British Columbia Community·ASIAN HERITAGE MONTH

Celebrate Asian excellence with CBC British Columbia

Join CBC British Columbia in celebrating the contributions of Asian Canadians in our community.

Asian Heritage Month | May 1 - 31

May is Asian Heritage Month, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the rich history, contributions and achievements of Asian Canadians in the community. 

To commemorate the occasion, CBC British Columbia is sharing inspiring stories of trailblazing Asian Canadians who are making a difference in our communities and paving the way for generations to come.

From artists to entrepreneurs, leaders to change makers, CBC is the place to celebrate the diversity of Asians in Canada. Check out all five profile features below! 

And for more Asian Heritage Month content, visit CBC Gem for a collection of series, documentaries and films that honour the rich culture and talent of Asian Canadians.

Mustaali Raj

Mustaali Raj

Mustaali Raj is an independent art director and graphic designer. Born in India and spending his early childhood in the Middle East before moving to Canada, Mustaali draws on themes and stories from his cultural heritage to inform his artwork.

Read more about Mustaali below!

In what ways do you see Asian heritage contributing to Vancouver's cultural vibrancy?

I feel like Asian heritage and culture is so integrated within Vancouver's community and a bigger vibrancy of culture. You see this when you go out, you see it in the cuisine and the public art, and it's exciting to see Asians reclaim or claim these public spaces. Whether it's Lunar New Year or Diwali celebrations, it's all on such a big scale now – that normalizes our presence and makes it feel part of the bigger Canadian ethos.

When you see elements of expression of culture shown in our community, how do you feel about it?

When we see expressions of culture out in the world here – in Vancouver, in B.C. – it feels good. It feels good to be seen, in an authentic way, but also to connect and I think that is really important nowadays. A decade ago, when I used to go to creative events, I barely saw anyone that looked like me. There weren't a lot of brown creatives, there weren't a lot of Asian creatives. But nowadays, when I go, there are so much more. That's already changing, and it's really exciting to see more Asians coming into the creative space. 

How is the intersection of various identities reflected in the work that you do? 

For a long time, there were almost these two sides for me growing up here in Canada. I was someone else at home, and I was someone else outside. Balancing my Asian heritage with the culture around me here. And over time, with lived experiences, I've become more comfortable with that. Identity is more fluid. I like to think of it as existing in the intersections of identity, which all of us do, and it is beautiful. And it's something that continues to evolve and change every day.

Amélie Nguyễn

Amélie Nguyễn

Amélie Nguyễn is the co-founder of Anh and Chi, a Vietnamese restaurant in the vibrant hub of Mount Pleasant.

Born to Vietnamese refugees and raised in Vancouver, B.C., Amélie and her brother Vincent are committed to advancing Vietnamese cuisine in the community and continuously celebrating their culture. She is also passionate to tell stories that inspire thought, compassion and change. 

Read more about Amélie below.

How do you usually mark Asian Heritage Month in your own way?

I think it's more important that we listen, we breathe it, we think it and amplify it every day. Just an example of running Anh and Chi, it's a restaurant that elevates Vietnamese food but what it has become is this platform where people come to eat. They might not know much about the culture and industry, but they're engaged because the food is so approachable. 

Therefore, I feel like my role in promoting Asian heritage is beyond a day. I think it's every day, through the food we cook, the stories we share, and it's always fun to get out in communities and do community collaborations between different Asian artists and creators. 

Any personal anecdotes you'd like to share that illustrate the richness of Asian culture in Vancouver?

The fabric of Asian culture is beautiful – it's woven, it's different. A Vietnamese proverb my mom shared with me a few years ago talks about having one pair of chopsticks, it's easily breakable and bendable. But if you have a stack together, then it's so resilient. 

There's definitely diversity among different Asians, but we also uplift each other as a community. You're seeing a lot of creatives and artists, business owners kind of coming together. I think we were shy before trying to carve out our own space. But I think now it's an opportunity to start working together and making good strides.

Kevin Huang

Kevin Huang

Kevin Huang is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of hua foundation. He is a first generation settler from Taiwan who co-founded hua foundation with the goal of increasing community participation through youth empowerment opportunities. 

Read more about Kevin below!

What does Asian Heritage Month mean to you?

For me, Asian Heritage Month is one way to think about things that we take for granted, especially for different cultural groups that have settled here. It's a good reminder to think about other ways that we can uplift cultures that we've systemically not talked about or recognized.

I've been lucky to have a lot of history and stories shared with me in my work. Having grown up here, I do feel that there is an often missed opportunity, beyond Asian Heritage Month, to really incorporate and question who we are on this land and our responsibilities as settlers. 

How do you mark Asian Heritage Month in your own way? 

At hua foundation, we recognize that May is also Mental Health Awareness Month and how Asian and racialized communities often don't have the culturally specific types of services that are appropriate for their needs. Traditionally, it has been a fight for recognition of racialized people that are of Asian descent. I think now that that's been somewhat achieved for Asian Heritage Month, our next step is to work with our community to interrogate other types of racial justice and forms of inequity.

Loveena Chera

Loveena Chera

Loveena Chera is the Chief Executive Officer at InspireHealth. After seeing many friends and family impacted by the devastating effects of cancer, she was inspired to join the company and provide life-changing supportive care services to cancer patients and their loved ones.

Born in India and raised in Vancouver, Loveena is proud to be an Indo-Canadian coming from a background of strong values. Read more about Loveena below!

What does Asian Heritage Month mean to you?

Asian Heritage Month is really a time to reflect on all that Asians have contributed to the city and to this country. I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate that my kids have been able to go to a school where there are so many different looking children and cultures that are celebrated and accepted. It's really lovely to have an environment where, as an Asian, you don't look different. You just look like you're part of the community and our multicultural country plays a huge role in that. 

What is something that you think people may not know about your culture? 

I don't know if this is something that people don't know, but one of the things that we're proud of in our culture is how we take care of our families. There's a lot of multi-generational living; my mom lives with us, and she's almost ninety years old. Also, I think the fact that our kids can grow up knowing their grandmother, their Nani, in a way it teaches them respect and the value of their elders, which is extremely important.

Asian Heritage Month lets our kids learn about their heritage and their roots. It's an opportunity to talk to them about all of the challenges we've had as Asians, but all of the resiliency that we've shown and how with hard work, you can accomplish anything.

Shahnaz Rahman

Shahnaz Rahman

Shahnaz Rahman is the Executive Director at the Surrey Women's Centre and is committed to increasing safety for vulnerable women and girls who are survivors of violence.

Since immigrating to Kitimat, B.C. from Pakistan over 45 years ago, and now living in Metro Vancouver, Shahnaz holds her sense of identity and culture close to her heart.

Read more about Shahnaz below!

What does Asian Heritage Month mean to you? 

Often as immigrants, there's a sense of, "Do we belong?" We may miss our home countries where we came from. We feel disconnected in many ways by the decades that have gone since landing in these new spaces. To me, Asian Heritage Month is a reminder that yes, you belong here. You've come and you've left everything behind. You've carried it in your suitcases and you belong. Acknowledging the month in itself is a huge sense of invitation, of belonging.

I feel that it's also a celebration of the achievements of those that have left us, that have contributed so much to the structure of society. They are not forgotten – in fact, we honour them, and their contributions that have led us to this space here to celebrate.

It's common in cultures to connect over food, is there a favourite dish or comfort food that holds a special memory for you?

When we talk about food, I have distinct memories of my landing in Kitimat, B.C. at the age of 18 when I didn't know how to cook really well. There was such a desire for that familiarity with food. But in Kitimat – being the small community it was – there weren't any options of food areas that served those traditional dishes and my longing for having those food flavours.

The first few years were a struggle in trying to find those recipes to cook that resembled anything remotely like what we got at home. Now we've come so far in our food developments in the big and small communities that make traditional foods with expertise. My favourite dish is biryani, and other foods, like naan bread or handmade rotis, are a source of comfort. I feel a distinct attachment with these foods, as my mother was a great cook, and a lot of her cooking really resonates even in memory, through the food that she made. 

Listen to Asian Heritage Month segments on CBC Radio B.C. programs on CBC Listen:

  • North by NorthwestAward-winning multimedia artist Cindy Mochizuki joins Margaret Gallagher to discuss her new film, which celebrates the life and work of the late Japanese-Canadian photographer Tamio Wakayama. Listen here

  • North by Northwest: BC composers and musicians Robyn Jacob and Joseph Hirabayashi speak with Margaret Gallagher on their collaborative project "Short Songs", which will be at Morrow in Vancouver May 1-11 as part of the arts centre's Asian Heritage Month programming. Listen here

  • On The Coast: An ensemble of poets will read excerpts from the work of Joy Kogawa as part of Asian Heritage Month. Vancouver Poetry House artistic director talks about how this project came together. Listen here

  • The Early Edition: This year's festival features authors looking at "Re-Dress," with writers sharing their lived experiences of racial discrimination and social injustice. Stephen Quinn speaks to celebrated Japanese-Canadian poet and novelist, Joy Kogawa. Listen here.

  • The Early Edition: The Early Edition launches a new series on Korean Food today. We met up with Coquitlam councillor Steve Kim in Korea Town. Listen here.

  • On The Coast: A portion of the Suzhou Alley Women's Mural is now on display at the Richmond Public Library Brighouse location. Yun-Jou Chang who is involved in the mural talks to Gloria Macarenko about how it began as a way to commemorate the women who contributed to Vancouver's Chinatown. Listen here.

  • The Early Edition: We visit two restaurants serving their own takes on Korean cuisine and get their thoughts on Korean food being one of the biggest dining trends for 2024. Listen here

  • North by Northwest: Opera singer Luka Kawabata and pianist Perri Lo explore the subject of mixed race identity through English, Japanese, and Swedish songs in The Hafu Project, presented by City Opera at the Russian Hall on May 25 and 26. Listen here.

  • The Early Edition: Guest host Amy Bell speaks to Asian language learners across Metro Vancouver during Asian Heritage Month about what Asian heritage and language learning means to them. Listen here

  • The Early Edition: Guest host Amy Bell speaks to two Lower Mainland Korean chefs who share their thoughts on why Korean food is so popular. Listen here