University student Alec Carlos was walking in the mall with some friends when he heard it. Coming from a group of young white men passing by – which included some of his former schoolmates.
“One of them said, ‘These Asians are taking over our town,’” said Carlos, who was born in the Philippines and raised in Steinbach. “The worst thing is that nobody in his group said anything – not even the guys who knew me and went to school with me. They just let it stand.”
Maysoun Darweesh had a similar experience after being called a terrorist by a work colleague, who then tried to laugh it off as a joke. “The most shocking thing to me was that the other people who heard this, people who know me very well, none of them said anything,” said Darweesh, who arrived in Winnipeg nine years ago as a Syrian refugee via Macau (China).
Carlos, Darweesh and four other Manitobans of Asian descent will join a virtual panel discussion on Wednesday to share experiences of racism in their communities and workplaces – and urge others to speak out when they see or hear it.
- WHAT: Combatting anti‐Asian racism in the workplace: a virtual panel discussion
- WHEN: Wednesday, May 19, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. CDT
- WHERE: Live on Zoom (online). Please register in advance. Free.
Moderated by CBC radio host Faith Fundal, the discussion marks Asian Heritage Month by exploring an issue that has become increasingly obvious during the pandemic.
“I’ve seen people who will not sit beside someone who looks Asian, will not go to their stores or their restaurants because they think they will catch COVID from being near them or eating their food,” said Darweesh, who works as a migration and resettlement program coordinator.
Carlos said a friend was recently told to “go back to China” by someone he was simply passing on the street. “People are upset and fearful right now and they’re looking for someone to blame or something to take out their frustration on,” he said, adding that some older Asian people are afraid to leave the house in case they get harassed.
Wednesday’s event has been organized by the Asian Heritage Society of Manitoba and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR). A live question and answer session will follow the discussion.
About the panellists
Hipolito (J.R.) Alibin
The co‐owner of Max’s Restaurant, Cuisine of the Philippines in St. James is a proud immigrant and Winnipegger who has made this city home for the past 25 years. Together with his family, he opened Max’s, a franchise of a global Filipino restaurant chain, in 2019 as the first investment for Alibin Group Inc. The company’s business model is to identify high‐performing and sustainable consumer brands to invest in and operate. Alibin’s accounting and finance experience spans 20 years. He has held various senior roles in government, private business and non‐profits and is currently the Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg.
An actor, filmmaker, writer and musician based in Winnipeg, Carlos is currently in his final year of Film Studies at the University of Manitoba. He has been writing, filmmaking and editing since childhood. He entered the industry acting in productions such as Amazon Prime's Tales from the Loop, Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott's Tales from the Hood 3, and the upcoming prequel to 2009's horror flick Orphan, called Orphan: First Kill. He is also a musician and the frontman of alternative rock band OpenTAB. Carlos goes under the moniker "AC Breeze" for his solo music projects and bounces genres between indie, hip hop, R&B, and rock‐rap.
A Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at the University of Manitoba, Chen is a specialist in modern Chinese history, with research and teaching focused on feminism, cultural politics, race, and anti‐colonial projects in China and globally. Chen is also an active community volunteer: a long‐serving board member of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre and founding collective member of PAO! Prairie Asian Organizers. Her current teaching, research and community activism all prioritize anti‐racism, including working to address race, equity, diversity and inclusion in figure skating.
A former refugee and journalist, Darweesh is currently the Program Coordinator for Migration and Resettlement at Mennonite Central Committee of Manitoba. She is also the executive director of Kurdish Initiative for Refugees Inc. and runs her own restoration and renovation company, Thank You Canada 2020 Inc., which exclusively hires refugees. Darweesh serves on several boards, including the Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba and the Asian Heritage Society of Manitoba. She is also an advisor with the Refugee Advisory Network and the Newcomer Mental Health Advisory Network. She previously worked as a settlement counsellor and community activist for the Syrian and Kurdish communities.
Jamie Dela Cruz
Born and raised in the heart of Winnipeg’s West End community, Dela Cruz is a registered nurse who graduated in 2011 from the Baccalaureate Nursing Program at the University of Manitoba. In 2019, she received a nursing excellence award. Dela Cruz has also held a position for the past three years with the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Nursing as a Clinical Education Facilitator, guiding third‐year nursing students through their surgical rotations.
Dr. Muni Mysore
A professional psychiatrist for more than 30 years, Dr. Mysore completed her undergraduate studies in India before immigrating to Canada in 1983. She pursued post‐graduate training in Psychiatry at Queen's University in Kingston and at the University of Toronto. As an immigrant, she recognizes the importance of maintaining strong cultural roots and identity while integrating into Canadian society. She has been involved with the India School of Dance Music and Theatre and with the Asian Heritage Society of Manitoba for many years.
About the moderator: Faith Fundal
An award‐winning news and current affairs multi‐media journalist, Fundal is well known for getting to the heart of stories that spark meaningful conversation. Currently the host of CBC Manitoba’s “Up to Speed” radio program, Fundal also hosts “They & Us,” an original podcast from CBC British Columbia inspired by their personal journey exploring gender identity. Born in the Philippines and raised in Metro Vancouver, Fundal is a graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology Broadcast and Media Communications Journalism program. Prior to joining CBC in 2008, they worked as a writer, radio reporter and news reader in Vancouver, Kamloops and Prince George.