VANCOUVER -- A Burnaby woman angry and frustrated by an exponential increase in anti-Asian hate crimes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has organized a day of action in major cities across the country.

Doris Mah began wearing a mask early in the pandemic, before it was recommended public health officials in B.C.

Mah says she immediately noticed increased animosity from certain people she encountered on the street and in public spaces like supermarkets.

“Did I have any direct racial attacks? Not really. But it’s the gestures, it’s the way people look at you,” she said. “I consider it racism towards me.”

Burnaby RCMP recently announced a 350 per cent increase in hate crimes towards Asians in 2020 compared with the year before.

Mah says when she heard that statistic, she felt compelled to do something, so she co-founded a group called Stand With Asians Coalition.

She reached out to Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley, asking him to declare May 10 a day of action against anti-Asian racism.

“Right away we were able to start the process moving. And that’s by no means the answer, but at least it draws attention to the issue,” Hurley said in an interview with CTV News.

“We have a lot of work to do. And we’re certainly going to continue to do that to ensure that we stamp out anti-Asian hate…(and) hatred of any kind within the city.”

Inspired by the reaction she got from Hurley and the City of Burnaby, Mah decided to take her campaign national and reached out to 1,000 cities across the country.

Thirty responded, saying they would also make a proclamation declaring May 10 a day of action against anti-Asian racism.

Those cities include Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa.

Mah says more than eight million people live in the cities that signed on and she considers that a powerful message to people who harbor ill will towards Asians and act on that anger and hatred.

“We are all Canadians and we all have equal rights in Canada under the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Mah said. “We should not have a pocket of the population in Canada fear for their safety when the rest of the population doesn’t have to face that.”

She has organized 14 micro-rallies across the Lower Mainland for Monday afternoon at transit hubs in Vancouver, Burnaby and Coquitlam, and other busy public areas in places including the North Shore and Hope.