Honouring Asian Heritage Month 2021

Celebrating the contributions of U of A's Asian and Asian-Canadian students, faculty, staff, and alumni.


May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, a period in which to highlight, celebrate and learn more about the many contributions of a broad and diverse group of Canadian communities. The diversity and richness of the many diasporas, languages, cultures, histories and contributions represented by Asian Heritage Month illustrates for me what Canadian society—at its best—can be. A community made up of numerous, remarkably diverse communities founded upon the values of an open society--where we celebrate our differences in a constant process of mutual exchange and transformation.

As president, I am so proud that the University of Alberta community reflects this diversity and richness. A global university, the U of A is proud to be the home of large and active groups of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and post-doctoral fellows who have cultural backgrounds and family histories that began in Asia. Our celebration of these histories can be seen through the rare and brilliant historical Mactaggart Art Collection, which focuses on ancient and modern Chinese art works. Collections such as this have provided our scholars and students with unparalleled opportunities to explore the histories of East Asian cultures while on our own campuses. 

Our ties to the Aga Khan University and Edmonton’s diverse Muslim communities stretch back many decades. Visit the U of A’s Botanical Garden and you will see a beautiful manifestation and celebration of those ties in the Aga Khan Garden’s traditional Islamic Garden design, as well as the Kurimoto Japanese Garden, named after Dr. Yuichi Kurimoto, who in 1930 became the U of A’s first graduate of Japanese descent. Because of those ties, the U of A is home to the Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Teaching and Research which both manages the Prince Takamado Japan Canada Memorial Fund and acts as the Canadian secretariat for the Japan Canada Academic Consortium. This network of universities across Canada and Japan facilitates student exchanges and helps move ideas and knowledge between the two countries. 

This year’s theme for Asian Heritage Month is “Recognition, Resilience, and Resolve”—a theme which points to the adversity that Asian communities have faced throughout Canadian history as well as today. Even as we celebrate the connections and communities that have been built over many years, the theme of Asian Heritage Month this year highlights how we must also recognize that there have been, and continue to be, acts of racism experienced by those of Asian heritage. Last month, the International Students’ Association held an Asian Community Leaders Summit which offered students a forum to discuss anti-Asian racism. At the University of Alberta, we recognize that we must continually strive to be a place where equity and inclusivity thrive in thought and action; talks like the one organized by ISA serve as an example of the efforts our community are making to raise awareness and maintain the momentum of this movement. 

Later this month, University of Alberta International in collaboration with the Engage India: Association of Professors and the Association of Chinese Canadian Professors will invite our community to join in a special event to express solidarity against anti-Asian racism, while also celebrating all the outstanding achievements of those UAlbertans of Asian heritage. 

Over the next month, we will be featuring voices of U of A Asian and Asian-Canadian students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Please join me in celebrating and honouring their many contributions.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-Chancellor