A black man from the United States, living legally on Vancouver Island, continues to face racist backlash the day after his story aired on CHEK News.
The man, who fears for his family’s safety and wishes to remain anonymous, is driving a vehicle with Washington State license plates. Although he has been living on Vancouver Island since before COVID-19 restrictions, he hasn’t been able to switch them to B.C. plates due to backlogs in the system.
Reaction to the CHEK News story online was fast and fierce and so overflowing with racist and threatening comments that it had to be pulled down from all digital platforms.
On Wednesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan responded.
“I think my response is the same response as the vast majority of British Columbians and that’s to be horrified that people of colour would be treated differently than anyone else in British Columbia,” Horgan said.
“To be ridiculed because of the colour of his skin and the license plate on the car he drives is unacceptable to me.”
Community justice advocates say they aren’t surprised by the racist reaction.
“It is often or at least sometimes the case that when an individual goes public with claims of racist violence or verbal assaults or racist attacks that individuals with racist minds in the community feel that they need to escalate and they do,” said Bruce Curtis with the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre.
And he says it may be why we hear so few reports of racism in our communities.
“Individuals are aware of this phenomenon and consequently don’t report the incidents rather they just suffer the consequences themselves quietly,” Curtis said.
Asked about those in the province judging people for having license plates from outside of B.C., Premier Horgan echoed the words of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“First and foremost we need to be kind, secondly we need to be calm, and we need to be safe but when we do that these are not just words these are values I believe are at the core of who we are as a people, as Canadians,” he said.
“There’s no space for racism in my world and there’s no space for racism in British Columbia.”