The month of May has been declared as South Asian Heritage Month as well as Asian Heritage Month in the City of Toronto by Mayor Rob Ford. The proclamation of the South Asian proclamation reads – “WHEREAS on December 14, 2001, with the enactment of Bill 98, the Government of Ontario proclaimed the month of May as South Asian Heritage Month and declared May 5 to be South Asian Arrival Day, with the earliest recorded arrival occurring on May 5, 1838”.
It continues – “South Asian Heritage Month is a time to honour the rich cultural heritage and accomplishments of people of South Asian heritage and pay tribute to them and the organizations that contribute to the social, cultural, economic and political life of our city. Immigrants from Asia constitute the largest source of immigration to Toronto. South Asian Heritage Month provides us with an opportunity to learn about the experiences of people of South Asian heritage and the vital role they have played throughout our shared history.”
In celebration of this historic moment, the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians teamed up with South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), and the Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention (ASAAP) in hosting an information display in the rotunda inside city hall as well as a well-attended event on Monday, May 14th. The information display runs until May 21st. According to the coalition group, the hope is to “to showcase how agencies contribute to bring about positive changes in lives of South Asian communities in Ontario through display of material pertaining to projects involving South Asian communities”.
The Monday information evening event had a slew of impressive speakers. Former Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean, DrAlok Mukherjee, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, activists ZiadhRabbani and Dr. RobinderKaurSehdev attended. Dr. Mukherjee, who was a onetime advisor to former Mayor David Miller, gave the audience a glimpse of policing and civic involvement.
Fiona Crean, who was also a one-time Assistant Deputy Minister at the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, addressed the issues of systemic racism and sexism and how best to address them. There were about 100 attendees including former TTC Chair Adam Giambrone.
The well attended event concluded with a closing statement of Neethan Shan, who reminded the audience the importance of civic engagement and grassroots work. He proceeded and presented certificates to about a half dozen volunteers. The Executive Director of CASSA, Shan, who was recently elected as President of the Ontario NDP had been a trailblazer to the South Asian community as the community is becoming more engaged in electoral politics in Canada more than ever.