Asian Heritage Month 2023

Stories of determination

This year marks the 21st anniversary of Asian Heritage Month in Canada, a time to recognize the many contributions of Canadians of Asian heritage in building a dynamic and prosperous Canada.

Canadians of Asian heritage and their communities have been a part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity for centuries.

During Asian Heritage Month, Parks Canada wants to honour the memory of Canadians of Asian descent by remembering the stories of individuals and events that have helped shape our history and heritage.

The contributions of landscape designers and gardeners of Japanese descent in Canadian designated sites

A lush garden containing trees, bushes, and grasses in fall colours, along with a stone path and wooden bridge.
Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site of Canada

In the early 20th century, the reputation of Japanese landscape designers such as Isaburo and Yoshida Kishida as well as Kensuke and Hayato Takata reached beyond the borders of Japan.

Seduced by their work and by the principles of simplicity and harmony that underlie Japanese gardens, some wealthy families on the Canadian West Coast called upon them to create Japanese gardens on their properties.

This was the case for the Butchart family in 1906 and the Dunsmuir family in 1910. Today, visitors can still see the legacy of these landscape sculptors at the Butchart Gardens National Historic Site.

Victoria’s Chinatown National Historic Site

A commemorative plaque installed on a sidewalk
General view of Victoria’s Chinatown and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada commemorative plaque
© Andrew Waldron, Parks Canada, 2011

Victoria’s Chinatown was designated a national historic site in 1995.

The oldest and most intact Chinatown in Canada, this district represents an important chapter in the complex history and heritage of Chinese Canadians.

Vancouver Japanese Language School National Historic Site

A gold sign above the entryway of a smooth-finish concrete building with dark wood trim.
Vancouver Japanese Language School, 2000 addition, Shig Amano, architect
© Jennifer A. Cousineau, Parks Canada, 2018

The Vancouver Japanese Language School, located at 487 Alexander Street, was the first and largest Japanese language school in Canada and one of 50 such schools in use before 1941.

Chinese construction workers on the Canadian Pacific Railway National Historic Event

A black and white vintage photo of several people in a camp dressed in Victorian-era clothing.
Chinese camp (Canadian Pacific Railway), Kamloops, British Columbia, 1886
© Edouard Deville, Library and Archives Canada, C-021990

In the early 1880's contractor Andrew Onderdonk brought thousands of labourers from China to help build the Pacific Railway through the mountains of British Columbia. About three-quarters of the men who worked on the section between the Pacific and Craigellachie were Chinese.

Although considered excellent workers, they received only a dollar a day, half the pay of a white worker. Hundreds of Chinese died from accidents or illness, for the work was dangerous and living conditions poor. Those who remained in Canada when the railway was completed securely established the basis of British Columbia's Chinese community.

This Week in History

A magnifying glass reveals the words Nova Scotia on a piece of parchment.

Since 1998, Parks Canada has been publishing short history articles every week on its website. This Week in History seeks to interest readers in Canadian history and help them learn more about federal heritage designations. To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, the team publishes new history articles related to the experiences and achievements of Canadians of Asian descent by exploring our online archives.

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) recommends the designation of subjects of national historic significance to the Government of Canada.

Are you aware of a subject related to Asian heritage in Canada, or a person, place or event that may have national historical significance?

Additional resources: Asian history and culture in Canada

Date modified :