Calgary Police say they’ve arrested and charged a man for threatening to spread the coronavirus to an Indigenous community in Alberta.
Constable Craig Collins, Calgary Police’s hate crimes coordinator, told VICE that a white male in his early 20s was arrested over a viral Facebook post in which he threatened to go to a nearby reserve and spread COVID-19.
“We were approached by an elder of one of the Indigenous communities,” Collins said. “It was a threat that said he would contract coronavirus or Ebola and touch things, infect the reserve and ‘wipe out the species.’”
“We take that very seriously, particularly in today’s climate where people are already feeling anxious by the threat that COVID-19 presents. To weaponize that fear, it sends a huge message into that targeted community.”
According to police, the threat was originally sent as a private message, then appeared on an Indigenous group’s social media page. Elders reported it to police on March 22. After an investigation by Calgary Police, Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service and Blood Tribe Police Service, the young man was arrested on March 27.
Uttering threats can land someone up to five years in prison in Canada and, according to a statement by Calgary Police, the person doesn’t have to intend to carry out the threat to be found guilty.
This is the second suspected hate incident to take place in Calgary related to the coronavirus. Collins said that on March 14, a Chinese restaurant received a phone call from someone who said they were going to “kill Chinese people.”
“The suspect we’re investigating doesn’t have any known prior history with that restaurant, but when you look at the close links and proximity to [the call] and Calgary’s declared state of emergency because of the pandemic, and you consider what is happening in the United States, we’re considering this as part of the COVID-19 investigations.”
A suspect has been identified but police say they have yet to lay charges.
Hate crimes in the time of the pandemic are on the rise—specifically against the Asian population. Last month the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council began tracking anti-Asian incidents and has received over 1,000 reports since starting the project. This includes an Asian-American family, which included a 2-year-old toddler, that was stabbed outside a grocery store in Texas on March 14 by a man who later confessed he did so because he thought they were spreading the virus.
Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and a chair on the project, said it’s not just Chinese people who are being targeted.
"The data from our reporting center—both the numbers and the self-reported narratives—clearly reveal that Asian Americans are being racially profiled as threatening, disease-carriers,” said Jeung.
“Not only are Chinese Americans blamed and mistreated, but Asian Americans of other ethnic backgrounds are also.”
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