Asian power in Canada

Asian power in Canada

Canada wants to grow exports and extend its business presence into new markets, especially Asia.

Canada’s federal government has taken a step in the right direction in setting a goal to boost the country’s exports by 50% by 2025.

It will mean extending Canada’s business presence into new markets, especially in Asia.

Asians have always been an important ethnic group in Canada. For example, many Japanese arrived in the 1890s and became fishermen and merchants in British Columbia (BC). But the story of Asians in Canada is also one fraught with challenges and issues of segregation.

In the early 1900s, many laws and bills were passed that segregated the Chinese from whites socially, economically, and politically. A permit was required for interracial marriages, but they often ended in suspicious ways, such as disappearances or random deportations. By 1920, in British Columbia and some other provinces, Chinese people were prohibited from becoming doctors, pharmacists, or lawyers.

It wasn’t until 1947 that the federal government officially abolished the Exclusion Act and other discriminatory laws against the Chinese. Twenty years later, the government finally introduced a more liberal immigration policy that gave people around the world equal opportunity to gain admission into Canada.

In Canada, like the United States, Asians are currently the fastest growing minority group. According to the latest census, Asians make up almost 18% of the country’s population. In British Columbia, they make up 28.8%.

That’s what the creators of the hit play-turned-sitcom Kim’s Convenience, the first Canadian TV show with an all-Asian lead cast, have strived to show in their work. And as the series starts its third season, the CBC production has found lasting success.

Creator Ins Choi, whose family moved from Korea and settled in Toronto when he was very young, started penning Kim’s Convenience as a play in 2005. At the time, with his acting career off to a bumpy start, he was invited to join the playwriting unit at fu-GEN, a Toronto theater company dedicated to developing Asian-Canadian stories.

The show’s comedy-drama approach to depicting Asian characters is refreshing, says Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociologist and the author of the book Reel Inequality, especially when compared to US sitcoms with Asian-American families.

Diversifying Trade 

Although the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) is now official, Canada has not let up on its push for more trade diversification with the federal government setting a goal to boost the country’s exports by 50% by 2025.

This will mean extending Canada’s business presence into new markets, especially in Asia. To succeed in Asia, Canada needs people who know how to be effective operating in, and with, that part of the world. A 2016 survey of small- and medium-sized exporters in British Columbia gives us some clues to what this means in practice.

Companies that export their products and services to Asia have been flagged as having important skill sets that grow out of having cultural knowledge and first-hand experience in Asia. This includes the ability to develop and sustain relationships with partners in Asia (96%), an understanding of business etiquette (88%), culturally appropriate management of staff (86%), and having the network of contacts in the region (79%).


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Oso Oseguera
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