Spike in anti-Asian racism dark part of pandemic


AVVY GO GOT SPIT ON. That’s bad enough. But, anti-Asian racist attacks are often much, much worse—even deadly. Recognizing, recording and resisting that reality is the driving force behind continuing rallies across Canada.

Avvy is head of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto. She says being spit on, or something similar,  is not all that unusual for Asians in Canada. “Almost every single Chinese Canadian I know has experienced something, some incident during the past year, whether it’s people yelling at them, telling them to go back to China or being denied service.”

The indignities, insults, verbal and physical attacks that Asians face everyday are a cruel truth. Still more cruel is the fact our federal government ignores it all.

Go points out the federal government 2019 anti-racism strategy talks about anti-black racism and hatred towards indigenous people. There in no mention at all of anti-Asian racism.

“It’s a serious flaw in the current strategy,” says Go. “We hope that the government will amend the strategy and, more importantly, they will develop concrete actions to address racism of all forms.”

From bad to worse

Figures from the Vancouver Police Department revealed a 717 percent increase in anti-Asian racist incidents in 2020.

The Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) published a report in March based on data collected from two websites set up to report racist incidents. As of the end of February 2021, 1,150 anti-Asian racist incidents had been registered across Canada.

British Columbia is the leading sub-national region in North America when it comes to reported hate crimes against Asians per head of Asian population.

The CCNC believes that a major cause for this is the COVID-19 pandemic, which right-wing political figures, like Donald Trump, have blamed exclusively on China. Another factor is the growing portrayal of China as a serious threat to the economic and foreign policy interests of Canada and the USA.

While these comments are usually aimed at the Chinese government, they inevitably lead to across-the-board racism towards anyone who looks Chinese.

“It’s not a burden that we as Asian Canadians must bear alone,” says Jan Wong, co-founder of the Asian Canadian Women’s Alliance. “I call on everybody else to stand with us and to stop this.

Toronto rally

The mass killing of eight Asian women in Atlanta on March 16 sparked a rally in downtown Toronto to protest the rise in attacks on Asian Canadians and other racially-motivated hate crimes.

The rally organizers noted in a statement: “We stand together with Asian-American and Asian-Canadian women who are traumatized by this ongoing misogyny, racism, and stand against the policing and abuse of massage parlour workers and sex workers who are criminalized by the state and face discrimination by society.”

Participants spoke about their own fears following the Atlanta shooting. “When I saw those people being attacked I feel the same pain as if I was being attacked,” said Jessica Li. Fane Tse added, “With all the terrible things happening we have to be here for our community, to let people know hate is not ok. Racism is not ok.”

Montreal rally

A similar protest march was held in Montreal on March 21. “We’ve come together to organize because our community is tired, is hurting and is angry,” said Karen Cho of the Progressive Chinese Quebecers. “We are a year into this pandemic and the Asian Quebecois community has confronted so much hate.”

Cho added the vandalism of Buddhist statues in Cote des Neiges and on the historic Chinatown gates on St. Laurent Blvd., as well as the hit-and-run of two Asian residents in Brossard to the list of criminal acts against citizens in and around Montreal.

“These are just the most egregious examples of what our community has faced this year,” she said. “On a daily basis, from Costco to the pharmacy, to just walking in the streets, people in our community have been told to go back to their country, blamed for causing the virus, spat on and called racial slurs. These are not a series of isolated cases, they are part of a larger system and larger culture that allows these attitudes to persist. “

New incidents

The urgency of the growing number of calls for action against anti-Asian racism is underscored by reports of new incidents occurring on almost a daily basis:

  • on March 27 Montreal police arrested a man on the metro for making death threats and harassing a woman of Chinese origin

  • on March 31, police warned a man in Guelph for uttering anti-Asian slurs at a woman, and warned him that he could face hate crime charges if it happened again

  • on April 5, Vancouver media reported an outbreak of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian graffiti in North Vancouver.

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