Chinese-Canadians voice worries about racism, job losses one year in to pandemic

February 11, 2021

By Vancouver Sun |

COVID-19 has taken a toll on many Canadians, but for Chinese-Canadians the impacts have been magnified by racism aimed at individuals and businesses, community leaders say.

Amy Go, the president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, said the pandemic has resulted in an array of attacks directed at the community.

Vancouver police reported a surge in anti-Asian hate crime in 2020, with seniors being attacked and businesses vandalized. Data from Statistics Canada shows that Canadians with Asian backgrounds were more likely to report noticing increased racial or ethnic harassment during the pandemic.

“In the past, it usually hasn’t been as blatant as that but the pandemic really brought up this kind of personal and vile and very vicious attack,” Go said in an interview.

She said many Chinese businesses and restaurants faced a drop in sales before the start of the pandemic, with customers opting to stay home out of caution after hearing about the virus from relatives living abroad.

The initial rhetoric around the COVID-19 virus, such as some labelling it the “Wuhan virus” or the “China virus,” has also done “tremendous” damage to the Chinese-Canadian community, Go said.

“Just because we look Chinese or look Asian, we’re suddenly not Canadian,” Go said.

Members of the Chinese-Canadian community are portrayed as being foreigners, regardless of how long their families have lived in Canada, she said.

Grocery stores and restaurants owned by Chinese-Canadians have been particularly affected by misinformation about the virus, Go said. She added that she’s spoken to healthy workers who were told to stay home by their employers over fears that they would spread the virus.

Doris Chow, a co-founder of Project 1907, an Asian advocacy group that has mapped out reports of hate crime across Metro Vancouver, said the harassment has become less visible.

“It seems to have subsided in the news,” she said in an interview. “But the violence and the racism is still continuing. It’s just becoming more invisible again.”

Chow is also the co-founder of the Youth Collaborative for Chinatown, a group that bills itself as young people fostering more support for Vancouver’s Chinatown.

She said Chinese-Canadian businesses in Vancouver started seeing a drop in business, such as diners cancelling reservations, around Lunar New Year celebrations last year, weeks before the wider economic shutdown in March.

With continued restrictions heading intothis year’sLunar New Year on Friday, Chow said it’s the equivalent of losing two Christmas shopping seasons for Chinese retailers and restaurants.

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