University of Victoria international student Daniel Fu has been wearing a surgical mask since learning there was a confirmed case of coronavirus in B.C.
“It’s not even to protect myself, it’s also for protecting others, because who knows?” Fu said.
Fu was a child in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and he knows firsthand what an outbreak like this can do.
“It was scary, every day you were thinking I may get the virus, I may die, it’s that serious,” he said.
But there was another symptom of the SARS outbreak that had nothing to do with health and fears of it returning had community leaders coming together in Toronto Wednesday morning.
“We’re here to address an early and unacceptable symptom of coronavirus, and that’s the emerging xenophobia and discrimination towards Chinese Canadians,” said Toronto City Councillor and Chair of the Toronto Board of Health Joe Cressy.
Toronto’s mayor says he’s been hearing reports of the Chinese Canadian community being treated differently as fears of the coronavirus grow.
“I’ve been very troubled to hear of reports, one as recently as lunchtime today, of people treating our Chinese Canadian community differently, like they should in some way be shunned or quarantined or suggesting Chinese businesses should be avoided. This type of thinking is wrong and is entirely inconsistent with advice of our healthcare professionals,” said Mayor John Tory.
And officials are hoping that getting the message out early will prevent a repeat of the rampant racism experienced during SARS.
“I certainly hope as many here do that we do not have a repeat of SARS, not just the virus but the virus of racism,” said Toronto lawyer Avvy Go.
“Let’s deal with that racism right now, but also after the crisis is over,” she said.
All reports from Victoria’s Chinese community are that discrimination isn’t being seen here so far. Daniel Fu says the only reaction he’s getting has more to do with his mask than where he’s from.
“I think people still respect each other but yes if you’re wearing a mask maybe some people don’t want to sit next to you because they think you are sick,” he said.
Health officials still insist the risk of getting coronavirus remains low.