British Columbia

Year of the Tiger marks a chance to move past anti-Asian racism, say Richmond residents

While the Tiger can be hot-headed, it is also a symbol of strength, energy and courage. Three Chinese Canadians in Richmond, B.C., say they're hopeful for the new year ahead.

Chinese Canadians say they're embracing challenges, opportunities in the year ahead

Red envelopes, or lai see in Cantonese, are traditionally distributed between families and friends in the Chinese Canadian communities during the Lunar New Year. (Olivier Hyland/CBC/Radio-Canada)

The Lunar New Year, which begins Feb. 1, is a time for people around the world to embrace a fresh start and new opportunities.

But Sherman Tai, a Chinese astrologer based in Richmond, B.C., says while the upcoming Year of the Tiger offers hope, it also comes with its own set of challenges.

"Sometimes, Tiger is a bit aggressive," he warned. "There could be arguments."

Tiger is one of the 12 zodiac animals representing Asian lunar years. The Lunar New Year is celebrated by the Chinese as well as Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian ethnic groups in Canada and beyond.

Richmond, B.C.-based astrologer Sherman Tai says the Year of the Tiger is filled with challenges as well as opportunities.

While the Tiger can be hot-headed, it is also a symbol of strength, energy and courage, with the ability to banish evil.

And after the past year, many are ready for that to happen — particularly in Richmond.

Resilience against racism

Located just south of Vancouver, Richmond is an ethnically diverse city where roughly 75 per cent of the population is Asian.

The city also witnessed some high-profile anti-Asian incidents in 2021 including a white man throwing coffee at a coffee shop employee and saying "f–k you Chinese" in March and then, in May, another white man yelling racial slurs at Asian customers at a fast food restaurant drive thru. 

Hydi Sham, a family support worker at Richmond Family Place Society, says she has seen a lot of anti-Asian hate incidents in Richmond over the past two years that unfairly blamed Chinese people for the COVID-19 pandemic. She's hopeful hatred will die down in the Year of Tiger.

"There [have been] divides in our community for the past two years — all the bad things, all the evil spirits, bad things happen and divide a society," Sham said. "[But] we even became stronger — I can see so many nice things happening among everybody now in a community."

Hydi Sham says she has seen a lot of anti-Asian hate incidents in Richmond, but she's hopeful that people will become more friendly to each other in the Year of the Tiger. (Steve Zhang/CBC)

Giving back to wider community

Richmond entrepreneur Franco Ng is also a chair of the Youth Forum for Asian Representation's advisory board based in Vancouver. He says a lot of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic has stemmed from the prejudicial view that Asians don't belong in Canada.

In response, he says local Asian communities have been working hard to participate in causes serving the wider community.

"Participating in community fundraisers for floods or … for different causes within the city, that affords some sort of mainstream media attention," Ng said. 

"That's important, because what we say is to visualize [to] actualize — a lot of times we don't actually notice the contributions of Chinese Canadians or Asian Canadians just because either we don't speak up about it or we don't get actually that mainstream reporting about it."

Franco Ng says by giving back to the wider community, Asian Canadians are showing that they belong in Canada, which will help to combat anti-Asian racism. (Steve Zhang/CBC)

Ng says he is seeing hope in the young generation of Asian Canadians who are passionate about starting their own initiatives to build a better Richmond.

"[They're] so passionate about giving back during the pandemic, so passionate about ensuring that we leave this crisis with a more diverse, diversified, inclusive mindset incorporating everyone," he said.

Lessons from the Water Tiger: Work in harmony

Tai says working together is key for the year ahead, which is also marked by the element of water.

In addition to the 12 animals of the zodiac, lunar years are governed by a 60-year cycle of the elements — fire, water, earth, metal and wood — which have their own influence, says Tai.

While water can mean uncertainty, Tai says, it will bring good things to those who can adapt to change with those around them.

"If you can have harmonic human relationships, then this is a good year."

CBC British Columbia has launched a Richmond bureau to help tell your stories with reporter Steve Zhang. Story ideas and tips can be sent to

With files from Steve Zhang