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Janice Fukakusa, the Ryerson University chancellor who donated $1-million to the Racial Justice Initiative at the university's faculty of law, at Bespoke Studio in Etobicoke on April 23, 2021.

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Janice Fukakusa

The pitch: Donating $1-million to the Racial Justice Initiative at Ryerson University’s faculty of law

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year, Janice Fukakusa has been alarmed at the increase in anti-Asian racism.

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“It’s actually getting worse,” said Ms. Fukakusa, who is a third-generation Japanese Canadian. “It’s everything from verbal to physical assault. It’s scary because it could happen to any one of us. They don’t ask you where are you from. To them we all look the same.”

A report from Statistics Canada last summer found 30 per cent of Chinese Canadians and 27 per cent of Korean Canadians had perceived an increase in the frequency of harassment since the pandemic began.

Ms. Fukakusa, the former chief financial officer of Royal Bank of Canada, has been involved in several anti-racism programs and last fall she helped launch the Responding to Hate Toolkit at Ryerson University, where she is chancellor. The toolkit is a list of resources for people who have been victims of racially motivated hate, as well as those who have witnessed abuse. She’s also part of Ryerson’s advisory committee to combat anti-Asian racism and she’s been working with a group in Vancouver to start a national dialogue on racism.

In honour of Asian Heritage Month, which starts May 1, Ms. Fukakusa has donated $1-million to the racial justice initiative at Ryerson’s faculty of law. The initiative’s aim is to bridge research, law, policy and practice to produce solutions to issues involving racial justice. It will also fund the Janice Fukakusa Racial Justice Scholar in Residence.

“We thought this is perfect because it’s a new field in Canada,” she said. “Maybe this [gift] will spur on a bigger commitment.”

Ms. Fukakusa hopes this program and others will help bring communities together “and make people familiar with the fact that we’re all Canadians,” she added. “We have to get on to the positive and get a national dialogue going about what can we do to solve [racism] on a long-term basis.”

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