President's Message

Message from AHSNB Chair Madhu Verma

With the Hon. Matt DeCourcey, MP for Fredericton, at the Komagata Maru apology in Parliament, May 18, 2016.

Refuge, the theme of our 2016 Asian Heritage Month celebrations, was selected well before the Syrian refugee crisis reached full bloom, but it couldn‘t have been more timely. New Brunswick has resettled over 1500 Syrian refugees over the past year, and Fredericton lays claim to welcoming the highest number of Syrians per capita in Canada. I can relate to their struggles, because I was once a refugee too, forced to flee my home during the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition. I was only a child, but I vividly recall the fear and heartbreak of an unknown future and the difficulty of starting over in a new land among strange new people. This past year has shown us that integrating refugees into our communities truly requires all hands on deck, and it has been a pleasure to see how joyfully and enthusiastically New Brunswickers have stepped up to the task.

For centuries, refugees and other immigrants have sought security and new beginnings in Canada, and Asians have been an important part of this long and complicated history. This May, I had the opportunity to witness Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologize in Parliament for Canada‘s decision to turn away a ship full of prospective Indian immigrants in 1914. Like white members of the Commonwealth, Indians were British citizens and many of the passengers were veterans of the British Indian Army. But while Canada courted white immigration, non-whites were actively discouraged, and many pieces of legislation restricted the entry of Asians in particular.

We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go in understanding the experiences of immi- grants and refugees, and their role in building this great nation and province. In 2016, one of our special projects was the touring of a play produced by Kitchener-Waterloo Arab Canadian theatre, based on the true story of a former refugee from Iraq. Through these and other cultural and educational projects, we hope to raise the visibility of Asian Canadians and bring everyone together in a celebration of our multicultural history and future. I hope you enjoyed our programming and that you will join us again in 2017 to learn, share, and create together.

 

Madhu Verma
Founding Chair

Public Funders