More than 600 incidents of hate targeting Asians within Canada have been reported to Chinese Canadian groups since the pandemic began, and one in three of those attacks have been assaults, say the groups.
The data, collected through online portals that have allowed victims to report hate incidents anonymously, are consistent with reports from Canadian police forces that they are also investigating an increase in anti-Asian attacks.
The data, released last week, were compiled by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, Project 1907, the Vancouver Asian Film Festival and the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice. All of the incidents were reported through two online platforms based in Toronto or Vancouver. The reports were received from seven provinces.
Justin Kong, executive director for the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, said the data again indicate Asian Canadians have been targeted through the pandemic and racism will continue to taint Canada until there are policies in place to tackle it.
“Those attacks stemmed from historical anti-Asian racism, but also because of the ways in which COVID-19 has been racialized,” he said, adding COVID-19 is seen as a Chinese disease, similar to SARS.
“We saw what happened during SARS, and I guess it became obvious that this was going to go the same way. ... That’s why we started collecting the data on the racist attacks.”
Mr. Kong acknowledged they weren’t able to verify the reports, and the groups instead have been relying on “a trust system.”
The data, which have been collected since February, show that 83 per cent of the incidents were reported by East Asians, followed by 7 per cent by Southeast Asians. It says 44 per cent of the attacks were reported from B.C. – the highest in Canada – while 38 per cent of the occurrences were reported in Ontario and 7 per cent in Quebec.
Women reported 60 per cent of all incidents. In B.C., women were even more disproportionately affected, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of all reported incidents there.
The data found nearly 30 per cent of reported incidents are assault, including targeted coughing, physical attacks and violence, and that verbal harassment is the most common type of discrimination.
These groups' findings echo those of the Vancouver Police Department, which has reported a dramatic rise in hate incidents against East Asians.
In July, Vancouver police said they have had 66 hate-motivated incidents against East Asian people reported to them so far in 2020, a huge spike from the seven during the same period last year. A VPD spokesperson said the most targeted community continues to be East Asian.
Toronto Police Service spokeswoman Connie Osborne said, in comparison to 2019, her force has seen an increase in the number of hate-motivated occurrences, including where race has been a factor.
She said many of the 2020 cases are active investigations and the motivation of the offence may change or more offences may be uncovered, so the force can’t provide specific numbers for the year so far. But she added such incidents often go unreported and the number of reports received by police are not an accurate reflection of what people have experienced.
Earlier this year, Korean Montrealer Kyungseo Min compiled testimonies from Asian Québécois of racist incidents since January. In the span of about a month and a half, Ms. Min collected more than 20.
She said some of her findings match those from the advocacy groups. For example, female Asians reported more harassment or violence than men, and the majority of the racism was verbal.
In Alberta, the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee has been running the StopHateAB.ca portal since 2017 to encourage people to report incidents and talk about what happened to them. The portal’s reports include four incidents reported this year of an East Asian Canadian being verbally assaulted in a public space in a tirade related to COVID-19.
Since it began collecting data, the portal has logged 74 incidents of hate in Edmonton, 69 in Calgary and 31 in Lethbridge. There are a handful of reports from other areas of the province. The data were last updated in July.
The groups are calling on the federal government to include an anti-racism strategy in its postpandemic recovery plan.
Mr. Kong said as the pandemic has posed more challenges to racialized communities, he hopes that the government could also come up with policies aimed at helping migrant workers and low-income immigrant workers.
The House of Commons' standing committee on justice and human rights issued a report just more than a year ago with recommendations for battling online hate. They include recommendations for more funding for police, judges and Crown prosecutors to enable them to better respond to hate complaints as well as better data collection on hate incidents.
The report, submitted in June, 2019, noted a 50-per-cent jump in hate crimes targeting Black people in 2017 relative to the year earlier. However, the report does not refer to hate crimes against those of East Asian descent.
In a response this month, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Toronto-based foundation, provided several recommendations to the Justice Minister’s office, including placing online hate crimes under federal jurisdiction and developing a more clear and comprehensive definition of illegal hate activities.
Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the foundation’s director of policy, said it is the responsibility of the justice system to recognize hatred as the poison that it is and confront hate crimes.
“We want to see all hate crimes aggressively investigated by police, regardless of what community is being targeted and what form these crimes take, so that perpetrators are brought to justice.”
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