Increase in anti-Asian racism incidents reported across Canada

The Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNC) is calling for more action from all levels of government after a new report found an alarming spike in anti-Asian racism incidents two years into the pandemic.

According to the report released by CCNC Toronto Chapter and Project 907, 943 incidents were reported across the country in 2021. That’s a 47 per cent increase from 2020.

“It’s very disheartening and also disturbing,” said Jessie Tang, executive director of the CCNC Toronto Chapter. “The most vulnerable group are women, children, adolescents.”

The information was collected through self-reporting portals set-up by both organizations.

Women represented 64 per cent of incidents reported. There was a 286 per cent increase in reports from children and adolescents under the age of 18.

“Those young people are both witnessing and experienced racism incidents being imposed by their peers, teaching staff and administration and the general public and so those most vulnerable groups are being targeted in our community and this also remind us this is the systematic issues for our youth who are in the school every day,” Tang said.

Nearly half of all reported incidents happened in public spaces. Of all the incidents, 48 percent reported verbal harassments and there was 42 per cent increase in reported assaults including being coughed at or spat on.

Reports of online hate and racism increased by 132 per cent.

“71 per cent of the respondents say that the experience they face is mental distress and emotional harm. This is long-term impact on our community,” Tang said.

“Oftentimes behind a screen it’s a lot easier to kind of direct our hate in an anonymous basis,” said Kennes Lin, an anti-Asian racism advisor to the CCNCTO.

“As well as public spaces being oftentimes the most disproportionate populations, are still working as essential workers in these public spaces have another form of vulnerable spaces of being targets.”

The highest number of cases were reported from Yukon followed by British Columbia and Ontario.

This is the second annual national report the council has released after seeing a spike in anti-Asian racism in 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which it has said became racialized after the first known cases were reported in China.

“We understand the pandemic has been long and tiring, but that does not make an excuse and reason that the Asian community can be scapegoated or blamed,” said Lin. “However, anti-Asian racism is an ongoing systemic and also historical issue.”

The report calls for immediate action from all levels of government including more funding and resources to combat anti-Asian racism, anti-racism programming and training, funding for programs that address systematic violence towards Asian women and comprehensive anti-Asian racism policies, including combating online hate.

On the education front, the council is calling on school boards to strengthen curriculums to make key historical discrimination of Asian Canadian communities stand alone content, as well as mandatory anti-racism course for teacher education programs at all Canadian universities.

“These kinds of hate incidents will continue to thrive because we still have not had good measures to confront and to eliminate that,” said Amy Go, president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice. ‘There has to be recognition of anti-Asian racism so we are calling all levels of government to devote attention, funding and resources.”

The council says the numbers only provide a snapshot of incidents with most not being reported.

Approximately 71 per cent of people who self-reported incidents indicated they did not notify police or other institutions because they did not want to, didn’t know how or believed their English wasn’t sufficient.

“We have to have a mechanism in place so that people will be comfortable in coming forward, without knowing the problem we won’t be able to move forward to combat racism,” said Go.

However, the council acknowledges more people in the community are coming forward after gaining trust in the self-reporting portals.

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