'What if you don't speak Chinese?': Vancouver man faces challenges while reporting a hate crime against him
VANCOUVER -- Steven Ngo was stopped at a traffic light at Fraser Street at 41st Avenue when he heard someone yelling at him from the car in the next lane.
“I thought he said, ‘You effing ch**k,’ and I was not sure if that was clearly what he said so I rolled down the window,” said Ngo. “He repeated (it) again.”
Ngo said there were two men in the car and right after shouting the racial slur, they threw garbage at him, hitting his vehicle.
“It’s a little shocking because I grew up in this neighbourhood,” he said. “I love Vancouver. … I think they were just looking for someone to pick on.”
Ngo called the Vancouver Police to report the hate crime, but ended up having to wait on hold for more than 30 minutes.
Thinking there must be another way, he looked online, but the Vancouver Police Department website only has two forms under its “Reporting a Hate Crime” heading, one in traditional Chinese and the other in simplified Chinese.
“What if you don’t speak Chinese?” said Ngo, “The entire form was in Chinese. I had to do a Google translate, reverse translate to English, type up my response in English and submit it via email.”
Ngo is a lawyer and sits on the board for the Federation of Asian Canadian lawyers. The group’s website describes it as a “coalition of Asian Canadian legal professionals working to promote equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian Canadian legal professionals and the broader community.”
The VPD tells CTV News the forms on its website were specifically created in response to the spike in the anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic.
“It’s important to note that the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in East Asians, were just that. They were crimes against those of East Asian decent, that is why we made those forms, for those of East Asian decent,” said Const. Tania Visintin, spokesperson for the Vancouver police.
“We knew that things were underreported and we believe by creating these forms in their language, either simplified or traditional, it would give them a sense of more comfort, in the sense that it would be easier for them to get their message across,” she added.
Visintin said police encourage people to call in and report a hate crime by speaking with officers. She added there are also translators available and, if it’s urgent, to call 911.
But Ngo told CTV News it felt like a barrier when trying to report what happened to him.
“Fortunately, I’m somewhat tech savvy, but what about my mother, our parents, our loved ones, our friends?” he said. “There’s no reason why there’s systemic barriers. It seems as if there is as much to dissuade reporting. I don’t know if that’s the purpose but that is a systemic barrier happening.”
Ngo spoke with an officer Friday afternoon.
“I think we really need something more official than words from someone at the constable level,” he said after completing his report. “There needs to be a clear acknowledgment that the website needs to change and they will be implementing reporting forms in other languages or even including hate incidents as part of their current online reporting tool.”
He said ultimately he’s not trying to disparage the VPD.
“I think they’re doing fantastic work in the community,” he said. “It’s important to have people like VPD to support all of us in the community.”
But, he said, he wants to see actual change made to the reporting system.
“It starts as simple as having an online form as a bare minimum,” Ngo said. “Something provincial wide, there needs to be something done here in B.C.”
The VPD said it is willing to evolve and will take this feedback into consideration moving forward.