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Exploring Asian Heritage in Vancouver

Asian or Not, We Are All in This Together: Canada Benefits from the Heritage Maintenance of All Groups

More than ever, amid this pandemic and growing anti-Asian sentiment, Asian Canadians are struggling to sustain their heritage and cultural identity. We face enormous challenges. With the detrimental perceptions imposed on us, these is no easy fix, nor even a straightforward question to address. In need of immigrants due to an aging population, Canada is a migrant-infused society. British Columbia has been witnessing an influx of diverse ethnicities for decades. Asian immigrants, or people with Asian ancestry, have comprised the largest inbound group to British Columbia since 1980. While integrating into Canadian dominant culture, first-generation immigrants and Canadian-born Asians negotiate who they are, whether or not to preserve their heritage, and how. Since the observable integration pressures and heritage maintenance struggles are numerous, it is imperative for us and our multicultural host society to grasp how these populations negotiate heritage maintenance for the communal benefit of societal harmony, liberty, and unity.

The heritage maintenance efforts of Asians in BC have never been a single dimensional struggle. It involves the many aspects of compromise, resilience, desire, aspiration, and ideology at individual and family levels. It is also influenced by the intertwining and multiple facets of dominant ideology and power relations at large. Some driving factors are our desires and struggles for our children’s culture and heritage language maintenance, self-perceptions of being Asian, hardships of passing down our heritage language while strengthening a dominant language, and negative societal attitudes toward Asians as a whole. We, as Asians, often wonder how to maintain our heritage in an Anglocentric context, amid these obstacles and challenges.

Achieving heritage maintenance relies not solely on the desires and persistent efforts of one individual or a group of individuals; to grapple with the scope of Asian heritage maintenance challenges, Asians and non-Asians alike must acknowledge the monumental and entrenched hurdles that exist in an Anglocentric and western dominant society. In a micro landscape, one may cultivate a positive sense of cultural identity by passing down one’s heritage language as a medium for cultural knowledge transmission, communicating in the heritage language at home and with relatives, and engaging in cultural traditions and festival occasions. That being said, no one lives in a vacuum; we live in a society with social norms defined by dominant structures. Our sense of personal identity is not only how we see ourselves, but is also shaped by how others perceive us. Dominant culture does not only define who we should be— It has the power to alter who we believe we are.

The above is an extract from Dr. Caroline Chung-Hsuan Locher-Lo’s talk during Exploring Asian Heritage in Vancouver, hosted by the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society (VAHMS) and the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia (UBC). To read more from her, head to our Learn section:

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