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Exploring Asian-Canadian identity, perceptions and belonging

In honour of Asian Heritage Month, PART holds space for students, faculty and staff to engage in anti-racist dialogue


In Canada, the month of May marks Asian Heritage Month, a time for all Canadians to learn more about the many achievements and contributions of Canadians of Asian descent. 

In honour of this year’s theme of “Recognition, Resilience and Resolve,” the University of Waterloo is honouring its Asian communities’ incredible achievements, contributions and displays of everyday resilience through events and initiatives like Explorations of Asian Identity, Perceptions and Belonging

Although an opportunity to celebrate Asian excellence, the commemorative month is also a time to reflect on instances of anti-Asian racism and discrimination that continue to pervade Canadian communities and institutions. Intensified by COVID-19, the Government of Canada has reported an increase of anti-Asian racism acts, with 1,150 cases last year alone.  

[p"Diversity makes University of Waterloo’s innovative and inspiring spirit possible, as different perspectives and abilities collide to produce unconventional solutions and real impact,” says Charmaine Dean, vice-president research and international. “The President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART) seeks to amplify BIPOC voices and learn from their insight and experience to end systemic racism at the University.” [/p]Explorations of Asian identity, perceptions and belonging 

Hosted by PART, the event’s panel will explore Asian-Canadian identity and anti-Asian racism, particularly in light of the rise in hate crimes over the past year.  

Showcasing an array of diverse perspectives, participating panelists have a breadth of knowledge and experience in fields such as law, business and academia, including: 

  • Dr. Tanya “Toni” De Mello, a human rights lawyer and the assistant dean of students at the Ryerson University Faculty of Law, specializing in biased hiring in Canada, with extensive experience in leading civil society organizations and international relations.  
  • Sidra Hasan, a Waterloo Arts alumnus and Workshop Facilitator at Bad Subject with more than three-years-experience delivering creative and engaging workshops on topics such as anti-racism, sexual violence and media literacy.
  • Dr. Vinh Nguyen, an award-winning editor and associate professor at Waterloo’s Renison University College, specializing in topics such as refugee, Asian diasporic literature, and critical race, and auto/biography studies. 
  • Jason Tham, a Waterloo Faculty of Engineering alumnus and the CEO and co-founder of Nulogy, a world-renowned software company of which he spearheads product vision and strategic direction.

“We have a fantastic group of speakers who each offer unique perspectives and insights on this timely and important topic,” says Anne Galang, associate director of Executive Communications at Waterloo and panel moderator. “I look forward to what I think will be a very illuminating and engaging discussion about Asian identity and unpacking what that means in our world today" Galang is also an active member of PART, co-chairing the working group on Race, Culture and Ethnicity Awareness. 

PART operates within a larger conversation and commitment to anti-racism on campus. In 2019, the student-led Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) service RAISE (Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity, and Equity) opened its doors. As well, PART supports immediate change and ongoing action at the University. Not only is there involvement from all six faculties, but various faculties and departments have launched their own anti-racism committees and initiatives to address racism on campus.

Click on the video below to listen to professor Kim Nguyen on the Beyond the Bulletin podcast speaking about anti-Asian racism.

Episode 89 – Beyond the Bulletin: Kim Nguyen

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