COVID-19

Anti-Asian attacks in Canada ‘higher per capita’ than US, say NGOs

Marites Sison
Anti-Asian attacks in Canada ‘higher per capita’ than US, say NGOs
While a majority of the attacks have been directed against Chinese-Canadians, other Asians including Filipinos have also been targeted

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 600 anti-Asian incidents have been reported to two national online tracking tools set up by Asian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Canada.

What has surprised data collectors is that “Canada has a higher number of anti-Asian racism reports per capita than the United States,” said the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) Toronto Chapter.

More than 2,100 Anti-Asian American hate incidents have been reported in the US as of July, according to CBS.  The US has a bigger population at 328.2 million compared to Canada’s 37.59 million.

“We’re much smaller than the US. But that’s not to say that theirs isn’t serious. It’s equally serious,” said Justin Kong, executive director of CCNC Toronto Chapter.

He added that the data debunks a commonly-held assumption that there’s no racism in Canada.

“It clearly isn’t the case,” said Kong.

Attacks were documented from 7 provinces, with British Columbia reporting more incidents per capita of any subnational region in North America, said CCNC Toronto. British Columbia, which has a population of 4.6 million, recorded 168 cases. New York State, with a population of 19.54 million, recorded more than 300 cases as of July, most of them in New York City.

Combined data from elimin8hate.org and covidracism.ca showed that women bore the brunt of these attacks, accounting for 60% of all incidents. The figure is higher in British Columbia, where women reported nearly 70% of incidents. 

“Racist people assume that Asian women won’t fight back” and play on stereotypes that they are “meek and subservient,” said Kong.

Verbal abuse and harassment, which included racial slurs, threats, and derogatory remarks, occurred in 65% of all reported incidents. 

Nearly 30% constituted assault, including targeted coughing, spitting, and physical attacks and violence. 

“These disturbing data, particularly when viewing in contrast to the US, illustrate the way in which the COVID-19 pandemic remains deeply racialized,” said Kong.

He urged federal and provincial governments, as well as political parties “to put an end to anti-Asian and anti-Chinese rhetoric that stirs up hateful attacks and prejudice against all Asian Canadians.”

Amy Go, president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, said, “Without dedicated attention and resources from the government to engage communities to combat racism, Asian Canadians are bracing for a new reality of our country that ‘normalizes’ scapegoating, race baiting, and unabashed racist attacks.”

In June, a crowdsourced Statistics Canada survey showed that almost 1 in 5 (18%) of visible minority participants “felt that race-based incidents had increased since the start of the pandemic,” compared with 6% of non-visible minorities.

Nearly one-third (over 30%) of Chinese-Canadian participants said there had been an increase, the highest in the group. About 16% of Filipino-Canadians noted an increase in harassment or attacks on the basis of race, ethnicity, or skin color in their neighborhood since the start of the pandemic.

Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, urged Canadians to help address anti-Asian attacks, saying “confronting and countering racism in Canada is going to take all of us.”

In a statement issued earlier in April, Landry underscored that “no one should feel threatened or unwelcome because of the color of their skin or where they are from.”

People of East Asian descent reported the highest rate of incidents at 83%, followed by Southeast Asians at 7%. A majority of the incidents reported (45%) took place in public spaces like parks and streets, at least 14% occurred in grocery stores, and 8% in public transit.

Asian Canadians aged 19-35 bore a majority of these attacks at 45%.

British Columbia accounted for 44% of total cases, followed by Ontario (38%), Quebec (7%), Alberta (6%), Saskatchewan (3%), Manitoba (1%), Newfoundland (0.3%), and Prince Edward Island (0.2%).

The websites that tracked these incidents were set up in May – with support from the federal government – following a rash of COVID-19-related hate crimes, discrimination, and racism against Asian Canadians.

While a majority of the attacks have been directed against Chinese-Canadians, other Asians including Filipinos have also been targeted. The latest incident occurred last August 16, when a 61-year-old Filipina was shoved by a passerby as she was loading groceries into her car in Vancouver.

CCNC Toronto Chapter, Project 1907, Vancouver Asian Film Festival and Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice released the data on the eve of the anniversary of the 1907 anti-Asian riots in Vancouver, noting that it reflected “the persistence of white supremacy in Canada.”

Project 1907 organizers said: “The recent surge in anti-Asian violence, vandalism, and xenophobia is reminiscent of the 1907 Anti-Asian Riots and the decades of targeted discrimination that followed. Many seniors in our communities say they haven’t experienced or feared such intense levels of hate since the mid-1900s.”

The NGOs urged the federal government “to include an anti-racism strategy in its post-pandemic recovery plan.”

Such a plan must be equitable and recognize “how Black people, Asians, and other people of color, and especially those who are economically marginalized, remain disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and its fallout,” they added.

Following an upswing in anti-Asian attacks around the world during the pandemic, Human Rights Watch in May urged governments to “adopt new action plans to address emerging forms of discrimination and xenophobia tailored to the new and changing circumstances.” – Rappler.com

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