In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian racism has reached an all-time high. In the past year, several studies have shown an alarming increase in instances of discrimination, harassment and aggression against people of Asian descent, across Canada.
In fact, a recent study has found that between 2019 and 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 717 percent in Vancouver, and by 532 percent Canada-wide (CSUSB, 2021). Furthermore, studies conducted by both Statistics Canada and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship have found that many Asian-Canadians, and particularly Chinese-Canadians, have expressed explicit concerns for their safety and an increase in discriminatory acts towards them since the onset of the pandemic.
While these statistics are staggering and can be understood as a direct result of disinformation relating to COVID-19 – it is important to acknowledge that present day discrimination and racism against Asian individuals is rooted in, and perpetuated by, a legacy of systemically exclusionary policies.
Throughout the early 1880s and well into the 1900s, Chinese and other Asian Canadians were stigmatized through a variety of policies that violated their human rights:
The Chinese Head Tax (1885), which created significant financial barriers and discouraged Chinese immigration to Canada;
The inspection of Metalliferous Mines Act (1897), which was the first of many acts that allowed Asian-Canadians to be excluded from employment;
The Dominion Elects Act (1920), which effectively banned Asian-Canadians from voting in federal elections;
Hayashi-Lemieux Gentleman’s Agreement (1908), which limited the number of men who were allowed to immigrate to Canada from Japan;
The Chinese Immigration Act (1923), which effectively banned Chinese Immigration until the late 1940; and
A variety of other segregationist practices that impacted Asian people’s access to education, employment, property and medical care, including the Japanese interment which occurred during the second world war.
Ultimately, while these historical exclusionary policies and racist ideations may chronicle the past, we must ensure that do not define our future.
How we can fight anti-Asian racism
Racism, in any form, is unacceptable and has no place in Canada. It runs counter to the values and spirit of the diverse and inclusive society that we strive to build. It is our collective responsibility to step up, be allies, and stand together against xenophobia, hate fuelled by misinformation and all forms of racism including anti-Asian racism.
Here are some ways we can all contribute to tackling anti-Asian racism and building an even better and consciously more inclusive society where everyone is able to participate fully:
Learn about pan-Asian diversity and the unique identities and cultures that have enriched Canadian society
Challenge stereotypes and consider how they are rooted in the history of anti-Asian racism
Show solidarity with Asian communities in Canada, i.e. by supporting local Asian businesses and organizations
Be an ally - call out acts of racism, discrimination, and micro aggression and actively support those victimized by anti-Asian racism
Interrupt unconscious biases and consider how they can affect your behavior and decision-making
If you are interested in learning more and developing your skills through cultural competency, anti-racist and other educational programming, please visit our website: centrefornewcomers.ca/pd for more information.
Other Anti-Asian Racism resources include: