Across Cultures

Points of View

Read what those involved with current issues across Canada have to say about cultural diversity and multiculturalism.

British Columbia

Roy Miki

Roy Miki

Roy Miki is a professor in the English Department at Simon Fraser University. He is the author of Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice. (Raincoast  2004). His latest publication is a book of poems, There (New Star 2006).

Asian Canadians On View

Roy Miki, professor in the English Department at Simon Fraser University, writes about the need to develop critical approaches for studying the representation of Asian Canadian histories and identity formations.

1 Both “Asian” and “Asian Canadian” are abstract terms that have been used in Canada to identify people from a variety of countries, and in many cases countries that have had bitter historical relationships with each other, such as China and Japan. “Asian” has also had negative connotations in associated terms such as “Asiatic” and “Oriental.” It can even provoke negative reactions in groups that have been identified as “Asian Canadian,” especially for new immigrants who insist on maintaining direct ties with their country of origin. Nonetheless, “Asian Canadian” acknowledges the Canadian contexts that have shaped the boundaries of Canadians with Asian backgrounds. These contexts are constantly shifting in relation to the changing conditions of both the Canadian nation and the global processes in which it currently functions.

2. To study the differences between outsider and insider representations, we could compare these two films to those made by filmmakers who identify themselves as speaking out of specific Asian Canadian communities. Alongside Enemy Alien, then, we could view The Displaced View (1988) by Midi Onodera and Obaachan’s Garden by Linda Ohama (NFB, 2001). Alongside The Third Heaven we could view Moving the Mountain: An Untold Chinese Journey by William Dere (Productions Multi-Monde, 1993) and Letters from Home by Colleen Leung (NFB, 2002).

3. Since The Third Heaven was initially produced in French, the translation process is complex for this film and deserves more attention than I can give it here. Although I am aware that responses to the film in French may differ in significant ways, I have based my commentary on the English version.