UBC Launches ACAM on September 23, 2014

Excerpt from UBC Public Affairs article: An Acceptance Letter 69 Years Later

September 18, 2014 – by Heather Amos

The new Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies program

“Canada has changed a great deal over the last 100 years,” says Prof. Henry Yu, who teaches history at UBC. “Until 1949, anti-Asian legislation deprived Chinese Canadians, Japanese Canadians, and Indo-Canadians of the vote, and prevented them from working in many jobs and living in some neighbourhoods. Until 1967, Canada’s immigration policy excluded Asians.”

“One of the important lessons students grapple with in the new program is the question of how a racist society was both built and then remade, and who struggled to make Canada a more just society.”

The minor, created with the involvement of different Asian Canadian communities, gives students a chance to explore the rich history of Asians in Canada. It includes courses from a variety of fields such as geography, history, sociology, literature, and fine arts, as well as a course where students create short documentaries that put Asian Canadian issues in the spotlight.

Carolyn Nakagawa is an English Honours student in the Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies program and she’ll be meeting Henry Sugiyama in person on September 23 when he, at the invitation of President Arvind Gupta, travels to UBC from his home in Toronto to attend a symbolic first day of class.

“Readings and texts become tools to engage with the community and with lived experiences,” says Nakagawa. “People like Dr. Sugiyama are at the centre of the learning we’re doing.”

Read related articles about Dr. Henry Sugiyama and Carolyn Nakagawa.

New program and a new way of learning

The new Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies is not just a history program. With courses drawn across the humanities, fine arts, and social sciences, it empowers students to become storytellers and teachers. Last year, a new course in film production asked students to use video to highlight under-reported stories – from the past or present – of Asian Canadians

Joanna Yang, a recent graduate who took the course, and master’s student Stephanie Fung created a short documentary on queer Asian Canadian youth that will be shown at film festivals in Montreal and Torino this coming year. Yang says that “learning by doing” has been life-changing.

“We are harnessing the power of new media to preserve, create, and spread knowledge and to tell stories that have often been ignored,” she says.

Students also created short films on topics such as Canada’s first tofu company, playing hockey in Asia and how Filipino international students stay connected to home. Students worked with community members across cultures, and used media to communicate important topics. As part of UBC’s more flexible approach to learning, the program aims to create a better experience for student learning and engagement.

“The Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies Program aims to give students skills that will enable them to impact their communities long after they graduate from UBC,” says Chris Lee. “We hope it’s a fitting way to honour older generations who suffered from racial discrimination.”