Name-calling, insults, even threats: New survey reveals impact of anti-Asian racism during pandemic
VANCOUVER -- Amanda Poh was just going for an evening walk in her Port Coquitlam neighbourhood earlier this month when she was subjected to racist remarks.
“There were two young Caucasian boys on bicycles,” Poh told CTV News Vancouver. “They yelled things like 'ching chong' and konnichiwa.”
When Poh confronted them, one of the boys circled back.
“He started sneezing several times in front of me, and then said ‘coronavirus’ and just biked away,” Poh said. “It was just really hurtful seeing that this was from someone so young and in my community.”
Poh’s painful experience is far from isolated. Vancouver has already seen a rise in reported hate crimes during the pandemic, and now a new survey by the Angus Reid Institute and University of Alberta is revealing more about the scope of discrimination Chinese-Canadians have been facing during the COVID-19 crisis.
The online survey conducted between June 15 and June 18 polled more than 500 Canadians who identify as ethnically Chinese.
Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, says there have been anecdotal examples of harassment but the extent of the issue and the impact hadn’t been examined until now.
“These are members of our community and if they are having a negative experience, if they're hurting, it’s important to to really understand whether these are one-off incidents or if they're happening in a bigger and more systemic way. And this study has been able to sketch in some of the details,” Kurl told CTV News.
The survey found 64 per cent of respondents have felt like they’ve been treated with less respect than other people because of their ethnicity. Half of the people said they’ve been called names or insulted while 43 per cent have been personally threatened or intimidated.
Kurl says respondents have been feeling anxious and worried and as a result, six-in-10 have adjusted their routines to avoid unpleasant run-ins or encounters.
Many surveyed have also expressed concerns that their kids will be bullied once they return to school, adding three-in-five respondents expect coronavirus-related bullying to happen.
Founder of the Elimin8Hate campaign and the Vancouver Asian Film Festival Barbara Lee said the findings are not surprising, and reflect some of the information they’ve been gathering as well.
“We don’t like to hear that people don’t feel safe in their own community,” Lee said, and added even when Asian Canadians have lived in Canada for generations, they’re still viewed as foreigners in their own country, and media portrayal isn’t helping. “It’s heartbreaking, and it’s not right, and we have to do something about it.”
Lee is encouraging people to report racist incidents, and ask for equity training in their workplaces.
Poh posted about what happened to her in an online community group, and said there was an outpouring of people sharing their own experiences.
“I think verbal harassment and name calling, all of that still has a lot of weight to it,” Poh said. “It can still cause a lot of harm. Because more you hear that over your life, I think it reinforces that idea that, ‘I don’t belong here’”.
Poh has also spoken to the city’s mayor, and hopes the conversations within cities and communities continue, to help educate and to foster more of a sense of belonging.
“I think it’s really important that the leaders take action and do that kind of transformative work,” Poh said. “I’d really like to know pretty much all municipalities plans on what they’re trying to do in the long term to talk about racism and talk about how we can bring these voices to the tables.”