Ken Neumann Statement on Asian Heritage Month 2021

Dear Steelworkers, 

In May each year, Steelworkers join with communities celebrating Asian Heritage Month. 

In Canada, Asian people include those from the following countries: 

  • East Asia: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • Central Asia: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
  • Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

While we recognize the contributions of Asian Canadian people to Canada, we are also aware that there is much more to be done to fight for human rights and equality for everyone. And recent hate crimes and discrimination against Asian people during the COVID-19 pandemic clearly show how far we have to go. 

On March 16th this year, in Atlanta, Georgia, a white gunman entered three spas and killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women.

This sparked a huge international outcry against discrimination and hate crimes towards Asian people. While the murder did not occur in Canada, nevertheless, Asian Canadians recognized that anti-Asian sentiment and actions display common patterns, regardless of the action’s country of origin. 

Shortly after the murders in Atlanta, rallies and protests took place in Canadian cities and communities. Organizations such as the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ) pointed out that current anti-Asian actions emerge in a historical pattern. Beginning with the Chinese Head Tax and the Exclusion Act in earlier Canadian history, to the anti-Asian actions during SARS, to the current pandemic, anti-Asian discrimination and violence has been commonplace in Canadian society.

Now into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Vancouver Police Department, the percentage of anti-Asian hate crimes rose by 717% between 2019 and 2020. A joint 2020 report by the CCNC-SJ and Project 1907 showed that since the onset of the pandemic, there are more Canadian anti-Asian racist incidents per capita than in the U.S. As Canadians, this is shocking. 

COVIDRacism.ca and elimin8hate.org produced a survey which breaks down anti-Asian actions into various categories. The findings showed that: 

  • 44 per cent of cases were reported in British Columbia and 40 per cent were reported in Ontario.
  • 60 per cent of the victims identified as women.
  • 11 per cent of cases included violent physical assault or unwanted contact.
  • 10 per cent of cases included being coughed or spat on. 

Steelworkers have always stood behind justice for equity-seeking groups. During Asian Heritage Month, we celebrate the diversity Asian people bring to Canada, but we also demand that Asian people be protected from the range of verbal discrimination to outright physical violence that is demonstrated today. 

I call on all Steelworkers to: 

  • Intervene against acts of discrimination as bystanders and allies.
  • Include Asian Canadian businesses in your online shopping.
  • Use your collective agreement to promote diversity and prevent discrimination and racism in the workplace.
  • Work with your local human rights committees to educate your membership.
  • Lobby federal and provincial governments for greater equality for all equity seeking groups. 

In solidarity,

Ken Neumann
Canadian National Director

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