Asian Canadians >
My Dream - The Story of
Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage
By Zulfikarali R. Kassamali, The Dreamer
After Idi Amin expelled all
the Asians from Uganda in 1972, I came to Canada and even before
I had settled down, I was given the daunting task of settling
other immigrants, most of whom had come with only the clothes
on their back.
It was the first time that
mainstream Canada was faced with thousands of non-white immigrants,
many of whom did not even speak English. We were faced with discrimination,
racism, hatred and unacceptance. I then realized there was a
dire need for change - change that would help educate Canadians
about people of colour, our cultures, our ways of life and even
our religions and our values. Most importantly, there was a need
to make people understand where we were coming from and
change the way think and change their attitudes.
Ever since, I have been constantly involved through the years
in ensuring that discrimination is eliminated from the minds
of those who do not understand and I have worked towards that
all my life. I therefore got involved in many advocacy groups
to create policy changes and changes in regulations and the law
to reduce the pain felt by those who had been discriminated against.
Many people before me had done the same, for example, the contribution
of the Chinese community in building Canada, the Sikhs who also
helped build the railroad. We have heard numerous stories told
to us of what all of
these people went through.
Today we can say Canada has
made vast strides in creating a shift in the paradigm, a shift
in the way mainstream Canadians think and Canada has come a long
way having had the first Chinese Governor General, first south
Asian Human Rights Commissioner, first Muslim Senator and many
Muslim and South Asian members of Parliament, including the first
Premier of British Columbia.
On looking back, I want these
moments to be left behind as a legacy, as history for generations
to come and for them to understand what their ancestors went
through and to fully appreciate the contribution made by those
who came before them. The threads of time woven into the mosaic
of a multicultural Canadian tapestry comprising of different
threads representing different cultures is indeed unique and
perhaps the only and best of its kind anywhere in the world.
Seeing how the world around us is also in turmoil, it can serve
to remind others present and future of how we arrived here.
Thus my idea came into fruition
the idea of creating a Virtual Museum. This will clearly portray
the journey of our ancestors from the beginning to what we see
So how can this be accomplished and what does it entail? We can
either find a property or place in the Dundas area or the Gerrard
area which site can be renovated with the help of volunteers
or even students from school who want to earn a few credits in
history. We can also fund raise for this program. Once we have
a place to start, we can call upon people who can bring old documents,
pictures, photographs, videos, artifacts, and items of cultural
interest depicting our heritage, etc. All these can be displayed
at the site. This was my original dream. However, technology
has made a
great impact in our lives and this museum can be possible through
the computer like a media presentation and all the material collected
can be archived.
This idea was born a long time
before the Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (CFAC) was formed.
When I was originally approached by Nancy Siew and together we
created and incorporated the CFAC. When I originally suggested
this idea, we both realized that it was a long-term strategy.
At that time to have put such a program into place would have
required a huge warehouse. Today, this may need just a small
place for us to show case some of the important items collected
and the rest can be shown as a virtual museum on screen.
In order to maintain and sustain
such a project, we need to put a body into place, like a board
or an organization which will continue this work long after I
have left the earth. [if that at all is a possibility because
I intend to stay forever]. We have made a niche in the books
of history and we should try and showcase that.
The project was made
possible with the support of the
of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy
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