Posted in : Blog
Posted on : May 3, 2021
Anne-Marie Pham, Executive Director
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic over a year ago, Asian people have faced growing fear, hatred, suspicion, and physical assaults. The recent shootings in Atlanta led to the murder of eight individuals, six of whom were Asian women.
Much of this is driven by a racialization of the COVID-19 virus, the belief that it originated with Asians and is spread by persons of Asian heritage living in Canada. According to the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), most of those impacted by these racist actions are of East Asian descent and accounted for 84% of the crimes reported.
This has had a huge impact on the mental wellness of Asian Canadians, who have expressed that they now feel physically and psychologically unsafe.
According to the CCNC and Project 1907 report, Canada has a higher number of anti-Asian racism reports per capita than the US. British Columbia (BC) has the most reported incidents per capita of any sub-national region in North America, followed by California, New York, and Ontario.
CCNC found that half of Chinese Canadians polled say they have been called names or insulted since the pandemic was declared. Abuse and attacks have extended to other ethnocultural groups erroneously thought to have similar physical traits including Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipinos etc.
Women and seniors have been the most deeply impacted. In Vancouver alone, attacks on women accounted for over 70% of reported incidents.
Aside from physical violence, verbal attacks and foul behaviour including coughing, and spitting at Asian Canadians in public, Asians also face microaggressions, lack of workplace opportunities and are passed up for promotions in the workplace setting.
Fact: Asian Canadians are a growing ethnocultural group in Canada.
Strategy 1: Learn the history of anti-Asian racism in Canada
There is a long history of racism and discrimination against Asian Canadians. Below are two of the most significant historical markers. Learn more about historical anti-Asian racism and racist events in Canada through this CCDI toolkit: (https://ccdi.ca/media/2342/20200804-toolkit-a-brief-history-of-race-relations-in-canada.pdf)
The Chinese Head Tax (1885)
Canada enacted the Chinese Immigration Act in 1885, which included a head tax on almost all Chinese immigrants of $50, later raised to $100 and then $500. This put a huge financial burden on Chinese immigrants and was the first official legislation in Canada to stymie immigration based on ethnic origin. When the tax was removed from the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923, the discrimination continued with the ban of Chinese immigration until 1947.The Canadian government profited from this practice, collecting $23 million in various head taxes over 38 years.
The Japanese Internment (1942)
Starting in 1942, Japanese Canadian citizens were forcibly removed from their homes on the West Coast and interned in remote areas in eastern British Columbia and elsewhere. The Canadian government seized and sold their property then forced them into mass deportation after the war ended. Altogether, 22 000 Japanese Canadians (65% were Canadian born) were ejected from their homes. Wartime restrictions were kept in place until April 1949. In 1988, the federal government apologized and offered compensation for the internment. In 2013, the City of Vancouver made an official apology.
Strategy 2: Understand the psychological impacts on Asian people
Today, racism towards Asian Canadians manifests itself through every day microaggressions and inequities, often rooted in myths and stereotypes about Asian people. Beyond the veil of consciousness - the person being racist may not know it and neither may the person at which racist behaviour is directed. It is therefore important to have awareness of some of following microaggressions experienced daily by Asian people:
The meaning of model minority: This connotes that Asians are generally hyper smart, financially successful, academically outstanding, well behaved, law-abiding and upwardly mobile – socio-economically speaking. Asians are also wrongfully presumed to be ‘good at everything’. The model minority myth can be weaponized to pit Asians against other minority groups. If Asians can do it, then why can’t Black people, Indigenous people, other immigrants etc? Asians continue to be used as a scapegoat to undermine the racism that happens in Canada.
Asians who internalize this belief may develop a mindset of false superiority. They may believe they are “white adjacent” with closer social proximity to the white majority population, and by implication and association, more capable of achieving greater status and privilege.
It is also important to dismantle the model minority myth, because Asians (like other minority racial groups) are not a monolith. Not all Asian groups are successful, or well off economically. There is great socio-economic and socio-developmental diversity in the vast Asian diaspora.
Strategy 3: Educate the workplace
Unpack these three dangerous myths with employees, so they can better understand the lived experience of Asian people. Encourage safe and courageous conversations around below listed myths, centering on the voices and experiences of Asian employees. If they wish to be involved, be sure to create space, time, and resources for them to do so.
Strategy 4: Review policies and practices
 Chinese-Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (2021) https://mcusercontent.com/9fbfd2cf7b2a8256f770fc35c/files/35c9daca-3fd4-46f4-a883-c09b8c12bbca/covidracism_final_report.pdf
International Francophonie Day: Some particularities of Canadian French
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The myth of racial equality in a humanitarian crisis
Disability Employment Awareness Month
Building safe and brave spaces
Why we urgently need to discuss anti-Asian racism today
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