Asian Heritage Month


Official Declaration of Asian Heritage Month
Diversity represents one of Canada’s greatest strengths, and we strive to ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to reach their full potential and participate in Canada’s civic life.
Over the last two centuries, immigrants have journeyed to Canada from East Asia, Southern Asia, Western and Southeast Asia, bringing our society a rich cultural heritage representing many languages, ethnicities and religious traditions.
The people of this diverse, vibrant and growing community have contributed to every aspect of life in Canada — from the arts and science to sport, business, and government.
Asian Heritage Month offers all Canadians an opportunity to learn more about the history of Asian Canadians and to celebrate their contributions to the growth and prosperity of Canada.
Thereby, we declare May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. (https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/asian-heritage-month/about.html )
Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated across Canada since the 1990s. In December 2001, the Senate of Canada adopted a motion proposed by Senator Vivienne Poy to officially designate May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada and in May 2002 the Government of Canada signed the official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month.
Did you know that Asian Canadians have origins from China; Philippines; Japan; Korea; South Asia and Vietnam. Since the late 1700’s they have made important contributions to Canadian heritage and identity.
As this article was being written, it was disheartening to read about the recent events in the USA about the killing of Asian Americans and it saddens me that even today immigrants to the America’s are facing such atrocities.
With so much negativity in the news let us celebrate a bit differently this time . Let us not speak about the history or the struggles; let us speak about those Canadian with an Asian background who have given so much to Canada in return for what Canada has given them. A new home, an enriched life, and a future that may not have been possible for them in their homeland.
Alfred Sung – Alfred Sung is born in 1948 in Shanghai, China, he grew up in Hong Kong. He dedicated his life to creating new fashions, apparel, fragrances, accessories and home fashions for women and men. In 1972 he decided to move to Canada. In 1985, Sung co-founded Club Monaco, a high-end casual clothing retailer, with Saul and Joseph Mimran.
When Baltej Singh Dhillon was accepted into the RCMP, he had to find a way to merge his sense of duty to Canada and religion. Service in the RCMP required a clean-shaven face and the wearing of the forces historic uniform, including the issued headgear. As a Sikh, Dhillon’s religious obligation required a beard and wearing a turban. He chose to fight for his religious rights and sparked a debate across the country. The federal government removed the ban on turbans on March 15, 1990. Dhillon graduated from RCMP and he went on to a long care
Sudarshan Gautam was born in the Ramechhap district in Nepal. He was the first individual without arms to climb Mount Everest without the use of prosthetics. As a result of an accident during his childhood, Gautam had to have both of his arms amputated.. He immigrated to Canada in 2007. In 2014, he was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame. In May 2017, he received the South Asian Canadian Trailblazers Award.
Deepa Mehta is a prominent and respected filmmaker whose work is known worldwide for its honesty, beauty, and universality. Mehta is the recipient of the 2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement.
At Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Masumi Mitsui, a Canadian soldier of Japanese origin, earned the Military Medal for bravery. After the war, he returned to British Columbia and helped to establish a Japanese Canadian war memorial in Stanley Park. He was a member of the contingent that lobbied the British Columbian legislature to give Canadians of Japanese origin the right to vote. After the war, Mitsui participated in the lobbying for a public apology and compensation. He died in 1987 at the age of 99. He was the last surviving Canadian veteran of Japanese origin of the First World War—a year before the government made its apology.
Senator Vivienne Poy, the first Canadian of Asian origin appointed to the Senate of Canada. She was integral to establishing May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. Poy was educated in Hong Kong, England, and Canada, in addition, she earned a PhD in history from the University of Toronto. 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.
(https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/asian-heritage-month/noteworthy-figures.html)
The Canadian Encyclopedia has a very informative article on significant events about Asian Heritage in Canada. Take a moment check it out as it speaks about the struggles endured by the first generation of Asian immigrants in Canada . Watch the video The Secret Life of Canada – Shout Out to Private Buckam Singh – one of the first Sikh Canadian soldier who served in WWI.
A very short list of the many accomplished Asians who have made Canada their home, and are proud Canadians who have left a legacy behind for us to appreciate and continue to honour.
Human Rights Committee
Image: rcinet.ca

International Women’s Day

March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD) where women all over the world come together in celebration of the achievements and evolution women have made in strengthening their position socially, economically, culturally and in the political arena.
There have been claims that March 8, is to commemorate the 15,000 female garment workers that marched through New York City’s Lower East Side and rallied at Union Square demanding economic and political rights in 1908.
Why do we have International days? To unite people at a National and Global scale to educate, mobilize, to have an impact on law makers and to increase resources to help address the systemic issues and to pay tribute to the achievements that have made an impact on the cause.
IWD gives women a platform and an opportunity to access lived experiences, and stories that encourage, build up and inspire more women in their careers and lives. The #MeToo a social movement against sexual violence uses its platform to advocates for females who survived sexual violence to speak out about their experience.
Unfortunately, there are many parts of the world where there is little progress and little advocacy for women’s rights. These challenges highlight the oppression and injustice women face. The nature of the challenges for women are all different, and basic human rights is a high priority. Women and girls are still being treated worldwide with systematic violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment or trafficking, financial abuse and deprivation. It was estimated that 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017. (www.unwomen.org).
We need to continue bringing attention to
• the injustice facing Indigenous Woman and Girls and advocate to bring their plight to the forefront
• to gender parity and women’s rights by exposing the extraordinary impacts women have made all around the world in their countries, communities and their workplaces.

As we celebrate IWD, lets remember the contribution and collaboration of our allies. Let’s not forget that gender equity is not only a female issue but a social and economic obligation. The best way to move forward is to include us all in our goals to achieve Gender Equality on a global scale.
The famous poem, Bread and Roses by James Oppenheim has been put to song by at least three composers and is a heartwarming slogan pairing bread and roses, appealing for both fair wages and dignified conditions. This year, due to the pandemic, celebrations will be held virtually. Please go to the PSAC website (psacunion.ca) or search International Women’s day for information.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

I sit here reflecting on what I should write about Black History Month and think why not my own journey in understanding this significant event. 

I knew very little about the struggles faced by Black Canadians when I came to Canada, as it was not a topic covered in too much detail during history classes at school.  We were taught the very basic and nothing more.  Looking back, it seems that it was a topic people were uncomfortable with discussing.

Black History Month?  What is the significance?  Why was it recognized?  I decided to read up and ask questions. 

My first step in this journey was speaking with a colleague, who invited me to attend a meeting of the PSAC’s racial equity group way back in the 90’s.  At this meeting I met a couple of very strong, and dedicated Advocates for the cause and they became my mentors, guides and friends.

It made me realize that it takes only a few incredibly strong and vocal advocates, fighting not only for their own dignity and rights but also for their brothers and sisters suffering the injustices and biases, to make a change for the better.  It also saddens me to realize that in spite of all the advocacy and all that has been achieved there still exists Anti-Black Racism.  When I sit and reflect on what I have learned I recall a black colleague’s statement “We don’t want to take over your place at the Table, we want to share the space equitably with you”.  Let us all work towards that goal.

The Canadian Encyclopedia proved to be a great resource for me, and I am sharing some facts found there, I would encourage all of you to read the timelines.

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/timeline/black-history

1608 – The first Black person thought to have set foot on Canadian soil was Mathieu Da Costa, a free man who was hired by Europeans to act as a translator.

1776 – Many Blacks actively participated in the American Revolutionary War, serving as boatmen, woodsmen, general labourers, buglers and musicians. General Henry Clinton formed a corps of free Blacks, called the Black Pioneers.

1784 – After the Revolutionary War, the “Black Pioneers” were among the first settlers in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, and they helped build the new settlement. On its fringes they established their own community, “Birchtown.” When hundreds of White, disbanded soldiers were forced to accept work at rates competitive with their Black neighbours the ensuing hostility caused a riot.

1812 – Thousands of Black volunteers fought for the British during the War of 1812. Fearing American conquest (and the return to slavery), many Blacks in Upper Canada served heroically in coloured and regular regiments. The British promise of freedom and land united many escaped slaves under the British flag.

1944Ontario was the first province to respond to social change when it passed the Racial Discrimination Act of 1944. This landmark legislation effectively prohibited the publication and display of any symbol, sign, or notice that expressed ethnic, racial, or religious discrimination. It was followed by other sweeping legislation.

1962 – During her term as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ellen Fairclough oversaw improvements to the Canadian Immigration Service, and her most significant accomplishment was the radical reform of the government’s “White Canada” immigration policy. Regulations tabled in 1962 helped to eliminate racial discrimination in Canada’s immigration policy.

1991 A fight between one Black and one White student at Cole Harbour District High School escalated into a brawl involving 50 youths of both races. The event mobilized provincial Black activists around the issue of unequal educational opportunities. Nova Scotia’s Ministry of Education established a fund in 1995 to improve education and support anti-racist initiatives.

We cannot forget the many accomplishments by our black brothers and sisters in the field of music, art, sports and many more.  Just to name a few:  Harry Jerome, Donovan Bailey, Willie O’Ree, Angela James, Andre De Grasse, Austin Clarke, Viola Desmond, Mary Ann Shadd, Portia White, Elijah McCoy June Clark, and Buseje Bailey.

Despite the improvements and accomplishments over the last 20 years, much work still needs to be done. We need to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations to learn and reflect on the impact systemic racism contributes to inequity and injustice.

Brothers and Sisters let’s stand proud and celebrate our rich history.  Look for and participate in the many virtual activities ongoing during this month.  Become Advocates!

Zarina Khan, HR Committee – UVAE

Harassment Has No Place at Veterans Affairs Canada Bonuses for Harassers. Suffering for Workers.

For IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 1, 2021

“We have on-going and systemic harassment and far too many employees are getting injured. This has to stop.”

Virginia Vaillancourt National President Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees

The main union at Veterans Affairs Canada is calling for immediate action to address increasing harassment and deteriorating mental health among its employees. The Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees (UVAE) has been working for months trying to get management to address systemic issues at the department and according to union representatives, they have received little to no response.

UVAE surveyed its members this fall on their experience with harassment, discrimination and mental health concerns and found significant levels of problems with all three aspects. On harassment and discrimination, the number of complaints were far higher than reported in the Public Service Employee Survey and 48% of employees at Veterans Affairs Canada who were harassed or discriminated against said they were suffering mental health issues as a result of what had happened to them at work.

Even more disturbing in the survey results was the fact that 36% said that the harassment was on-going, despite the fact that they had made complaints to management.  Veterans Affairs Canada has a long history of rewarding bad behavior, says the Union, with the most senior offenders often being shuffled around from one job to another, instead of suffering any real consequences. Despite past assurances from the Department, this practice has not changed at all.

“This is completely unacceptable and is an example of how management protects their own when faced with a complaint from a worker. Employees are left to suffer serious psychological harm, often requiring long periods of leave with little to no support from the Employer, while the bullies are left to move on to the next victim.”

Virginia Vaillancourt National President Union of Veterans Affairs’ Employees

The union is publicly releasing the results of the membership survey because management has so far been reluctant to deal substantively with any of the underlying issues that is leading to this level of harassment and mental health issues at the workplace. They are also formulating a plan to help their members deal with the additional stress that these issues are causing at Veterans Affairs Canada.

“We would prefer to work in partnership with management to reduce the negative impact on employees who are working tirelessly to serve Canada’s Veterans, but we cannot wait forever to help employees who are suffering and to protect employees from harassment at work. We cannot provide effective assistance to Veterans and their families if we are just as psychologically injured”

Virginia Vaillancourt National President Union of Veterans Affairs’ Employees

Media Contacts

Mike Martin – 613-290-5836 mike54martin@yahoo.ca

International Holocaust Remembrance Day January 27

This day in History is marked in memorial due to the horrific atrocities that happened during World War II under the Nazi regime. We must commemorate and remember this time so that it never happens again.

According to “Wikipedia”, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jews and 11 million others, by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24 January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust.

On January 27, 1945, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp – where more than one million people were sent to gas chambers and to their agonizing deaths during the Holocaust – was liberated. In 2005, that day was designated as the annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

From 1941 to 1945 Nazi Germany and its collaborators committed the systematic murder of over six million Jews. The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution” for eliminating all Jewish people within Nazi Germany’s grasp. By the end of this heinous act, roughly two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population had been murdered.

Join us on January 27 for International Holocaust Remembrance Day when we remember the Nazi’s act of genocide so that no one else will suffer like that again. It is extremely important to never forget this blot on our history so that it never ever happens again.

UVAE Human Rights Committee

OPEN LETTER TO UVAE MEMBERS

December 14, 2020

An Open Letter to all UVAE Members

I am writing to provide you with information about our work at the National level and our advocacy efforts on behalf of UVAE members at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. UVAE was invited to appear before this Committee which is studying the backlog in disability benefit applications. We appeared twice. First in March 2020 and again in November 2020. On both occasions I highlighted the challenges facing UVAE members from coast to coast to coast including the stress on many staff including the excessive case loads for Case Managers and the need for more support for both Veterans and UVAE members on Mental Health issues.

In addition, we raised many of the issues and concerns that you reported to us in the two membership surveys this year and we called for a permanent solution to the current backlog situation. We also called on the federal government to hire the necessary full-time staff to deal with the on-going situations at the department. I am attaching the briefs from those presentations.

At each of these hearings we answered questions about our presentation and offered additional information to the members of the Committee. One of those members we answered questions to was MP Sean Casey.

Since our last appearance, it has come to my attention that Sean Casey MP has been making accusations about me and the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees, specifically that I or our Union is somehow not supportive of the members or the work that is being done by them at VAC Headquarters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me state unequivocally that I and our Union are proud of the work you do every day on behalf of Veterans and their families and we support you 100%. Just as we do every other UVAE member in every location across the country from coast to coast to coast.

He also claims that I am trying to take positions or jobs away from UVAE members in Charlottetown. That is categorically untrue and is a gross mischaracterization of my testimony in front of a Parliamentary Committee.

In March 2020 when I appeared on UVAE’s behalf at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs  MP Casey asked me a question about staffing levels in Charlottetown. When I answered, I misspoke, and it was thought that I was advocating the elimination of positions at the head office. In a hearing like that, there is a great deal of pressure and little time to respond to a myriad of questions from MP’s of all parties. I am sorry for any misunderstanding, and I would like to clarify my thoughts on that matter.

What I was trying to say is that VAC needed to assign more staff to dealing with the backlog and that these new staff could be based in other regions to meet the staffing and workload needs. VAC needs to fill the vacant positions to increase the number of staff doing the work and to decrease the excessive caseloads. My only reference to Charlottetown was that it had a limited population of bilingual people who also hold the medical qualifications sufficient to become disability pension adjudicators because of the size of the market to recruit from and the competition from other employers. It is not only the private sector, who pay higher wages with better benefits, but also from the Provincial Health Care system. As noted recently by the PEI Minister of Health, VAC is drawing qualified nurses from the provincial system, which is causing a health care crisis on PEI. (CBC News, December 1, 2020)

I have tried to clarify my position to MP Casey, but he remains determined to think that I am somehow a threat to jobs in Charlottetown. That is simply not true. When I appeared at the Committee again in November to represent UVAE members MP Casey again raised this issue. In fact, he used his whole 5 or 6 minutes to challenge my response. Here is what I said to MP Casey at this hearing of the Committee.

“First of all, I want to acknowledge that there are many bilingual people in Charlottetown and on Prince Edward Island. It was never my intention to say otherwise nor did I or do I wish to denigrate anyone from Charlottetown, especially the staff of Veterans Affairs’ Canada and the members of Union of Veteran Affairs’ Employees who work there.

What I did refer to the last time I was before the Committee was the fact that there are challenges in recruiting bilingual professionals to complex positions within Veterans Affairs’ Canada. The Department would seem to agree with me since according to testimony from one of my union colleagues at the Committee last week, they are transferring bilingual employees into Charlottetown to meet existing needs.

Mister Casey. I hope we can move past this issue and re-focus on why we are here today. Canadian Veterans and their families are suffering, and we need to work together in order to bring them the best possible services and programs. We ask you to work cooperatively with the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees to make that a reality.”

Let me reiterate that I continue to value and support the contributions of UVAE members at Head Office and in every other office across the country. You do a phenomenal job under very difficult circumstances and I will continue to fight on your behalf. The high workloads are a major issue in every office, impacting every single UVAE member. The faster VAC can hire and train qualified candidates, the better it is for everyone, regardless of where they work. The high workloads, the number of vacant positions, and difficulties VAC has in running staffing processes continues to create a mental health crisis in VAC that the UVAE National Executive Officers holds as a top priority in addressing. We will continue to fight for more resources, balanced workloads and a safe work environment across Canada for you, our UVAE Member to continue to support all of our Veterans and their families from Coast to Coast to Coast. If you would like any further information or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will gladly respond.

In Solidarity,

Virginia Vaillancourt,
National President, UVAE

Brief-to-the-House-of-Commons-Committee-on-Veterans-Affairs-English

Statement-to-House-of-Commons-Veterans-Affairs-Committee-March-12-2020-English