The Canadian province of British Columbia is launching its first-ever public inquiry on the surge of anti-Asian incidents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
What to know: The city of Vancouver reported more anti-Asian hate crimes than 10 of the most populous U.S. cities combined in 2020. For this reason, the city has been infamously dubbed the “Anti-Asian Hate Crime Capital of North America.”
- Since the onset of COVID-19, monitoring groups such as covidracism.ca and elimin8hate.org have received more than 1,500 incidents of anti-Asian racism, most of which originated in British Columbia. Kasari Govender, British Columbia’s Human Rights Commissioner, said the province continues to report the most anti-Asian incidents per capita in North America, according to The Discourse.
- Govender’s Human Rights Commission Office will conduct a public inquiry, which will come in the form of a year-long investigation beginning this fall. However, the probe will not only focus on anti-Asian hate or racism toward other groups, but also hate “in all its forms.”
- “Many of us are uncomfortable acknowledging hate because we want to think of our country as a peaceful, respectful place. The truth is that hate is here, and it is growing,” Govender said in a statement.
- The inquiry will hear from experts, anti-racism groups and victims of hate incidents themselves, but those hearings will not be done in public to protect their safety. Govender said they will seek input in a variety of ways, including surveys, written submissions, emails and telephone calls, according to CTV News.
“Long overdue”: The Human Rights Commission Office has already consulted with 23 community groups in preparation for the inquiry, but Fred Kwok, president of Vancouver’s Chinese Benevolent Association, described the inquiry as “long overdue.”
- “It’s always been bad, even before the pandemic and so far, it’s only been apologies,” Kwok told the Vancouver Sun. With COVID-19, the city’s Chinatown has reportedly seen vandalism and trashing on a daily basis, forcing Chinese-owned businesses to close.
- Kwok said authorities are now patrolling the neighborhood, but it has taken a long time for the city to even acknowledge the problem. The community leader also claimed that police have “pressured us to not press charges for these hate crimes.”
- It also does not help that bylaw officers allegedly impose fines on Chinese store owners for graffiti on their own storefronts. “That is systemic racism,” Kwok pointed out.