KITCHENER -- Amid growing awareness of anti-Asian racism and discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic, a local Chinese-Canadian group says Asian Heritage Month is taking on new meaning this year.

“It’s far more important this year to remind people in times of crisis and in this very challenging situation, it is all so important to work together,” said Gabriel Tse, former vice-president of the Central Ontario Chinese Canadian Cultural Centre.

“Hatred and ignorance would breed more hatred and ignorance, it is a very vicious circle,” he continued. “Together we have to educate through experience … and through learning from each other.”

A new report by several advocacy groups shows since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there’s been a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes, including physical assaults against children and the elderly.

May is Asian Heritage Month, considered a time to reflect on the resilience and determination many of displayed in the pasty and continue to show today.

This year’s theme is recognition, resilience and resolve.

The month is meant to honour the significant contributions Asian-Canadians have made and continue to make across the nation, and to learn more about the diversity of Asian cultures and languages.

“This is a great opportunity for us to really celebrate the culture and the language,” said Ying Shirley Guo with the Waterloo Region Chinese Canadian Association,

The association will be celebrating the month virtually.

“We will be doing online classes for Asian arts, including painting classes, dance classes and tai chi and a lot more,” she said.

Guelph resident Aaliyah Subang says she’s had racial slurs yelled at her, and it’s left a scar in her heart.

“To target someone based off of the way they look or their ethnicity, it’s difficult to process that,” she said.

Subang is hoping Asian Heritage Months inspires people to come together and celebrate diversity.

“It’s good because it brings these different cultures to light,” she said. “We’re all people, we all have our traditions, our cultures, and these heritages. That’s what helps makes us a community.”