With Mid-Autumn Festival, Diwali, Navaratri and other cultural festivities right around the corner, I’m reminded how important it is to embrace and celebrate different cultures. Nearly 30 years ago, Yee Hong was founded to remove cultural barriers Asians experience in accessing services, but too many Asian communities in our country still face systemic discrimination today.

Dismantling systemic racism can’t be done over night, nor can we do it alone. We must take collective action to address inequities. We must raise awareness and recognize when racism, discrimination and oppression is happening to ourselves and others. We can seek support and solace from each other and as an organization, develop “like-hearted” coalitions with other Asian and multi-cultural population serving organizations to amplify our voices and fight systemic racism collectively.

I recently had an opportunity to participate in Mayor John Tory’s Anti-Asian Racism Roundtable. Alongside other East and Southeast Asian Canadian community members, we had discussions about how people experience anti-Asian racism in our communities. I appreciate and applaud Mayor Tory and the City of Toronto for taking this important step towards creating a more equitable and inclusive city.

Six major themes and recommendations for action emerged from our roundtable discussions as published in this report. Actions speak louder than words – we look forward to supporting the City and partners to act on these recommendations at once to break down the barriers preventing Asian Torontonians from accessing positive and equitable health outcomes:

  • Health, Community and Social Services – Improve the quality and availability of community-specific and culturally appropriate health, community and social services for Asian Torontonians, with a recommendation to address the specific needs of Asian seniors and newcomers.
  • Children and Youth Development – Advocate for better protection, opportunities and supports for Asian children and youth.
  • Housing Supports – Improve housing availability and affordability, as well as shelter conditions and safety to better support Asian Torontonians.
  • Job Opportunities and Income Supports – Improve quality and access to employment and training opportunities, as well as job quality and income supports for Asian Torontonians.
  • Law and Bylaw Enforcement Apply anti-racism and anti-oppression lens to law and bylaw enforcement in Toronto.
  • Community Engagement and Asian Leadership – Celebrate Asian Canadian activism and heritage, and increase opportunities for Asian Torontonians to participate in City decision-making.

While Yee Hong serves Asians primarily, this does not automatically mean that we have fully embraced diversity. We all have unconscious biases, and there is a need for us to acknowledge these and work towards building a more inclusive organizational culture. At Yee Hong, we are actively working on developing an environment where we embrace differences in culture, race, language, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, education, ability and divergent perspectives while upholding our values: We Care, We Collaborate, We Commit.

We are forming a council with representatives across all levels and disciplines of the organization – including residents, clients, family members, staff and leadership teams – to unpack what anti-Asian racism means for Yee Hong and more importantly, what we will do about it. As a culturally-sensitive organization, we recognize the need to balance what makes our organization culture strong and at the same time, how much progress we still have to make to foster a truly inclusive environment.