Skip to main content

AMAPCEO Celebrates Asian & South Asian Heritage Month

Publish date: Friday, May 01, 2020 update

During the month of May, Ontarians come together to reflect and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Canadians of Asian and South Asian descent from over 30 countries. In 2002, the Government of Canada signed a declaration that designated the month of May as Asian Heritage month nationally to acknowledge the long and rich history of Asian Canadians.

Join the Asian, Arab, & Latinx Caucus

Read our profiles of prominent Asian and South Asian Ontarians:


Jean Bessie Lumb

(Photo Credit: Cavouk - Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage)

Jean Bessie Lumb, born Toy Jin Wong in 1919 in Nanaimo, BC, came to Toronto in 1935. A key figure in the fight to change Canada’s racist immigration laws, Lumb was the first Chinese-Canadian woman and first restauranteur to receive the Order of Canada for her community work. Her community activism led to appointments to Women's College Hospital, the Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism and Ontario Chinese Restaurant Association.

Lumb is remembered and recognized for her critical role in changing Canada’s immigration laws that had separated Chinese families and for her work that led to saving Chinatowns in Toronto and other cities from demolition in the 1960s.

Lumb, along with her husband, opened a fruit store in the Junction in 1936 and then opened Kwong Chow Chop Suey House in Toronto’s Chinatown in 1959. The restaurant was popular with Canadians of all backgrounds and was a spot where politicians, journalists, celebrities, business people, and community leaders contributed to transforming and shaping opinions about Chinese-Canadians.

Founded in 1998, the Jean Lumb Foundation provides scholarships to high school students of Chinese heritage.

Thanks to The Canadian Encyclopedia and The Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage.


Honourable Gurbax Singh Malhi

(Photo courtesy the House of Commons)

Gurbax Singh Malhi was born in India and immigrated to Canada in 1975. Malhi was elected in 1993 as a Member of Parliament (MP) to represent Bramalea-Gore-Malton. He became the first Sikh who wears a turban to be elected to the House of Commons.

During his time in Parliament, Malhi became known as a politician who fought for inclusion of all minorities that came to Canada and was reflective of the diverse ethnic backgrounds that co-exist in Canada. As Canada’s first Sikh MP, he raised awareness and understanding of the customs and traditions of the Sikh faith and of South Asian communities.

Malhi was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 for his commitment and contributions to Canadian society.

Thanks to the Government of Canada and Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

Jagmeet Singh

(Photo courtesy House of Commons)

Born in Brampton, Ontario to parents who had migrated from Punjab, India, Jagmeet Singh grew up in Scarborough, Ontario and St. John’s, Newfoundland before settling in Windsor, Ontario.

Singh began his career as a criminal defence attorney. In 2011, Singh was elected the first Ontario NDP Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to represent the Peel Region and became  the first MPP to wear a turban at Queen’s Park. On October 1, 2017, Singh was elected leader of the federal NDP—the first racialized person to lead a major federal political party in Canada—and later won his seat in Burnaby South.

Singh studied law and began his career as a criminal defence attorney before joining politics to support communities fighting poverty, keep tuition affordable, and advocate for equal access to justice for marginalized communities.

Thanks to Government of Canada and Meet Jagmeet Singh.


Robert (Bob) Wong

(Photo courtesy CPA Ontario)

Robert (Bob) Wong is a former Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, having served the downtown Toronto riding of Fort York from 1987 to 1990. He served in Premier David Peterson’s provincial government, first as Minister of Energy and then as Minister of Citizenship, where he was responsible for race relations, multiculturalism, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Wong was the first Canadian cabinet minister of Chinese descent. After politics, Wong joined Leon Frazer & Associates Investment Counsel, .

Thanks Wikipedia.


The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson 

(Photo courtesy of:

Madame Adrienne Clarkson, Canada’s 26th Governor General of Canada (1999-2005), came to Canada as refugee from Hong Kong in 1942 and settled in Ottawa, Ontario. She attended the University of Toronto’s Trinity College , where she obtained two degrees, and later studied at La Sorbonne in Paris, France.

Before her role as Governor General, Madam Clarkson was a journalist/television host, writer and an Executive Producer for many CBC news and cultural programs.

Madame Clarkson was sworn in as Governor General on October 7, 1999 and was the first visible minority, first Canadian-Chinese women to be appointed governor general and the second women (after Jeanne Sauvé).

In 1982, she received her first government appointment when she was designated First Agent General for the province of Ontario to France. Her mandate was to promote Ontario to France for business and cultural relations and exchanges.

Neethan Shan

(Photo courtesy of:

Neethan Shanmugarajah (known as Neethan Shan) is a Tamil Canadian youth worker and politician. Shan was born in Sri Lanka, and came to Canada as a refugee in 1995 when he was a teenager.  He earned a degree in Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) in 2003 and then earned his M.Ed in Sociology and Equity Studies in 2012.

In 2017, Shan was elected to represent Ward 42 (Scarborough—Rouge River) and became the first Canadian Tamil to serve on the city council. Shan is the founder of the Tamil Heritage Month and is currently the executive director of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. He lives in Scarborough with his wife Thadsha Navaneethan (who is the Vice-President of Canada’s NDP) and two sons.


The Honourable Dr. Vivienne Poy

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Encyclopedia)

The Honourable Dr. Vivienne Poy (1941–) is an author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist and the first Canadian of Asian descent to be appointed to the Senate of Canada.

Dr. Poy was born in Hong Kong and studied at McGill University, Seneca College, and the University of Toronto. She served for fourteen years as president of Vivienne Poy Mode, a fashion design company she founded in 1981. In 1998, she was appointed to the Senate where she focused on gender issues, multiculturalism, immigration, and human rights until her retirement in 2012.

Dr. Poy was also integral to having May recognized as Asian Heritage Month: it was her motion to recognize Asian Heritage Month that was adopted by the Senate in 2001. 

Thanks to The Canadian Encyclopedia and Wikipedia.  

Thomas Kunito Shoyama

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Thomas Kunito Shoyama (1916–2006) was an economist, journalist, public servant, and one of the architects of Saskatchewan’s health care system.

Shoyama earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of British Columbia. He was an avid spokesman for the rights of the Japanese-Canadian community throughout his tenure as editor of The New Canadian from 1939 to 1945.

In 1946 he moved to Saskatchewan, where he worked as a public servant in the provincial government until 1964, first as a research economist, then as economic adviser to Premiers Tommy Douglas and Woodrow Lloyd. During this time, he was integral to establishing the Saskatchewan medicare system.

Shoyama was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978, and was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award of the Public Service of Canada in 1979.

Thanks to The Canadian Encyclopedia and Wikipedia.  

The Honourable Vim Kochhar

(Photo courtesy Library of Parliament)

The Honourable Vim Kochhar (1935–) is a former businessman who was the first Canadian of Indo-Canadian descent to be appointed to the Senate of Canada.

Kochhar was born in Lahore and, after earning an engineering degree from the University of Texas, immigrated to Canada in 1967. He has been a passionate advocate for the rights and inclusion of disabled people in Canada throughout his life. 1987, Kochhar founded the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons to assist individuals with physical challenges to live fuller lives and raise awareness of their achievements and contributions to society.

He was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2010, where he served until his retirement in 2011. In 2014, Kochhar was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame.


More about AMAPCEO and our Members: Established in 1992, AMAPCEO is a bargaining agent that represents 14,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in 12 cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario; Health Quality Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council; Public Health Ontario; the Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; and in the former Offices of the Ontario Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (now part of the Ontario Ombudsman).