‘I know people in B.C. are better than that:’ Health officials call out racism stemming from COVID-19

'I know people in B.C. are better than that:' Health officials call out racism stemming from COVID-19

With the arrival of COVID-19 in British Columbia, came a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes and racism.

Earlier this month, Dakota Holmes, an Indigenous woman was subject to a racist attack while walking her dog in East Vancouver after a man mistook her for an Asian woman. The attack was prompted by a sneeze from Holmes who has seasonal allergies.

“He just lost it. He turned around, he started yelling at me first, he assumed I was Asian so he started staying all these negative racism slurs against Asians,” Holmes told CHEK News.

“He’s telling me to go back to Asia, ‘you’re the cause of this sickness.’ Then he hit me in the face.”

Holmes is not alone.

Hate crimes are on the rise, locally, provincially, and globally.

Vancouver Police Department recently said they’ve received 20 reports of Asian-related hate crimes since May 1 alone, compared to 12 such reports in all of 2019.

On Vancouver Island, Victoria Police and Nanaimo RCMP say they have not seen an increase in hate crimes or racism against Asians, but a nail salon in Parksville was vandalized on May 13, and its owners believe they were targetted because they are Asian.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization that reports on human rights abuses around the world, has said that since COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a worldwide rise in hateful and derogatory language directed towards Asians and people of Asian descent. They pointed a report from L1ght, an AI-based startup that monitors “toxic” online content, which claims that there has been a 200 per cent increase in traffic to hate sites and specific posts against Asians.

The topic of recent anti-Asian racism and hate crimes stemming from the coronavirus was discussed briefly during B.C. health official’s COVID-19 update on Tuesday.

“There is no place, no place in our society for racism,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“Racism represents the opposite of what we need to do, something we need to condemn, something that undermines everything we’re trying to do together as a society,” added health minister Adrian Dix.

Their comments were directly in response to a question about racism towards Asian people and what advice can be given to those facing racism due to COVID-19.

“It continues to make me incredibly sad when I hear these stories, particularly the underlying racism that it exposes,” she said.

“There is no place for that in our society here in Canada and British Columbia, and I know people in B.C. are better than that.”

B.C.’s top doctor said the coronavirus does not “understand” human’s geopolitical or social borders and urged people to be kind to each other.

“There is no one race that is affected by this, there is no one age group, there’s no one sex. It’s all of us together who need to work together and support each other and have compassion to get us through this,” Henry said.

Dix pointed out that the virus is in more than 100 countries, and affects the entire world. He also said acts of racism must be called out for what they are.

“They are themselves something devastating to civil society, to the way we want to be as a province,” Dix said. “We need to condemn them specifically, we need to condemn them always, and we need to build communities that are more resilient to them.”

Dix also said the kindness that Henry has talked about over the course of the pandemic has been reciprocated all throughout the province, but noted that racism still exists and must be condemned.

“I am grateful for it. I am grateful to live here, but part of that action we have to take together is that where we see injustice and racism, that we condemn it and we condemn it every time,” Dix said.

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Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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