'Raise your voice': Campaign targets anti-Asian racism heightened amid COVID-19 in Canada
TORONTO -- A new campaign called #FaceRace is working to raise awareness about racism faced by Asian-Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic by sharing stories from those who have been targeted, and provide tips on what to do if confronted.
Clinic Director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic Avvy Go told CTV's Your Morning the online resource tool was created in response to stories Asian-Canadians heard within their communities about racist incidents and micro-aggressions that increased following Canada's first COVID-19 case last year.
"Shortly after the first case of coronavirus arrived in Canada, some Canadians started to target Chinese Canadians and they blamed the Chinese-Canadians for bringing the virus, they call[ed] it Wuhan virus or Chinese virus, and they started targeting Chinese-Canadians as well as Chinese-Canadian businesses," Go explained on Wednesday.
Go said the acts of racism ranged from being insulted while walking to work to parents asking school boards to ban Chinese children from attending class during the outbreak.
"I personally got emails, hate mail," Go said. "Many people got spat at when they're walking down the street, and there's some more serious violent cases as well, including stabbing [and] punching."
A June poll conducted by Angus Reid and the University of Alberta found that of the more than 500 Chinese-Canadians surveyed, half were called names or insulted because of COVID-19, while 43 per cent said they had been threatened or intimidated.
While the #FaceRace campaign works to educate Canadians about racism, Go said it’s also an "open challenge" to all Canadians to confront racism when they see it.
"Many Canadians don't even know that anti-Asian racism exists, even though it has a very long history in Canada," she explained. "[It] started with the head tax, the Chinese Exclusion Act, but still today it's often not being talked about by the media or by politicians, so that's why we need to educate more Canadians about the existence of anti-racism issues."
Once Canadians are more aware that this type of racism exists in the country and has increased amid COVID-19, Go said she hopes "we can all be allies."
"If you see it, you need to raise your voice. Support people who are victims of racism of all kinds, not just anti-Asian racism, but speak up when you can and try to take action as well if you can," she said.
The online resource also provides tips on what to do when faced with racism such as "stay calm," and how to reply when someone makes a racist comment, including saying "Like you, I’m also stressed and hurting from this virus -- but your racism is making it worse, for all of us."
The campaign is a joint project between the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice and the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, in partnership with other Canadian organizations. According to its website, the project is funded by the Government of Canada.
Go says the racism Asian-Canadians have faced goes beyond the insults and physical assaults; she says these incidents can also have a long-lasting psychological impact.
Go said she was targeted by strangers with racists insults twice while walking to work in the early months of the pandemic.
"I actually thought about changing my route on my way to work. I know that some of my co-workers who have experienced this, they hold their cell phone up when they're walking just in case they have to film something," she explained
"It really affects you psychologically, and of course some incidents are even worse."
Having faced her own experiences with racism and hearing from others within her community, Go says it is disappointing to see backlash against Asian-Canadians in a country that prides itself on being multicultural.
"You're being attacked and... some Chinese Canadians start to question their sense of belonging in Canada. Are [we] really Canadians or are [we] perceived as Canadian by our federal convenience? All of this really takes a toll on us," Go said.