One in four British Columbians witnessed a hate incident during pandemic: report

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B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner says one in four people in the province witnessed a hate incident during the pandemic, and are now asking people to share their experience in a survey.

In the first phase of the inquiry into the prevalence of hate incidents in the province, the commissioner defined hate incidents as actions and speech rooted in prejudice that the person who experienced it views as targeted due to their characteristics, and intended to cause mental or physical harm to the target.

“It is an ugly and disturbing trend,” said Commissioner Kasari Govender. “Some members of our communities are being treated as less than human and therefore somehow deserving of vitriol and violence. It is devastating and unacceptable.”

READ MORE: Advocates push for awareness of anti-Asian racism as new surveys highlight toll

Research Co. conducted an online survey of 800 British Columbians.

The online survey found nine per cent of respondents directly experienced a hate incident, 26 per cent witnessed an incident, 16 per cent were affected by incidents involving racism, and 80 per cent of British Columbians are concerned about the rise in hate incidents.

Researchers at the University of Victoria don’t find these numbers surprising.

Nigel Mantou Lou, an assistant professor in psychology at the university, said the statistics are consistent with his team’s own findings that found a spike in anti-Asian hate during the pandemic.

“A few incidents may be like colleagues that joked about the pandemic using racist terms,” he said. “And another example, people got threatened and got spat on simply because of their racial background.”

Lou compared hate to COVID-19, saying it’s spreading just as fast and action must be taken to combat it.

“Seeing people getting attacked can make people worry about their own safety. In our own study, we also found about 60 per cent of Asian Canadians, they changed their daily routines during the pandemic to avoid attacks and run-ins,” he explained.

READ MORE: B.C. human rights commissioner report outlines racial disparities in policing

Lou said people must raise awareness and report any time they witness a hate crime as they’re one of the most underreported offences in the province.

He also urges the government to provide resources and support for impacted communities.

The inquiry started in August 2021, and the survey is the next phase of the inquiry.

“Hate is not inevitable,” Govender said. “That’s why we are conducting a public inquiry into hate in the pandemic and why we need to hear from people who have firsthand experiences of hate. We want to ensure our recommendations are rooted in the experiences of those most impacted.”

The survey is available until March 6 in 15 languages, and people can either fill in the survey online, by phone at 1-855-412-1933 or with peer support by emailing [email protected].

“By sharing their experiences, people can make a difference,” said Govender. “If you are one of the 26 per cent of British Columbians impacted by hate during the pandemic, our inquiry team wants to hear from you.”

The survey was statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Tahmina AzizTahmina Aziz

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