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Saying Lunar New Year makes far more sense than referring to Chinese New Year in a city as diverse as Vancouver

Lunar New Year
There's one thing that political leaders from across the spectrum agree upon—it's Lunar New Year, not Chinese New Year, according to their Twitter feeds. Photo by @dave_eby.

Vancouver mayor Ken Sim refers to the recent holiday in Asia as “Lunar New Year”.

Premier David Eby also calls it Lunar New Year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is another high-profile Canadian who uses the Lunar New Year term.

Moreover, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon all mention Lunar New Year on their Twitter feeds.

In addition, the Chinese Canadian Museum, Surrey Museum, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver Canucks, Chinatown Storytelling Centre, and Granville Island refer to this event as Lunar New Year.

There’s a reason for this. Lunar New Year is a far more inclusive term than Chinese New Year, which was commonly used in B.C. for decades.

That’s because people from Vietnam, South and North Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore all celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Yet we still see “Chinese New Year” pop up occasionally in the electronic media and at community celebrations. Examples include upcoming events hosted by Tapestry at Arbutus Walk in Vancouver and ASPAC Developments in Richmond.

Rookie park commissioner Scott Jensen also used the “Chinese New Year” terminology in a recent tweet.

Lunar New Year is all-encompassing

Keep in mind that Greater Vancouver is home to a large population of people of Korean, Taiwanese, and Southeast Asian ancestry, according to the 2021 census.

By 2041, Statistics Canada forecasts that there will be 385,000 people of Southeast Asian descent and another 138,000 of Korean ancestry in this region.

The managing director of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association, Charlie Wu, recently related to me how a Taiwanese student in this region was being forced into the “Chinese New Year” group in his school. This occurred even though the kid’s parents are not from the People’s Republic of China.

Meanwhile, the children of Korean origin in that school had their own Lunar New Year group. However, the Taiwanese child was not allowed to join them even though Taiwan, like South Korea, has its own democratically elected president, constitution, currency, national legislature, and flag.

Imagine if teachers forced Canadian kids in the B.C. school system to celebrate Presidents Day rather than Family Day. Both fall on February 20 this year. Would this give rise to a discrimination complaint at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal on the basis of national origin?

School trustees would be wise to pay attention to this issue. As employers, they have a duty to ensure that employees treat all students in the system with dignity. It just might help them avoid becoming ensnared in an unnecessary human rights case.

There’s an easy fix to this situation. Simply follow the lead of the prime minister, premier, mayor of Vancouver, leaders of the federal and provincial official opposition, and leader of the NDP in Parliament. Call it Lunar New Year. In the process, you’ll be making sure that all of our neighbours from Asia feel appreciated and respected at this time of year.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.