Coronavirus

A New Survey Found Almost a Third of Chinese Canadians Have Been Physically Harassed During the Pandemic

The findings cast a shocking spotlight on what has been called Canada’s ‘shadow pandemic’: anti-Asian racism.
25 June 2020, 6:18am
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A still from CCTV footage of an incident in which a 92-year-old Chinese man was hauled out of a Vancouver 7-11 and thrown to the ground. Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Police Department

Following widespread media reports of racist altercations and slurs hurled at people of Asian descent amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey by a Canadian non-profit and university has found that almost half of ethnically Chinese respondents have been threatened or harassed since the outbreak began.

The survey, by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute and the University of Alberta, reveals the true scope of what has been dubbed a “shadow pandemic” in Canada, finding that 43 percent of 506 respondents reported being threatened or intimidated in some way, while half reported being insulted as a “direct result” of the pandemic.

Dr. Kimberly Knowles, a University of Alberta researcher who worked on the survey, told the non-profit Canadian Anti-Hate Network that, furthermore, “data is indicating that 29 percent of those surveyed have experienced at least some kind of physical altercation during the COVID-19 crisis.”

More than 60 percent of respondents said that the harassment was such that they had adjusted their daily routines in an effort to avoid it.

The COVID-19 outbreak—currently believed to have started in a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan—has exposed an ugly streak of racism against many Asian communities worldwide.

In some cases, that anti-Asian animosity has been fanned by political leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, who has long been accused of stoking racism with dog-whistle rhetoric. Just last week, Trump referred to the coronavirus as ‘kung flu' at a campaign rally in Tulsa.

The Canadian survey also included personal accounts from several Canadian residents of Chinese descent.

“While walking on the streets in Kitsilano [Vancouver], a Caucasian man in his 30’s said to me and my daughter, ‘everyday, I pray that you people die,’” one woman in her 60s reported.

A man in his 60s, meanwhile, said he was spat at by a cyclist.

According to the Anti-Hate Network, Vancouver police reported that they’re investigating 29 incidents of “anti-Asian hate” that took place between March and May, a more than seven-fold increase over the same period last year.

Amy Go, President of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, told the group that the survey’s “findings don’t come as a surprise to us at all.”

“We’ve been asking the government again and again to at least officially recognize that there’s systemic, targeted anti-Asian racism in Canada,” she said. “This needs to be incorporated into the national anti-racism strategy.”

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