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May 4, 2017

May is Asian and South Asian Heritage Month in Ontario. Across Ontario, workers are joining Asian and South Asian communities in celebrating the contributions of people from countries across Asia and South Asia to Canadian society.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) acknowledges and celebrates the rich history of Asian and South Asian Canadians and continues working to dismantle the economic and social barriers they continue to face.

Asian and South Asians have a long and proud history of immigrating to Canada as workers and finding a permanent new home. Today, they represent one quarter of the racialized workforce and four percent of the total workforce, making them the country’s largest racialized group.  According to the 2006 census, despite high education levels, Asian and South Asian workers are under-represented in managerial and skilled occupations and over-represented in semi-skilled and low-skilled occupations that are more vulnerable as precarious work is on the rise.

“Canadian workers are proud of the contributions that the hundreds of thousands of Asian and South Asian workers have made to our country and our labour movement. We must challenge systemic racism, and we must also raise the floor for every worker. Asian, South Asian, and other racialized and predominantly immigrant communities won’t be able to reach their full economic potential without broad improvements to employment standards, a $15 minimum wage and easier access to joining a union,” said OFL President Chris Buckley.

Through the Changing Workplaces Review, the Ontario government is reviewing employment laws in the province. The OFL is advocating for changes that would reduce the number of precarious jobs in Ontario and make it easier to join and keep a union.

“Poverty and precarity disproportionately affect racialized and immigrant people in Ontario,” Ahmad Gaied, OFL Executive Vice-President. “Challenging racism requires more than speaking out against prejudice and discrimination when we see it. We must also stand together across diverse communities to confront the systemic barriers to equal opportunity.”

Many Asians and South Asians arrived very early in Canada’s history, travelling from various Asian countries and the Indian subcontinent to the Americas or travelled to Ontario from such places as Uganda, Kenya, Australia, South Africa, Mauritius, Fiji, United Kingdom, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Today, a diverse Asian and South Asian population makes up a significant proportion of Ontario’s population. Proudly drawing upon their richly varied traditions and heritage, Asian and South Asian people contribute to many aspects of culture, commerce and public service across the province.

The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) is an important part of Ontario’s labour movement, with a mandate focused on social unionism and anti-racism. The OFL calls on its Asian and South Asian members to get active in the work of ACLA and help fight for equity in our workplaces, our unions and our society.

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