People march in downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada during a demonstration against anti-Asian racism on March 21, 2021. (ANDREJ IVANOV / AFP)
Racism against Asians is becoming more entrenched in Canada, with concerns perhaps the sharpest in British Columbia, the country's westernmost province known for its diverse Asian communities.
Four in 10 people of Asian descent experienced some form of racism in the province over the past 12 months, according to a survey by Vancouver-based pollster Insights West.
The pollster found "that concerns and personal experiences with racism in the past year are extremely pervasive".
Insights West's survey shows anti-Asian racism has increased dramatically since the coronavirus pandemic began early in 2020. Racism, according to 83 percent of respondents, is a serious problem in the province of more than 5 million people, with 36 percent saying it is "very serious" and 48 percent saying it is "somewhat serious". Just 15 percent said it is not a serious problem.
In the city of Vancouver, police said anti-Asian crimes climbed from 12 in 2019 to 98 in 2020, an increase of 717 percent. Hate crimes as a whole rose 97 percent to 280 incidents, from 142 in 2019
The pollster asked Asian British Columbians about six different forms of racism and learned a significant number have experienced one kind or another－58 percent said they overhead racist comments directed at them over the past year and 23 percent have had racial slurs directed at them. Of the respondents, 43 percent have experienced discrimination at workplaces or schools, but just 10 percent experienced it over the past year.
Steve Mossop, Insights West's president, described the findings as "quite shocking", noting that things appear to be getting worse.
"We don't have any historical data other than the poll we have here－but what I find really disturbing about our poll is that when you look at the incidence of experiencing racism throughout an individual's lifetime, and you look at the percentage that has occurred in the past year, it's quite overwhelming to see the past year numbers alone take up such a massive share," Mossop said.
In the city of Vancouver, police said anti-Asian crimes climbed from 12 in 2019 to 98 in 2020, an increase of 717 percent. Hate crimes as a whole rose 97 percent to 280 incidents, from 142 in 2019.
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A report released in April by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, or CCNCTC, a nonprofit based in Toronto, said 1,150 cases of racist attacks were reported across the country on its online platforms between March 10, 2020 and Feb 28 this year.
While getting precise data on anti-Asian incidents is difficult, reports such as the one released by the council's Toronto chapter suggest that it "has been notably increasing throughout the recent time period", Zhou Min, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, said.
"Instead of being recognized as contributing significantly to the fight against COVID-19, Chinese and Asian communities in Canada have been met with racism, violence and attacks," the CCNCTC said in its report.
Rain Chan, the interim executive director at the CCNCTC, said. "Has it gotten better? No. If anything, it has gotten worse."
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Government officials at all levels have been addressing the issue.
The issue took center stage in Canada's first federal budget in two years, released on April 25. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed C$11 million ($9 million) over the next two years to support the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, a nonprofit government corporation fighting racial discrimination. The budget also allocates C$472 million for multiple initiatives combating racism.
The uptick in discussion is good, said Zhou, but not enough.
And there are now growing concerns that South Asian communities, particularly from India and Pakistan, could be targeted next as infections related to coronavirus variants from that region surge.
The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.
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