Celebrating Asian Heritage

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 12:32 p.m. May 13, 2019

Chief Mark Saunders said embracing other cultures gives us all a chance to grow as people.

A group of girls dancing
The Chine Collective Arts Association provided a dance performance

“It is necessary for us to embrace culture to the best of our ability,” he said at the Asian Heritage Month celebration on May 11 at Scarborough Town Centre. “Culture is a healthy thing and it’s an opportunity to grow because when we know we can learn so much from each other, this is what makes us stronger as a community and that is why I am so proud to be Chief of Police. We understand the strength of community and if we do our job right, we serve everybody.”

Saunders said that having role models in the community like Scarborough-raised Master Chef Alvin Leung motivates young people. 

The self-taught Chef was the event’s keynote speaker.

“You can be anything you want, but one of the most powerful tools to get to that journey is seeing it because when you see it, you know it is possible and you have a strong belief it can happen,” the Chief told the young people in the audience. “Chef Alvin Leung is exactly that. Whether he likes it or not, when he steps in a room, people see it and believe it. That is one of the strongest force multipliers.”

The Service’s Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit (CPEU) hosted the event that featured cultural performances by the Chinese Collective Arts Association, the VybE Dance Company and Pulse Martial Arts Academy.

Upper Canada College Grade Eight student Alan Cui sang the national anthem and delivered a beautiful rendition of ‘What a Wonderful World’.

Supt. Dave Rydzik, the head of the CPEU, said Asian cultures have played a significant role in shaping Canada, and the police wanted to celebrate the partnership with Asian communities in Toronto.

A group of people standing together
Fairchild Radio General Manager Jennifer Lo, Chief Mark Saunders, Chef Alvin Leung and Deputy Chief Peter Yuen

The theme of this year’s event was ‘Asian Canadian Youth: Shaping Canada’s Future.’

“The theme highlights our wonderful young people who are our leaders of our tomorrow and it reminds us of the importance of building bridges and ensuring our ongoing support, resources and encouragement to all of their endeavors,” said Toronto Police Services Board member Uppala Chandrasekera. “There is no doubt that young people growing up in Toronto face considerable complex challenges and, as a health care provider, I see this every day and the impact it has on mental health.

“As a community, we must collectively do all we can to support and encourage our youths to face these challenges effectively… We must also regularly recognize those who are making a real difference in our community and our inspirational leaders whose impact are significant, positive and extraordinary. Critical too is recognizing role models for our youths such as the keynote speaker, Master Chef Alvin Leung, who is a globally recognized Chef who grew up in a challenging environment, but overcame the obstacles though hard work to achieve incredible success. His story is nothing short of inspirational.”

Coming to Toronto as an immigrant, Leung – who is 58 – took ESL (English as a Second Language) and didn’t go to culinary school or initially work in a restaurant. He started cooking professionally after he celebrated his 40th birthday.

“I really beat the odds,” said Leung, who trained as a mechanical engineer. “We talk a lot about what can be done to help Asian communities and how can they get proper representation. While all of that is good, I urge you not to depend on that. Please don’t think you are entitled to representation. If you don’t depend on it, you will learn to beat the odds. Earn it and don’t depend on it.”

In December 2001, the Senate adopted a motion proposed by then-Senator Vivienne Poy to officially designate May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. The following year, the government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month.

A boy singing
Alan Cui sang the national anthem and delivered a beautiful rendition of ‘What a Wonderful World’
TPS crest watermark