BURNABY—The members of B.C.’s diverse, vibrant and growing Asian Canadian community take pride in sharing their rich cultural heritage during the month of May. Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity to acknowledge the long and rich history of Asian Canadians, and to promote their many achievements and contributions to our union and communities from coast to coast.
“By joining in the various celebrations that mark Asian Heritage Month, CUPE members and their families throughout British Columbia have a great opportunity to learn about the different Asian cultures and the history of Asian people in Canada,” says CUPE BC Diversity vice-president Michele Alexander. “This not only raises awareness among our membership; it will also build solidarity among our members, to strengthen our collective fight for social and economic justice for all members of our society.”
While Asian Heritage Month is a great way to celebrate the beauty and wisdom of diverse Asian cultures, it is also a reminder of the progress still to be made. Unfortunately, the history of Asian Canadians has too frequently been marred by exploitation and lack of access to basic human rights, such as the exploitation of Chinese railway workers and the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.
Today, the Conservative government’s temporary foreign worker program plays a central role in the ongoing exploitation of Asian workers and the denial of human rights. For example, a disproportionately high number of women from the Philippines come to Canada through the live-in caregiver program. In most provinces and territories, these women can’t unionize because the domestic arena isn’t recognized as a workplace. They often lack many basic workers’ rights; earn significantly less than Canadian citizens or permanent residents; work excessively long hours; and face racism and sexism in the workplace. They’re often unable to choose where they live, or to change employers without government permission. They’re vulnerable to exploitation, and because they do not have permanent status they cannot integrate into Canadian society and contribute to their full potential. In 2011, the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers that would grant basic labour rights to domestic workers, like reasonable hours of work, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, and clear information on terms and conditions of employment. It’s up to us to ensure that governments recognize this agreement and ensure that these basic rights are protected.
CUPE BC stands in solidarity with Asian workers and proudly celebrates Asian Heritage Month.
For more information, visit the federal government website, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/multiculturalism/asian/index.asp and ExplorAsian, http://www.explorasian.org.