“He called me ‘ch***’ and grabbed my arm,” an Asian Burnaby high school student who wished to remain anonymous tells me. While on the bus with his friend, he was verbally and physically harassed by a middle-aged White man. Fortunately, a White woman on the bus stepped in before it got severe and the White man was removed from the bus at the next stop.
“I never thought racism was that serious in Vancouver, until it personally happened to me,” he says. “It kind of opened my eyes to the truth about this city and this country.”
Tiana Ha, another Asian student, says she was driving when a White man almost crashed into her. He proceeded to yell, “That’s how people in China drive!” She also experienced racism at a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Vancouver where a Black man called her “Coronavirus.”
“I faced more racism during the pandemic and I got called things like “Corona” because I’m Asian.”
COVID-19 has been the trigger for a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes across Canada and the U.S., specifically in the city of Vancouver, which is said to be the most Asian city outside of Asia.
Vancouver has recently been labelled the “anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America” after having more hate crime reports in the last year than the top 10 most populous U.S. cities combined. It has also seen a 717 percent rise in reported hate crimes against East Asians from 2019 to 2020 in statistics from the Vancouver Police Department.
The discrimination against the Asian community started when COVID-19 began spreading in early 2020, when merely looking Asian and wearing a mask could set off verbal harassment and could even escalate to physical assaults.
There is little that police can do when someone is spat or coughed on and most media coverage usually focuses on the Chinese Canadian community, even though many other Asian communities have been affected by the rise in targeted discrimination and racism.
According to a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute, 58 percent of Asian Canadians have experienced discrimination in the past 12 months and 28 percent said these incidents happen “all the time” or “often.” The survey also revealed that people who are young and lower income are more likely to be racially targeted.
The survey included 580 Canadians who self-identify as ethnically Chinese and 77 Canadians who self-identify as ethnically East Asian or Southeast Asian and was conducted online with the University of British Columbia.
The institute also surveyed another 1,877 Canadians who self-identify as non-Asian and one in five said that “most or all Asian Canadians do not contribute to the broader community.”
“This is appalling,” said Doris Mah, the founder of the Stand With Asians Coalition.
She expressed to CBC News how the Canadian Pacific Railway would not have been possible without the labour of the Chinese immigrant workers, as one of many ways Asians have contributed to the community.
History has shown that British Columbia has a complicated and rocky past with Asian immigrants, beginning with the railway construction where two Chinese workers died for every mile built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to records at the University of British Columbia.
Discriminatory laws toward Asians are documented as early as 1885 when Ottawa began instating a “head tax” on every Chinese person entering the country which eventually led to a 24 year ban on Chinese immigrants from 1923 to 1947.
“It seems like the government has never really cared about immigrants or even the Indigenous people,” says the anonymous Asian student. “Canada is seen as like, such a multicultural and accepting country, but when it comes to times like this, it makes me wonder how truthful that really is.”
Cover Image: Flickr