Moriyama
Photo courtesy of Al Gilbert Studio

Raymond Moriyama was born on October 11, 1929, in Vancouver; he is a Canadian of Japanese heritage. 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.

Paul Nguyen
Portrait of Paul Nguyen
Photo courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

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. In 2017, he received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers for his efforts to eliminate racial discrimination.

Emily Nishikawa
Portrait of Emily Nishikawa
Photo Courtesy of Cross Country Canada

Emily Nishikawa was born in Whitehorse, Yukon, in 1989; she is of Japanese heritage. 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
Portrait of Graham Nishikawa
Photo Courtesy of Canadian Paralympic Committee

Graham Nishikawa was born in Whitehorse, Yukon, on November 19, 1983; he is of Japanese heritage. 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

George Nozuka was born in New York City, on April 28, 1986; he is of Japanese heritage. 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 Nozuka

Justin Tokimitsu Nozuka is a Canadian singer, songwriter and actor born in New York City on September 29, 1988. He is of Japanese heritage 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 Oh
Portrait of Sandra Oh
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Sandra Miju Oh is a Canadian-American actress born in Nepean, Ontario, on July 20, 1971. She is of Korean heritage 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 heritage to host Saturday Night Live, and was just the third actress of Asian heritage to do so. She was also the first actress of Asian heritage 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.

Wally Oppal
Portrait of Wally Oppal
Photo courtesy of the Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

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 heritage, 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
Portrait of D.P. Pandia
Photo courtesy of City of Vancouver Archives

Dr. Durai Pal Pandia came to Canada in 1939; he was of South Asian heritage. 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
Portrait of Jon Kimura Parker
Photo courtesy of Tara McMullen

Jon Kimura Parker was born in Burnaby, British Columbia, on December 25, 1959. He is a Canadian pianist virtuoso of Japanese heritage 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.

Regula Qureshi
Portrait of Regula Qureshi
Photo courtesy of Ethnomusicologie

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
Portrait of Kerri Sakamoto
Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House 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
Portrait of Conrad Santos
Photo courtesy of Philippine Canadian News

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 heritage 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
Portrait of Shyam Selvadurai
Photo courtesy of Shyam Selvadurai

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
Portrait of Baljit Sethi
Photo courtesy of Baljit Sethi

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
Portrait of Zaib Shaikh
Photo courtesy of Jamie Hogg

Zaib Shaikh is a Canadian actor, writer and director who was born in Toronto, Ontario, on May 25, 1974. He is of Pakistani heritage. 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
Jagmeet Singh
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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 Suzuki
Portrait of David Suzuki
Photo courtesy of Jamie Hogg

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 heritage 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
Portrait of Mutsumi Takahashi
Photo courtesy of CTV News, Montreal

Mutsumi Takahashi is a Canadian journalist who was born in Shiroishi, Japan. Since 1986, she has been one of the lead news presenters of CFCF-DT and then CTV Montreal in Montréal, Quebec.

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.

Theresa Tam
Portrait of Theresa Tam
Photo credit: Courtesy of Health Canada

Dr. Theresa Tam was named Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) on June 26, 2017 and serves as the federal government’s lead public health professional. She is a pediatric infectious disease specialist with expertise in immunization, emergency preparedness and global health security.

During more than 25 years in public health, including more than 15 years at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), she has provided technical expertise and leadership on new initiatives to improve communicable disease surveillance, enhance immunization programs, strengthen health emergency management and laboratory biosafety and biosecurity. Dr. Tam has played a leadership role in Canada's response to public health emergencies, including SARS, H1N1, MERS, Ebola, and most recently, COVID-19.

She was born in Hong Kong and grew up in the United Kingdom. She attended medical school at the University of Nottingham, earning an MBBS in 1989 and in 1996, and she completed her pediatric residency at the University of Alberta. In the following year, Dr. Tam completed her fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Tam has over 55 peer-reviewed journal publications in public health and is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Furthermore, she has served as an international expert on a number of World Health Organization committees and has participated in multiple international missions related to SARS, pandemic influenza and polio eradication.

Kim Thúy
Portrait of Kim Thúy
Photo courtesy of Sarah Scott

Kim Thúy is an award-winning Canadian author of Vietnamese heritage 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).

Joseph Torres
Portrait of Joseph Torres

Joseph Torres, better known as J. Torres, is an award-winning Canadian author of Filipino Heritage who has written graphic novels and other comics for young readers. He was raised in Montreal and graduated from McGill University before moving to Toronto, Ontario.

Torres is best known for writing the fan-favourite DC Comics’ original Teen Titans Go! series. Following his success with Teen Titans Go! he began to carve out a niche for himself as a popular writer of kids comics. His noteworthy works include his contribution to a handful of Johnny DC titles including Cartoon Network Block Party, Batman Strikes and Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st century.

Other notable works of his include, the Forest of Reading Honour Book Planet Hockey, Lola: A Ghost Story and Stealing Home, a graphic novel set during the Japanese Canadian Internment. Torres was also the recipient of an Aesop Accolade from the American Folklore Society for its use of Filipino folklore. He has written a number of stories for many popular comic book characters including the Archies, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Batman, Ricky and Morty, The Simpsons, Wonder Woman, X-Men and more. Torres has also done some writing for animation and television -- most notably Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Many graphic novels that Torres has worked on have earned nominations for the “Eisner Award for Best Title for Younger Readers”, the “Harvey Award” and he also won the “Shuster Award” in 2006 for “Outstanding Canadian Writer”.

Ai Thien Tran
Portrait of Ai Thien Tran
Photo courtesy of Ai Thien Tran

Ai Thien Tran became the first Canadian of Vietnamese heritage 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
Portrait of Yuki Tsubota
Photo Courtesy of The Daily Mail

Yuki Tsubota is a Canadian Olympic slopestyle skier who was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, on February 3, 1994; she is of Japanese heritage. 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.

Chinese Students’ Soccer Team of 1933
Portrait of Chinese Students’ Soccer Team of 1933
Photo by C.B. Wand, courtesy of Robert Yip

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 heritage 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 heritage in the Royal Canadian Navy and the first officer of Chinese heritage in all the Navies of the British Commonwealth. Midfielder K. Dock Yip became Canada’s first lawyer of Chinese heritage in 1945; he lobbied for the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act, which was finally repealed in 1947.

Asahi baseball team
Portrait of Asahi baseball team
Photo Courtesy of Vancouver History

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 heritage 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 heritage during the First World War
Portrait of a Canadian of Sikh heritage at a train station
Photo courtesy of PH Coll 171.1-22, Alice Woodby Collection, University of Washington Libraries/UW15673

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 heritage 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 heritage
Portrait of two Canadian World War II veterans
Photo of Roy Mah and George Ing, Canadian veterans of Chinese heritage, courtesy of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum

Hundreds of Canadians of Chinese heritage 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 heritage 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 heritage work for the Special Operations Executive in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. Canadians of Chinese heritage 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 heritage led to the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act (Chinese Exclusion Act).

Won Alexander Cumyow
Won Alexander Cumyow
Photo courtesy of the Bank of Canada

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 heritage 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 heritage were largely denied the right to vote. British Columbia started stripping Canadians of Chinese heritage of the right to vote as early as 1871. Won Cumyow was an activist for the rights of Canadians of Chinese heritage 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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