This May, your University of Alberta Students’ Union celebrates Asian Heritage Month. Asian students have been leaders and contributors in our community throughout the last century, and we are looking forward to another hundred years of Asian students making history!

There are so many examples of Asian students leading and breaking barriers at U of A. Perhaps the first was Hiroshi Kamitakahara, who came from Japan in 1926 to study medicine. Vivian Suey, the daughter of immigrants from southern China, led the UASU as Vice-President in 1947-48—the first person of colour to serve as a UASU Executive. The first woman to graduate from U of A Dentistry was Japanese-Canadian Yachiyo Yoneyama, who enrolled in 1939 despite saying that “everyone else thought I was crazy”.

Here at your UASU, Asian Heritage Month is a time for celebration—but it’s also a time for recognizing and preventing racism against Asian people in Canada. During the Second World War, the Canadian government imprisoned Yachiyo’s parents and younger brother, along with 22,000 other Canadians, because of their Japanese ancestry. More recently, there has been a disturbing increase in hate crimes against Asian people in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a community and your UASU, we must continue to work towards an equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist campus. 

We invite all students to join us in celebrating Asian Heritage Month! 

Rowan Ley
University of Alberta Students’ Union President