Jenny Kwan, MP

Member of Parliament, Vancouver East

Increase in Racism During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 20, 2020

Sent to:

Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair, Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage

OPEN LETTER RE: INCREASE IN RACISM DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

 

Dear Minister Freeland and Guilbeault,

Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic everyone across Canada has been affected in one way or another - whether they have lost their job, closed down their business, witnessed a loved one fall ill, or lost someone they cherish. There is no question that this is a difficult 0me. As this pandemic progresses, it is alarming to witness an increase in frequency acts of hate and racism.

In recent weeks cities across the country have seen an increase in hate crimes and racism related to COVID-19, particularly towards those of Asian-descent. In a Vancouver convenience store last month, a man hurled racist remarks related to COVID-19 at a 92- year-old man of Asian descent, before shoving him to the ground. Another assault was reported to the police where a visible minority woman was punched, grabbed by her hair, her face was slammed into the seats of skytrain and pushed out of the train. Similar disturbing incidents took place in Toronto where an Asian woman was hit by an umbrella, told to go back to where she came from and spat at. Most recently, a good samaritan intervened when an individual began to harassed two Asian women wearing protective masks on a bus by telling them to: "Go back to your own country; that's where it all started." The bystander was kicked, punched and wrestled to the ground by the suspect. Her hair was pulled so hard that a clump of hair was ripped from her scalp. Now, Dakota, an indigenous woman out walking her dog was punched in the face repeatedly and told to "go back to Asia".

Aside from such violent individual attacks, the Greater Vancouver Chinese Cultural Centre also saw hate messages written on their windows. The Millennium Gate in Vancouver's historic Chinatown was defaced with racist comments . These are just a few examples of the disturbing trends in the midst of COVID-19.

Vancouver police has confirmed that they have seen an increase in reports of hate crimes targeting members of the Asian community. This is yet another painful reminder that Canada is not immune to racism and discrimination.

Given the above, I would like to reinforce the need for the government to take the necessary measures to stand against all forms of systemic discrimination and racism. We must quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear and offer protection and support to all Canadians from coast to coast against these despicable acts.

Drawing from the lessons learned through the Standing Committee on Heritage’s study on Mo0on-103, I would like to renew my calls for ac0on presented in my supplementary report. The full report and its 28 recommendations could be found here - https:// www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/CHPC/report-10/page-210. In particular, I would like to highlight a few of the recommendations for action.

First, with the rise in hate crimes, I am calling on the Government of Canada to show leadership by hosting a federal-provincial-territorial meeting to discuss the rise in hate crimes in Canada and to coordinate our collective efforts and identify best practices to countering this trend.

Second, it is unacceptable that not all police departments in Canada have a dedicated hate crime unit. To effectively hold perpetuator of hate to account, it is essential that the Government of Canada collaborate with municipalities, provinces, and territories to create and properly fund dedicated police hate crime units in every police department in Canada.

Third, in order to be9er protect minority groups from hate incidents, we must take hate motivation into account more effectively and consistently. The Government of Canada should establish national standards for identifying and recording all hate incidents and their dispensation in the justice system.

Finally, given that many of the hate crimes go unreported for a variety of reasons, it is essential that we make every effort to facilitate the reporting of racist and hate activities. I am therefore urging the Government of Canada to work in collaboration with non-profits to facilitate the reporting of hate crimes. This work is important to ensure the perpetuators are held accountable, it is also critical that there is accurate collection of this data.

I urge that you take immediate action to implement these recommendations. I remain ready and willing to work collaboratively with you to fight against racism and discrimination in all its forms. Thank you for your attention on this important matter and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Jenny Kwan
Member of Parliament Vancouver East

Cc:
The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos (Vice-Chair) The Hon. Navdeep Singh Bains
The Hon. William Sterling Blair
The Hon. Patricia Hajdu
The Hon. Mélanie Joly
The Hon. William Francis Morneau
The Hon. Carla Qualtrough
The Hon. Kirsty Duncan
The Hon. Mary Ng