British Columbia

B.C. leaders from every level of government condemn rise in anti-Asian racism

In the wake of an alleged racially motivated assault on Vancouver transit, and a widely condemned Instagram post by Canadian singer Bryan Adams, politicians at the municipal, provincial and federal level are speaking out against anti-Asian hate during the pandemic.

Alleged assault in Vancouver, comments by singer Bryan Adams are latest incidents

The pandemic has triggered a spike in acts of racism targeting members of the Chinese and greater Asian communities in B.C. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

"Go back to your country; that's where it all started."

That is the alleged hateful comment slung at two Asian women on a Vancouver bus last month by a lone male.

When a female bystander spoke up, the male suspect allegedly kicked her, pulled a clump of hair out of her head and then proceeded to punch her several times.

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered an increase in anti-Asian racism in the Lower Mainland. By the first week of May, the Vancouver Police Department said 20 anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported so far this year, compared to 12 in all of 2019. 

In the wake of the recent transit incident, and a social media rant about the origins of the pandemic posted on Instagram this week by Canadian singer Bryan Adams, politicians from all levels of government are speaking out against a rising wave of anti-Asian hate in B.C.

The description of the video posted on Bryan Adams' official Instagram page is widely being criticized as racist. (@bryanadams/Instagram)

"Hatred will thrive whenever we fail to denounce it," said Anne Kang, NDP MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake and minister of Citizens' Services, on The Early Edition Wednesday.

Kang recalled being frightened when she first came to Canada with her family in the '80s, saying she was followed and mocked in public places for not speaking English. She called the escalation to physical violence on the bus concerning and said while political leaders can condemn racism, it's up to people to put a stop to it.

"Government on our own will not be able to end racism but people standing up together will," said Kang.

Kang was joined on the Vancouver morning show by City of New Westminster Coun. Nadine Nakagawa and NDP Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan.

Fron left: Anne Kang, NDP MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake and minister of Citizens' Services, Jenny Kwan, MP for Vancouver-East and Coun. Nadine Nakagawa from the City of New Westminste all spoke out on CBC's The Early Edition about the rising wave of anti-Asian racism during COVID-19. (Twitter)

Both women said they have experienced racism themselves and are worried about the rising vitriol — and violence — directed at Asian-Canadians right now.

Kwan acknowledged the fear that COVID-19 can induce, but singled out Adams' social media comments as an example of unwarranted finger pointing.

Adams' original post on Monday blamed the global COVID-19 pandemic on "some f--king bat eating, wet market animal selling, virus making greedy bastards."

"You can actually feel his anger and hatred," said Kwan, adding Adams knew who he was targeting and blaming with his "message of hate."

She said comments like Adams' can embolden others to spew similar sentiments.

Kwan's point was echoed by Bowinn Ma, NDP MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, who shared a video post on Twitter  warning that Adams' post can encourage others to embrace their biases "as though they are righteous".

"It becomes a dog whistle that brings out all of the terrible thoughts and messages," said Ma.

Nakagawa said microaggressions​​​​​​, which are subtle or indirect statements and actions that discriminate against people from different marginalized groups, are harder to point to as racism but can be equally demoralizing for those on the receiving end.

She said she has experienced this "exhausting form of racism" and the pandemic has made clear that people who experience it know it's real.

"It costs a lot to speak out about racism," said Nakagawa. 

Ma said it's important now more than ever to have a rational discussion on racism.

"It's a discussion we all need to have and we are all responsible for … nobody is immune from internal bias … or being ignorant about other people's cultures." 

To hear the complete interview on The Early Edition, tap here.

With files from The Early Edition, On The Coast