An indigenous Canadian woman was knocked to the ground by a man who mistook her as Asian and demanded that she return to China.
Dakota Holmes, 27, was walking her dog in a Vancouver park when she sneezed just after crossing paths with the man on Friday night. She had been experiencing allergies on top of a throat infection.
To Holmes’ shock, the man turned around and started insulting her about COVID-19. He allegedly told her to “go back to China” because “you don’t belong here.”
To make matters worse, he allegedly punched her twice —— in the jaw and above an eye near the temple.
“All I did was sneeze because I have allergies, and this man just lost it on me. It was incredibly racist slurs. He assumed I was Asian,” Holmes told CTV News Vancouver.
The incident has since been reported to the Vancouver Police Department, which is now investigating.
This is my daughter Dakota. We are Indigenous. She was walking her dog last night in #Vancouver when a #racist guy heard her sneezing. He yelled at her, punched her and walked away. He thought she was Asian and her sneezing was #COVID19. @VPD attended. #racism #RacismIsAVirus pic.twitter.com/mBhVgdFaBk
— Don Bain (@lheidli1) May 17, 2020
“Our initial investigation shows that a person was assaulted and this may have been related to race … the victim did have minor physical injuries and did not need medical treatment the night of the incident,” spokesman Sergeant Aaron Roed said.
Holmes described her attacker as a Caucasian man in his mid-30s who wore a hat and a dark jumper. She estimated his height at 180 centimeters (5 feet and 9 inches) and weight at 90 kilograms (about 200 pounds).
Holmes’ injuries could have been worse if not for her adopted dog Kato, who started biting the man’s ankles. She recalled the attacker threatening to call authorities to get Kato confiscated for being aggressive.
The man eventually managed to flee from the scene.
Fo Niemi, co-founder and executive director of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) in Montreal, noted that indigenous Canadians can be mistaken as Asians due to their physical features.
“Rising incidents and reports of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia can spread to other groups in Canada who look Asian, ranging from Inuit people to Latin Americans. Hate spreads when people look for scapegoats and believe that they can act violently and hatefully towards others with impunity,” Niemi said, according to the South China Morning Post.
Dakota and Kato thank you all for all the support and love. We can’t express how much we appreciate all the love. Dakota and Kato well. Dakota is glad she shared her story. She has not heard anything further from @VancouverPD about the racist attack. #RacismIsAVirus pic.twitter.com/zFwGsU676p
— Don Bain (@lheidli1) May 17, 2020
Holmes is yet to hear from the police. Her father, Don Bain, thanked those who have been sending messages of comfort and support.
“Dakota and Kato thank you all for all the support and love. We can’t express how much we appreciate all the love. Dakota and Kato [are] well. Dakota is glad she [had] shared her story.”
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), which employs Holmes, issued a statement on Sunday condemning the attack.
“In order to keep people safe, we all must be crystal clear that there is absolutely no place for racism in our communities,” said President Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, according to the Vancouver Sun. “We are absolutely disgusted and angered about the violent, racist attack against Dakota Holmes, and we offer our sincere and heartfelt sympathy and solidarity to Asian communities who have borne the brunt of COVID-19 related racism.”