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Surge of Anti-Asian Violence in Canada a 'Chilling Reminder' of Pervasive Racism


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Violence and discrimination against Asian Canadians has surged over the past year. The United Nations calls on countries to promote equity, tolerance, and inclusion — without doing so, we'll never end extreme poverty. You can join Global Citizen in taking action on this issue here.

Violence against Asian Canadians rose to record-high levels over the past year, a new survey revealed on Tuesday.

Using data on reported racist incidents across the country — most of which came from online sources — Canadian human rights and community groups estimated that there were 1,150 cases of anti-Asian racism from March 2020 to February 2021.

According to the report, children, adolescents, and the elderly were most likely to be assaulted, spat on, or coughed on, while women made up for 60% of reports — which suggests that racism and sexism are interwoven

Data also highlights significant discrepancies across provinces, with Ontario and British Columbia accounting for 40% and 44% of total incidents, respectively.

But the likelihood of being targeted increased depending on another set of factors, such as employment and immigration status. 

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For example, incidents were highly prevalent in places such as grocery stores and restaurants, where Asian Canadians are overly represented due to systemic inequity, the report indicates. 

Similarly, Asian essential workers were shown to be overwhelmingly vulnerable at a time when COVID-19 is fuelling xenophobia and negative stereotypes, in a way that is eerily reminiscent of what happened with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

“Slash by slash, wound by wound, each one of these incidents takes away from all Asian Canadians our sense of safety, robs us of our basic dignity, and ultimately undermines our sense of belonging in a country that we have every right to call home,” Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic Director Avvy Go said at a news briefing, according to Al Jazeera.

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Advocates say that addressing the issue will require paying attention to the intersectional nature of anti-Asian and institutional racism in Canada. The report outlines a series of recommendations, including increased financial and governmental support, comprehensive and community-based capacity-building, and support for educational initiatives on the history of Asian Canadians.

Organizations have also stressed the importance of working hand-in-hand with other racialized communities in Canada to demand change, with particular attention to low-income Canadians, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and Indigenous groups.

“We recognize how anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and other forms of racism and discrimination require urgent attention,” the foreword of the report reads. “We must all commit to eradicating these types of systemic injustice in order for all our communities to achieve social justice.”

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In the wake of deadly attacks in Atlanta, which claimed the lives of eight people including six Asian women, these research findings serve as a “chilling reminder” that anti-Asian sentiment is just as pervasive in Canada, and that “racism, hatred, and intolerance have no borders,” Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, pointed out during her remarks on Tuesday.

“My hope is that today’s report, and the powerful data it presents, can be used as a tool to confirm and confront this growing problem in Canada,” she added. “It is at a crisis point.”

Landry’s call to action was echoed by thousands of Canadians who took to the streets of Vancouver, Toronto, Quebec City, and Montreal over the weekend to condemn anti-Asian hate, in solidarity with Asian Americans.