Anti-Asian crime spiked in Montreal last year, police say

Members of Montreal's Asian community are speaking out against increasing hate crimes, which they say are likely linked to the pandemic.

The SPVM says 22 anti-Asian hate crimes took place in 2020

Bill Wong, director Chinatown's business development group, says "China-bashing" throughout the pandemic has fuelled anti-Asian sentiment. (CBC)

Members of Montreal's Asian communities say they are still targets of anti-Asian hate crimes — a year after the first case of COVID-19 in Quebec.

Between March and December 2020, the Montreal police service (SPVM) recorded 22 crimes targeting Asian-Montrealers, an increase of 19 over the previous year.

The SPVM said there were, in addition, eight anti-Asian hate "incidents" reported, compared to three in 2019.

More than 40 per cent of the crimes reported involved vandalism. Police say about 10 events appeared to be directly linked to the pandemic and the fact that it originated in Wuhan, China.

'A constant stress'

Sarah Lê Côté, who's an administrator of a Facebook support group for Asian Quebecers, says she's all too aware of the discrimination Asian Montrealers face daily.

"The fact that the numbers went up doesn't surprise me, because of the context, but it makes me happy to see the people are actually reporting," Lê Côté said. "The Asian community — We're quiet. We keep to ourselves. We don't really go out of our way to call out those incidents."

Lê Côté, who is of mixed heritage, says anti-Asian racism is felt not only by the person on the receiving end but also the wider community.

"Half of my family is Asian. That puts me in constant stress," Lê Côté said. "Without a doubt, we feel that we are targeted...They keep equating the Asian community with the virus, when it doesn't have anything to do with the Asian community."

Since the wave of vandalism in Chinatown, Eric Ku, co-owner of Dobe & Andy, says he's more vigilant when closing his restaurant. Born and raised in Montreal, Ku says he's dealt with racism most of his life.

"Racism isn't really gone and it's not going away," he said. "[The pandemic] is a reason for people to give a little more hate."

Bill Wong, the director of the business development group for Chinatown (Conseil de développement du Quartier chinois de Montréal), says he wants to start a campaign to counter anti-Chinese sentiment in the city.

"We live in Canada. We live in Quebec. We have a duty to say things aren't right," Wong said. "Today, I think the Chinese are different than 40, 50 years ago. The young Chinese want to express their anger toward this racism and now is the time to do it."

with files from Chloë Ranaldi