Celebrate Asian Heritage Month with CBC Saskatchewan

Highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of Asian-Canadians in the community.

Highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of Asian-Canadians in the community.

May is Asian Heritage Month, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the rich history of Asian-Canadians and their contributions to our country..

To commemorate the occasion, CBC Saskatchewan is sharing profiles of amazing Asian-Canadians every week throughout the month of May to highlight those who are making meaningful contributions in the community. 

Check out our first profile feature, Regina's Pho Le, below! And for more Asian Heritage Month content, visit CBC Gem for a collection of series, documentaries and films that honour the culturally diverse and rich heritage of Asian-Canadians and follow the hashtag #ProudlyAsianCanadian on social media for more inspiring profiles. 

Pho Le, Regina

Pho Le, proud Vietnamese-Canadian and dedicated member of the Chanh-Tin Buddhist Association of Regina, is pictured in Downtown Regina (Matt Howard/CBC)

"It is hard to remain hopeful during these difficult times but we have been through many hard times before - growing up in challenging conditions with the war, labour camp, and escaping Vietnam by boat. It makes me think of how resilient people can be. We miss our temple and religious congregation, which is usually a source of connection and community. It's harder to cope without these supports and our family and their businesses have had to adapt to the measures. Adaptation is the key to survival.

Even though I have not felt it in my own life, I am aware of the increase in Asian discrimination and hate crimes, which breaks my heart and will only serve to break apart our foundations. We must understand and tolerate each other - we all are suffering the same way because we are humans. Thankfully, we feel safe and accepted in our small city of Regina. In my dealings with others since coming to Canada, I have always been received with open arms, love and respect and I am so grateful and proud of that. I hope that people do not lose track of these fundamental values through these hard times. 

Please understand that underneath the surface, many of us Asian Canadians are survivors because we have faced incredible adversity. Even though we have different customs and approaches, it comes from traditions that have allowed us to survive thus far. This pandemic is a reminder that we continue to be resilient and accept that life is always uncertain but we will be okay."

Pho Le is a proud Vietnamese-Canadian and dedicated member of the Chanh-Tin Buddhist Association of Regina. Over the years his volunteer work has helped raise funds for the Hospitals of Regina Foundation, Canada Red Cross, Regina Food Bank and Regina Harbour Rescue Mission House.

Stephanie Yong, Saskatoon

Stephanie Yong, proud Chinese-Canadian and 2018 CBC Saskatchewan Future 40 recipient, is pictured near the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon (Don Somers/CBC)

"I've been very, very lucky that I haven't been too exposed to anything negative culture or race wise. I'm a strong, young, energetic, very independent female, and I can take care of myself. I know I can defend myself and I certainly have enough words to defend myself but it goes to my parents, an elderly Asian couple. My Dad's on a walker and my Mom is four foot six and just to think that they could be exposed to that is terrifying for me. 

My younger brother lives in London, England, where a lot of the anti-Asian crimes surged. It terrifies me thinking of him walking down the streets of London and that something could happen really quickly. So it doesn't scare me for me because it doesn't affect me. That's kind of where it's heightened for me, I would have never worried about it before and now I worry about that. 

I am so very proud, happy, satisfied…all these positive things about being born Chinese-Canadian. I think I got the best of all worlds. I have the cultural ties rooted to being Chinese, like obligation to family, work ethic and the language. Both very different kinds of traditions and different cultures, which I love. But I also got the advantages of growing up in the Western world, which doesn't have as many rigid rules and structure as Chinese culture does. So it was nice to be able to grow up with some of that flexibility. I'm very grateful for that."

Stephanie Yong is a design thinking specialist and lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan. She has her own consulting company, Stephanie Yong Consulting, which focuses on engagement, analytics and integration. She was also the project lead for the City of Saskatoon's Smart Cities Project, ConnectYXE.

Christopher Cho, Regina

Christopher Cho, Korean-Canadian restaurateur and mixologist pictured at Avenue Restaurant (a restaurant he co-founded) in Downtown Regina. (Matt Howard/CBC)

"I've always suffered with bad anxiety as it is and knowing that business isn't thriving as it normally should be going through the whole pandemic as well... and with the coronavirus, I feel like I'm not looked at as I normally would have been, just given the fact that it came from Asia. I feel like sometimes I get weird looks or a weird vibe from certain people. It's just different these days. 

I've always struggled with racism since I was a young kid. I grew up bottling everything inside me, and that's not how I would love other people to grow up. I didn't have the support that I do now in terms of the people I can talk to or reach out to and explain how I'm feeling or what's going on in my life. So I think for the younger generation it's just letting them know that we're here and there are people to talk to about it. 

When I think of Asian Heritage Month I think about family and the struggles that my family had growing up. And when I look at other Asians on the street or people that come in through our doors, I kind of see it in them as well. Everyone's past and histories are all different, but I find that as an Asian-Canadian it's our work ethic and our determination that is what we contribute to our community the most."

Christopher Cho is a Korean-Canadian restaurateur and mixologist. He is a co-founder of Grassroots Restaurant Group that consists of four restaurants, three in Saskatoon and one in Regina. He has won several accolades, including being a winner of CBC Saskatchewan's Future 40. 

Cyril Chen, Regina

Cyril Chen (he/they), Chinese-Canadian animator and expanded media artist pictured in Regina. (Matt Howard/CBC)

It's the small little light issues I kind of just brush off, but when a large attack or confrontation happens in the country or somewhere else in the world, it can be a bit traumatic. In the way that I can see images of the victims and see how they look like my family and thinking that it could be me next time. It's like a layer of racial trauma that is definitely something that trickles down into my mood and the way that I operate in that month. 

Since my grandparents narrowly escaped war crimes, there's a lot of hiding away or not revealing emotion. It's not every community… and it all depends on your family history obviously as well. But I think nowadays being in Canada you have the opportunity to express yourself and thrive, you don't need to be in a survival mindset anymore. There's room for you to be yourself.  

I think every person has intuition, a gut feeling, or some sensation that they have in their chest. It's like they want to say something or they feel like there's something either very wrong or very right. I think you should try your best and follow that feeling and not stow it away. Really don't try to pretend it's not there, because it's there for a reason.

Cyril Chen is an animator and expanded media artist who was born and raised in Regina. Their work has appeared on CBC, the Toronto Times, Narcity, the Mackenzie Art Gallery, and more. Chen's work is inspired by the exploration of migration, separation, and cyberspace.

Haris Khan, Regina

Haris Khan, pictured in Regina, is known in the community for his charitable work and stand up comedy. (Matt Howard/CBC)

My Dad, no matter which part of the world, which part of the city, or wherever I am on my birthday, would call me exactly at midnight. I can't remember him ever being late. He will always be the first person to wish me a happy birthday. And this year I never got a call from my Dad. I knew he had passed away when I never got that call from him. Then in early April my Mom was COVID-positive and she was in hospital for more than a week. Unfortunately on April 22nd she passed away. It's been a difficult year. 

This is what I'm doing in memory of my Dad. Every day—starting at the beginning of Ramadan—we started doing 30 meals, now leading up to a bit more than 60 meals daily delivering to students, community members and community members at large. Some of these people aren't Muslim but if I find some reason, like if there's a death in their family or anything, I know if I go there with a meal and I make them smile or just show up and support them, it will make them feel better.

I never knew that in the middle of the food drive I would be doing it in the memory of my Mother as well, because both of my parents taught us, myself and my siblings, to do charitable work to help people in the community. And I'm confident that my parents would be seeing me from the heavens and they would definitely be proud because what I'm doing is just following their teachings. 

Haris Khan is the project lead for a program that delivers meals to community members and students during Ramadan. This year the team delivered 1,965 meals. He was formerly the President of the students union at the University of Regina. Khan is known in the community for his charitable work and his stand up comedy.