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116 Sherbrook Street by Real Fresh Canvas Co (Trevor Peters & Annaliza Toledo) with Hee-Jung Serenity Joo.

Hee-jung Serenity Joo, outgoing director of UM Institute for Humanities, and English, theatre, film, and media professor, in front of a mural at 116 Sherbrook by Real Fresh Canvas Co (Annaliza Toledo & Trevor Peters).

Celebrating Asian Heritage Month at UM

Honouring the diversity and richness of Asian cultures; advocating for equity and anti-oppression

April 22, 2024 — 

Each May, Asian Heritage Month offers a chance to recognize the many contributions that people of diverse Asian heritage have made and continue to make to Canada and our local communities. Manitoba is enriched by Filipino, South Asian, Southeast Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and West Asian individuals and the dynamic communities they build.

Asian Heritage Month is celebrated at UM with stories and events that highlight members of various Asian communities, along with the research, teaching and advocacy work they do.

 “Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity to increase understanding and appreciation of the diversity and richness of Asian cultures, communities and individuals, and to recognize the impactful work and accomplishments of so many at UM,” says Tina Chen, Vice-Provost (Equity) and Distinguished Professor of Chinese History.

“Asian Heritage builds solidarities amongst different Asian communities as we continue our work to dismantle oppression and eliminate anti-Asian racism, and all racisms, on our campuses. At UM, we commit to carrying forward the work from the National Forums on Anti-Asian Racism.”

UM research, teaching and community engagement advances critical understanding of the lives and cultures of Asians in Canada and globally. During her time as director of the UM Institute for the Humanities from 2018 to 2024, professor of English, theatre, film & media Hee-jung Serenity Joo has created models that centre community knowledges and creative projects in post-secondary learning, research and action for anti-racism. Another example is the interdisciplinary project Dried Fish Matters (anthropology), which focusses on a fisheries sub-sector particularly important in Asia and Africa, where women comprise a significant portion of this workforce. Asian Studies courses in the Faculty of Arts further provide opportunities to learn Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages and to study the cultures, politics, and histories of Asian nations, people, and diaspora.

Read on for stories, resources and upcoming events that are open to all.


Celebrating our unique stories

Watch for related content on UM platforms through May in celebration of Asian Heritage Month.

The Racial Equity and Inclusion Alliance (REIA) is a student-led community group founded last year by fourth year Faculty of Arts student Allisther De Castro. She is proud of her Filipino heritage and eager to promote multiculturalism and inclusion within the university. (Learn more about Allisther’s story!)

This year REIA hosted its first Empowerment Gala to recognize the diverse cultures at UM. The gala, which took place Sunday, Mar. 31, awarded racialized students and staff based on accomplishments in athletics and sportsmanship, academics, visual and performing arts, and advocacy and representation. 

As a first-generation academic and former international student in Canada, assistant professor of pharmacy Abdullah Al Maruf supports justice, equity, diversity and inclusiveness in his personal and professional life. He co-founded a research network to connect scientists interested in pharmacogenomics research in Bangladesh (BdPGRN) and also founded Prospective Bangladeshi Students in Canadian Universities, a not-for-profit, virtual peer-to-peer support and discussion platform. 

Wayne Chan [BSc/93, BA/00], who works as a data analyst at UM, is also a bit of a history detective — his passion for tracking down stories and tracing unknown histories has led to gems like Winnipeg’s forgotten song and Lost campus, a Google Earth tour that recreates historical UM spaces. His latest, about decoding cryptograms in an antique silk dress (CBC), came from his hobby in cryptography and codebreaking and made world-wide news.

Dr. Gigi Osler [BSc/92, MD/92] is a UM assistant professor of medicine who in 2018 became the first female surgeon and racialized woman elected as president of the Canadian Medical Association. Born in Winnipeg to immigrant parents from India and the Philippines, she was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 2022. “We have to be advocates for justice, racial justice, equity and social change,” she says.

Associate Vice-President (Administration) Raman Dhaliwal [B.Comm/07] is the first racially marginalized woman to hold the position and was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2022. “Most of the time when I’m at different meetings, there aren’t a lot of people my age, my colour and even my gender sitting around the table with me,” she notes. Dhaliwal counts her parents, who left their homes in India to start a new life in Canada, as her biggest inspiration.

You may be familiar with the colourful artwork of acclaimed Winnipeg artist Takashi Iwasaki [BFA(Hons)/06] — including UM tunnel murals) — he and his wife Shih-Han Iwasaki are currently pursuing graduate degrees at UM. Iwasaki, who is back doing his MFA, grew up in northern Japan and arrived here at age 20, while Shih-Han, who is pursuing her master’s degree at Asper, is from Taiwan. Their two children speak both Japanese and Mandarin, along with English. (Watch for Takashi’s story later this month!)

Community events and resources

Join the learning journey on advancing equity, diversity, accessibility and anti-oppression at UM.

Support the work being done by the Office of Equity Transformation, UM’s Anti-Racism Taskforce and the Office of Anti-Racism (Rady Faculty of Health Sciences).

Check out the many ethnocultural student groups on campus.


Stop by Taste of Asia – Asian Pop Fest! CN Stage at the Forks, May 25 and 26, 2-7 PM daily. Food, music, dance, art, fashion and more! Organized by Foodtrip and Asian Heritage Society MB.

Enjoy special screenings at the FascinAsian Film Festival, coming to Winnipeg May 24 to 26. Celebrating Asian perspectives, culture and integrity in film and media.

Check out additional local events throughout the month listed at Asian Heritage Society of Manitoba.

Watch CanAsian Arts On the Move: An online tour of Canada through its Asian artists in one evening! May 29, 8 P.M.

Upcoming: National Asian Heritage Symposium in Winnipeg. Nov. 6 to 9, 2024.


See “A Brief History of Asian Canadians,” “Asians in Early Canada,” and “Demographics of Asian Canadians in Manitoba” (Asian Heritage Society of Manitoba).

Winnipeg Public Library Guides: Asian Heritage. Deepen your learning about Asian history and heritage, with information that focuses on Manitoba and Canada. Resources including historical events and timelines, book recommendations!

Visit the Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Culture and Heritage

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