The world recently marked the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, Asian communities from across North America have been unfairly portrayed as carriers of the virus. For well over a year, anti-Asian racism and hate crimes have surged to an alarming rate in Canada.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas denounces these acts of xenophobia and says they have no place in our communities.
“We have all seen and heard the disturbing videos and images of people of Asian descent being violently attacked while going about their daily lives. OPSEU/SEFPO stands steadfast in our solidarity with Asian communities, in our membership and across Canada, in our collective fight against anti-Asian racism,” Thomas said.
The recent shooting at three massage parlors in the Atlanta, Georgia and surrounding areas are acts of terror, aimed specifically at the Asian community in the United States. These horrific and racially motivated attacks have left eight people dead.
“I’m further disturbed that media reports have downplayed this tragedy and neglected to acknowledge the truth behind them. To say anything less serves to further victimize the innocent lives already lost. As a society, we must stop making excuses for these mass murders, especially when they are racially motivated,” Thomas added.
Recent data has shown that a disproportionate number of these attacks have been directed at Asian women. Moreover, this coalescence of racism and sexism can be directly linked to stereotypes that portray Asian women as submissive and weak.
Some of the many profound effects include becoming easy targets for human trafficking, to being stuck in low income and precarious jobs, also linked to anti-immigration laws.
According to Statistics Canada, crimes against the Asian community have risen since the start of the pandemic. In Vancouver, hate crimes were reported to have jumped 97 per cent in 2020, and anti-Asian hate crimes went up 717 per cent. Research has shown that Toronto has the second highest number of cases involving anti-Asian racism but actual data from 2020 has not yet been made available.
“Asian-owned businesses, organizations and institutions have been attacked by racist comments, violent threats and other forms of hate speech. The impacts on the community as they worry about these disturbing threats have created another layer of challenge during an already hard time as people try to cope with the pandemic,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.
More than 30 per cent of Asian Canadians have reported an increase in harassment or attacks, but what is more frightening is that many victims or witnesses to acts of anti-Asian hate crimes are reluctant to report it or even know that they can.
The continued rise in these racist attacks and incidents have created high levels of anxiety, fear and a sense of not belonging for the diverse Asian communities in Canada.
“When you add the stressors and challenges of the pandemic, many are left feeling vulnerable and isolated,” said Elizabeth Ha Vice-Chair of People of Asian Descent on OPSEU/SEFPO’s Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW).
“We must not only denounce these acts of racism but name and confront them head on. We will not be intimidated and we most certainly will not be silenced,” she added.
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