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Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), says a plan to create real change against anti-Asian racism will need to be centralized.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The head of an organization tasked with combating racism in Canada says the group is building a collaborative strategy to tackle the issue, but some advocates say more government support is needed to directly address the rise of anti-Asian racism.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), said a centralized plan is needed to create real change, and that his group will consult directly with community organizations across the country to hear what supports are needed.

April’s federal budget allocated $11-million over two years to the CRRF to combat racism and empower racialized Canadians affected by racism during the pandemic. The budget document also specifies that the money can go towards establishing a “national coalition to support Asian-Canadian communities.”

Though many advocates see the funding as a positive step, some say the government is not doing enough to ensure the safety and well-being of Asian-Canadian communities.

“It’s a good start,” said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, “but it’s just as important for the government to support organizations that have a more specific mandate to address anti-Asian racism as an issue.”

Amy Go, president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ), said she agrees the funding falls short. “Given that people’s lives are still being threatened – that we are still targeted, that we are being attacked and assaulted – hopefully the government would do more than just the $11-million,” she said.

A report released in March by the CCNC’s Toronto chapter and other advocacy groups found that 1,150 racist attacks against Asian-Canadians took place across Canada between March, 2020, and February, 2021, compiled from incidents reported to online platforms Fight COVID Racism and Elimin8hate. One thousand thirty-two incidents have been reported to date through Fight COVID Racism alone. Verbal harassment, targeted coughing and spitting, and physical aggression made up the majority of the incidents.

The CCNC-SJ’s Ms. Go said while the report presented a starting point for understanding anti-Asian racism during the pandemic, the incidents are underestimated because many cases go unreported. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

She added that the creation of a national coalition, as suggested in the budget, risks erasing the differences between Asian communities and not addressing their diverse needs and concerns. “We are not one monolith,” she said, adding that many heritages and backgrounds exist within Asian-Canadian communities.

Mr. Hashim said the CRRF’s plan is to consult with local groups across the country to understand their needs, and also empower them to do their own work. The $11-million in funding will go towards researching and developing a strategy to combat racism, with a portion also allocated to community organizations.

“A Crown corporation is not going to solve racism,” he said. “It’s going to work in collaboration with community groups, who are deeply connected to the people that they serve.”

Xiaobei Chen, a sociology professor at Carleton University, said she wants to see the government invest in public education on the existence of anti-Asian racism and rising hate crimes against Asian-Canadians during the pandemic.

“People don’t think it’s serious,” Prof. Chen said. “People don’t think that it’s something that we actually need to think about, what we can do to actually invest seriously in solving.”

Investments to combat anti-Asian racism should take many forms, CCNC-SJ president Ms. Go said, adding that money isn’t the only thing Asian communities need from the government.

“We need to think more broadly – along the lines of the systemic policies that will bring about long-term change.”

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