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Celebrating diversity and inclusion during Asian Heritage Month

Metrolinx marks the celebration by sharing the personal story of one of its employees.

May 18, 2023

Asian Heritage Month is a month-long celebration that honours Asian communities and their achievements and contributions throughout history.

Rick Mak is the Wi-Fi product owner for Metrolinx’s marketing team and comes from a Cantonese background.

His mom is from Hong Kong and his father is from China, they emigrated to Canada in the 1960s.

He grew up in a largely Cantonese and Chinese oriented neighborhood in Scarborough.

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His high school had approximately 2,600 students – 80 per cent were Chinese or had an Asian background.

“It’s a very different period now, but back then I experienced different levels of racisms with different groups not accepting us.”

Mak recalls people mocking him because of the shape of his eyes and ridiculing him because of stereotypes.

Despite growing up in an Asian community, for years, Mak just wanted to fit in.

“As someone who grew up in a largely Asian-populated area of Scarborough, racial discrimination still existed which I never fully understood back then, and despite all the other Asians around, it felt like we still didn’t fit in,” admits Mak.

It wasn’t until later in life that Mak realized he didn’t need to fit in.

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He’s since learned that life shouldn’t always be about fitting in, but recognizing and respecting all of our differences, especially now as a father of two young children.

“When I was very young, I felt it but didn’t quite understand it. Now, being a parent, you start to peel it back and realize what those impacts are and how it shapes you.”

Mak says his childhood experience now helps him better speak to his kids about race and how to acknowledge and accept differences. Topics he says are also covered and addressed at their schools – something he didn’t have growing up.

“For me it all boils down to what my outlook is on the differences that make us all unique yet part of the same community, and how I raise my children to make sure they have compassion and acceptance towards others.”

Metrolinx is also joining in the conversation and continuing its journey towards better equity by organizing several internal events to celebrate the many employees who represent the diversity of Asian Canadian communities.

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And while Asian History Month is a celebration of culture and contributions, it’s also a reminder for all of us to come together to raise awareness and combat anti-Asian racism, stereotypes, and discrimination.

Something Mak wants everyone to take away, not just this month but every day.

“I didn’t always take pride in my heritage growing up but certainly do now,” he says.

“It’s important to accept and celebrate our differences - today I’m proud to be who I am now, and I certainly appreciate the culture, traditions, and achievements from my Asian community a lot more.”

by Nitish Bissonauth Metrolinx bilingual editorial content advisor