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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