Vancouver, Anti-Asian Hate Crime Capital of North America
May 22, 2021
Vancouver, Anti-Asian Hate Crime Capital of North America
With some calling the coronavirus “the Chinese virus” and blaming Asians for just about anything and everything, anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver spiked to an eightfold increase in 2020 compared to 2019. Many more anti-Asian hate crimes incidents are believed unreported
Vancouver, BC, has a population of about 700,000, with around 42% Asian. Dubbed to be “the most Asian city outside Asia,” Vancouver’s anti-Asian hate crimes are pervasive and are making records.
In Natalie Obiko Pearson’s Bloomberg article, This Is the Anti-Asian Hate Crime Capital of North America, Vancouver is called “The kind of place that should be immune to a rise in pandemic-fueled racism.”
Yet, despite all the Asian food establishments, feasts, crowded and tourist-filled events, hard working people, achievements and landmarks, crime data shows Vancouver is the anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.
With more anti-Asian hate crimes than 10 of the most populous U.S. cities combined in 2020, a survey also shows one out of two BC residents of Asian descent have experienced a hate incident in the last year.
Meanwhile, the report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino also shows Vancouver had more reported anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020 than any other city in North America.
Vancouver's anti-Asian racism is not new
Among many other incidents in Canadian history of anti-Asian racism, Vancouver has long been a place where such racism is concentrated.
Vancouver and its thriving economy came to exist as the Pacific Coast terminus of Canada’s first transcontinental railroad. Two Chinese workers died for every mile during construction of that railroad, records at the University of British Columbia show.
In 1907, Vancouver's Anti-Oriental Riots were fueled by white mobs and white nationalism. It was this anti-Asian racism that resulted in riots, multiple vandalised Asian establishments, internments, and the formation of the Asiatic Exclusion League in Canada, which lobbied for Canada to eliminate Asian immigration.
In an article titled, "The Vancouver Riot and its International Significance," published in 1973, author Howard H. Sugimoto highlights how Canada’s underlying early 20th century’s anti-immigration attitudes and agitation for direct action was disappointingly led by labour unions and white-owned businesses at the time. Although no one was killed (at least not according to official records), Chinatown, Japantown, and Asian-owned properties and businesses were greatly damaged.
Vancouver's anti-Asian racism in 2020
In 2020, a 92-year-old Asian man with dementia was thrown to the sidewalk outside the 7-11 convenience store near Nanaimo and East First Avenue on March 13, 2020. The man who assaulted the senior grabbed the elderly man by the arm, as he dragged him out of the store and yelled racist remarks at him. The despicable attack was caught on surveillance video.
In June 2020, a Filipino man Samson James Ordonez was a target of racism on a bus after a woman confronted him in the #20 bus said “You f***ing people. Speak in English here” while he was speaking to his brother over the phone in Ilocano, which is native to the northern part of the Philippines.
Orrdonez wrote on Reddit, “One white guy chimed in by saying, ‘Right? My Indian coworkmates (sic) always say ‘boobah, boobah’ and it destroys my appetite for lunch!’”
In August 2020, a 61-year-old Filipina woman was shoved against her car with no apparent provocation in front of a grocery store in Vancouver. The incident was captured on security video, showing a white woman walking up behind her, shoving her into the side of the vehicle, then walking away.
The victim’s family believes the incident was racially motivated. Adding to the injustice is the police’s disappointing response of not considering the incident as a racially-motivated hate crime.
Additional anti-Asian hate crimes that occurred in Vancouver also included: the racist April 2, 2020, vandalism defacing the historical Chinese Cultural Centre; an unprovoked April 12, assault against a young Asian woman waiting at a bus stop near Granville and West Pender in downtown Vancouver; a wrestling and scalp-damaging April 15 attack against a woman defending two Asians on a bus in east Vancouver; a young woman punched in the face several times on the Skytrain on April 25; a woman and her mother yelled at with racial slurs by two white men and and told to “go back to China.”
Vancouver's anti-Asian racism continues amidst COVID-19
Vancouver indeed has so much anti-Asian racism in its past that shaped 2020 and is shaping 2021. The list of the anti-Asian hate crime unfortunately goes on.
In January 2021, a 37-year-old Filipino man in clear mental distress was shot to death by the Vancouver police in the Vancouver downtown east side (DTES). Despite the high tension brought by police brutality linked to George Flloyd’s death in the hands of US police, the Vancouver police shot the young Filipino man as he was naked in the streets.
Community fights back to stop anti-Asian hate crimes
In the heart of Vancouver's DTES, the Carnegie Community Centre participated in the Asian Heritage Month 2021 events. The Centre held a banner-making workshop, taking an arts, community, and skills-building approach.
After hearing from a woman in her neighbourhood who was recently harassed at a grocery store, Doris Mah co-founded the Stand With Asians Coalition. The Coalition campaigned to make May 10, 2021, a National Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism.
Mah also says that the National Day of Action against Anti-Asian Racism, which gathered dozens of rallies from BC to Ontario, is not to just stop anti-Asian hate, but also to address what she calls “bystander silence.”
“I’ve seen a lot of video footage where there are a lot of seniors who are being pushed and shoved around and people were just standing by and not doing anything about it,” she explains.
A harrowing example of bystander silence
Harrowing video footage of a man kicking and stomping 65-year-old Filipina American, Vilma Kari, near Times Square in New York City on March 29 not only shows the brutal attack, but also shows “bystander silence”.
Kari was kicked in her stomach and as she was crumpled to the sidewalk, the attacker kicked her in the head. Then again. And again. Her attacker was yelling, “You don’t belong here.”
The attack happened in broad daylight, yet the building’s lobby staff stood idly watching, while a security guard closed the door as Kari was laying hurt and injured a few metres away.
The video went viral on social media and much criticism was given to the lobby staff and the security guard by those who watched the footage. As a result of the inaction, the lobby staff and security guard were fired.
Stop anti-Asian hate
As people do racist actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, including anti-Asian hate crimes, anti-black racism, and more, Canada’s multicultural policies need to bereviewed.
Cultural events and celebrations alone will not educate people and eradicate hate. Foreign and public policies need deeper reviews, and participation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color for the real tasks and work needed to be done.
Vancouverites and Canadians can stop the hate. This hatred is not what we, our children, and future generations deserve. Building stronger communities based on compassion, and understanding true reconciliation and decolonization on stolen lands are a start to the fight against hate.
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