Almost One Third Of Chinese Canadians Report Being Physically Attacked During COVID-19
The Angus Reid survey is a rare - and welcome - example of directly asking people whether they have suffered a hate incident.
By Steven Zhou
June 22, 2020
Racially motivated attack on a 92-year-old Asian man with dementia. March 13, 2020. Source: Vancouver Police Department.
A new report suggests that almost 30% of Chinese Canadians have been physically attacked since the COVID-19 crisis began.
The Angus Reid Institute and the University of Alberta surveyed over 500 people of Chinese descent in Canada and found that 8% of them have faced “frequent” physical attacks. Another 21% responded that they’ve faced “infrequent” physical abuse from strangers since the start of the pandemic.
“Yes, the data is indicating that 29% of those surveyed have experienced at least some kind of physical altercation during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Dr. Kimberly Knowles, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Alberta who worked on the report, titled “Blame, bullying and disrespect: Chinese Canadians reveal their experiences with racism during COVID-19.”
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As part of the survey, those surveyed were asked whether they have personally been “physically attacked by strangers” during COVID-19. Respondents were asked to pick from a scale of one to six; one being “not at all/never” and six being “always” experiencing such attacks. 8% picked four, five, or six. 21% picked two or three.
“The findings don’t come as a surprise to us at all,” said Amy Go, President of Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice. “We already know from one of our own surveys that up to 14% of Canadians think Chinese people for sure have COVID-19 or that they probably have it. That’s the attitude already, so why are we surprised?”
Go’s organization launched an online form specifically for Chinese and other East Asian peoples to report any physical, verbal, and/or online abuse related to COVID-19. Since February, they’ve received over 300 reports.
The study also notes that, “Half (50%) report being called names or insulted as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and a plurality (43%) further say they’ve been threatened or intimidated.”
Moreover, the survey also shows that, “three-in-ten (30%) report being frequently exposed to racist graffiti or messaging on social media since the pandemic began, while just as many (29%) say they have frequently been made to feel as though they posed a threat to the health and safety of others.”
The overall findings describe much higher frequencies of either verbal or physical anti-Chinese attacks than the data released by local police departments would suggest. This is consistent with research that police-reported hate crime numbers massively under-report the true rate of hate incidents in Canada.
The Vancouver Police Department, for instance, disclosed last month that they’re investigating 29 incidents of anti-Asian hate in B.C. since March, up from just four for the same period last year. Total hate crimes being looked at by the VPD are also up from 53 in 2019 to 77 this year. The rise is still significant, but not nearly as significant as the findings of the Angus Reid survey, which paints a much more alarming picture.
Furthermore, the police numbers seem pedantic considering just how much hate is being spewed online. Moonshot, a UK-based tech company that monitors online extremism, noted in a recent report that online searches from January to April for violent right-wing extremist content went up significantly across six Canadian cities since their respective COVID-19 lockdowns began.
According to Moonshot, “average weekly searches for violent far-right radio and podcasts increased by 330%, and 324% for video games” for these six major cities, which include Vancouver and Toronto.
“We’ve been asking the government again and again to at least officially recognize that there’s systemic, targeted anti-Asian racism in Canada,” Go said. “This needs to be incorporated into the national anti-racism strategy. It should also make Chinese people more empathetic to the anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism that has gone on in Canada for hundreds of years.”
Statistics Canada: Canadians Say Hate Incidents Increased Because COVID-19
One in three Chinese and 18 per cent of "visible minorities" feel there has been an increase in hate incidents
June 10, 2020
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
On June 9th Statistics Canada released the results of a survey on Canadians’ perceptions of personal safety since COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, it suggests that COVID-19 has contributed to a perceived increase in hate incidents.
Hate groups have primary targets and targets of the day. The anti-Muslim movement will always return to targeting Muslims. The neo-Nazis will always attribute blame to Jews. However, if the news of the day is an issue like the police murder of George Floyd, we’ll see their focus shift to anti-Black racism. If the news of the day is COVID-19, we’ll see their focus shift to anti-Asian racism.
During social distancing, fewer people are interacting on the street, in stores, and on public transit. Therefore, we would expect to see in-person hate incidents decrease sharply if COVID-19 and the racist rhetoric surrounding it wasn’t contributing towards hate incidents.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing an increase in police-reported hate crimes targeting Asian persons in Vancouver, and "visible minorities" continue to tell us there’s been an increase in hate incidents.
We believe there has been a COVID-19 effect.
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"Visible minority" respondents were more likely (18%) than persons not of a "visible minority" (6%) to perceive an increase in hate incidents. Chinese (30%) and non-binary persons (22%) were the most likely to feel there has been an increase in hate incidents. Age was also a factor, with younger individuals more likely to respond that there has been an increase.
Also worth noting is that non-binary persons (31%), indigenous persons (26%), women (18%), and especially young women (32%), do not feel safe walking alone after dark in their own neighbourhoods.
While this report gives new and valuable indicators, it is a measure of perceptions and not hate incidents themselves. Police-reported data massively underreports hate incidents and lends an incorrect impression to many that hate crimes aren’t a serious issue in Canada.
We need to start measuring hate incidents accurately so we can have honest conversations about the state of hate in Canada and work those numbers down.
We have a simple solution.
Every year Statistics Canada does a General Social Survey. Every year we want them to ask about hate incidents, building on these basic questions:
- Have you been the victim of a hate incident in the past 12 months?
- Was it online or in-person?
- Was it direct (person to person) or indirect (graffiti or comments targeting your group)?
The government recently launched Statistics Canada's Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics, and we are encouraging them to measure hate incidents under this framework.
Calling The Police Doesn’t Solve Hate Crimes - It Puts Us In More Danger
Don’t be a bystander, but dialing 9-1-1 should definitely not be your first response
Op-Ed By Melayna Williams BA (Hons), J.D.
Special to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network
May 29, 2020
On May 14th, CBC published an article about bystander support and response to anti-Asian racist attacks during the pandemic. The backlash to their number one suggestion was so swift that they had to re-publish it, focusing on their error in the sentiment that people should call the police. In the original piece, the text read:
“1. Call the police. Wherever a racist attack takes place, you can help the victim by calling police. Often incidents occur on public transit, where people from all communities are drawn together.”
CBC’s choice to interview a constable from the Vancouver Transit Police amazes me knowing how punitive, punishing and racist fare inspectors have been to Black and racialized people in this country. That said, racist incidents on public transit are a well-documented problem across the country - especially now.
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The police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis is only the most recent example of police disproportionately using excessive force and killing Black and racialized people – and it’s conceited for Canadians to think it’s not happening here in Canada. Just yesterday a mother says police shoved her daughter Regis Korchinski-Paquet off their balcony in Toronto and the SIU is investigating her death. In 2018, the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that Black people in Toronto are 20 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Torontonians.
The people who experience racism in Canada are in need and deserving of protection and should be the loudest voices on tackling racism- not the dissent to a tonedeaf CBC suggesting that we should just call the police. And despite people’s well intentioned view around this being a teachable moment where we are learning more about each other, the burden is not for racialized people to share their pain to respond to people determined to misunderstand and erase it.
While CBC’s retraction and correction is a victory, the arrogance required to tell Canadians what to do when they witness a racist incident without a critical race lens needs to be interrogated. I hope they understand that there are ethical standards they must meet if they expect to be trusted, especially among non-white Canadians. We are owed an accountability that is overdue and seems very uncomfortable, but is necessary.
The topic of what to do when we see a racist incident is an important one to discuss, but to propose we have things so under control when it comes to racism here that a definitive list can be generated speaks to the need to continue to push progressive agendas that are holistic, equity centred and community minded.
I am certain that if it wasn’t for the backlash, CBC would have let this remain on the internet. It’s a reflection of a holier than thou mindset that Canada is a less racist country than others that wipes out the perspectives of anyone living on the margins, and for the most part centres white, monied, and able- bodied Canadians. It’s an erasure of humanity to ignore lived experience while giving advice. The rhetoric in the article speaks to what voices our national media continues to elevate, often in contradiction to a financial bottom line (marginalized people will tune in more if there is respect) or the true opinions and experiences of most Canadians. Particularly CBC in Vancouver - to be on the west coast of this country and ignore the constant oppression, abuse, and activism around Indigenous issues of this very kind is inexcusable.
Anishinaabe comedian, podcaster, and writer Ryan McMahon tells me:
“There’s an idea that if Indigenous people are off the reserve we lack community. We don’t. Our well-being is provided for and by each other on reserve, in town and in the hearts of the city. When we need something we turn to our community, it is where we find safety and love. Telling an Indigenous person, or more specifically, telling an Indigenous woman or two spirit person to turn to the police for safety is about as unlikely a scenario as finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Neither exist.”
Having a working knowledge of the history of policing in North America, particularly how the system (like white supremacy) has violently taken so much from Black and other racialized communities- has always made me extremely weary of the police. A few years ago, my job was to facilitate workshops between police, community organization leaders, and youth. The initiative was one of many we have in the city meant to ease tensions between marginalized communities and the police, and push the exhausting agenda that police should be able to comfortably move through neighbourhoods they investigate. This was around the same time we were getting more information about carding, and we discovered police were using unjustified street-checks and their community relationships to build a database of anyone they want.
Before that job, I worked on a provincial government initiative focused on youth outreach, community empowerment, social exclusion and youth violence. The space and entitlement given for police lobbying was overbearing. It was not about if they were involved, it was how much and it was always too much. It struck me that the majority of youth and police mentorship programs had a lot of Black children attending, and I wondered why is it so important for Black youth to trust police? Just because they have to see them all the time? I could not wrap my head around this and it stayed with me.
Police oversight leadership seemed so devoted to protecting the sanctity of policing, which to me seemed so far from accountability. It was only when I attended my first SIU inquest as an outsider years later that I understood the breadth and depth of how uncaring and dangerous the whole system is for Black people. I realized how deeply vested the police system was in two things: their image and their connection to Black communities. It terrified me because I could not see this in good faith while Black and Indigenous peoples are “disproportionately affected by police violence relative to other ethnicities.”
It can be overwhelming to reckon with the true reality of racism in this country, but we have to tell the truth if the aim is to neutralize it. Lists of suggestions for bystander interventions during a hate incident are not always unhelpful, but a critical race toolbox includes an evolving knowledge of the power structures in society that is honest in examining the deep and undeniable inequities in this country.
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Melayna Williams is a legal-educated, anti-racism advocate, writer and podcaster. Her work is grounded in community mobilization, social justice, critical race theory and intersectional feminism. She has worked in human rights law, education law, alternative dispute resolution and sexual assault crisis response. She hosts Black Tea on Frequency Podcast Network and her work has appeared in Macleans, Lainey Gossip, Flare, Vice, Photo District News, NOW Magazine and West End Phoenix.
The opinions in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
We Need Better Hate Crime Statistics
Here's how, and what journalists should do in the meantime
July 18, 2019
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Amira Elghawaby, Canadian Anti-Hate Network board member, writes in the Toronto Star:
"No one would have anticipated the ugly wave of hatred and anger that would rise up against Muslims and other minority communities just as the nation sought to grapple with the aftermath of the horrific massacre of six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque.
But new statistics show that hate crimes in 2017 year rose by nearly 50 per cent since the previous year. Crimes targeting Muslims increased by a staggering 151 per cent; those targeting Jews, by 63 per cent, and those targeting Black people, by 50 per cent, among other increases.
It’s clearly time for some deep reflection — particularly amongst our elected officials. What should have been a straightforward effort to examine the ongoing harassment and discrimination against minority communities that year became a highly contentious wedge issue. The steep price of pandering to populist tendencies couldn’t be more clear."
Police reported hate crimes increase nearly 50 per cent in 2017 - but that's just the tip of the iceberg
The police only report a small fraction of actual hate crimes to Statistics Canada
November 29, 2018
Evan Balgord & Amira Elghawaby
M103, the motion against Islamophobia, was a lightning rod for an anti-Muslim
street movement that firmly established itself in 2017. Source: Twitter.
The 2017 police reported hate crime statistics have been released. They show an increase in hate crimes across the board compared to 2016 with a larger increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims, Blacks, and Arabs. Every year the release of these statistics generates media stories and opinion pieces - almost always without reflecting the serious methodological issues with the statistics.
To us in the field, these statistics are an indication of something we already know and can be a way to share that knowledge with the public. Hate groups and dogwhistle politics have further normalized racist and hateful attitudes that create an increase in everyday bigotry, overt hate, and violence towards our neighbours. However, we know the bad data underestimates the size of the problem.
According to research by Dr. Barbara Perry and Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui, two of Canada's leading researchers on hate crime, there are systemic issues in how these numbers are collected and reported by law enforcement.
First – hate crime or a hate incident? Hate incidents are noncriminal harassment, while hate crimes must contain an element of criminality independent from the hate motivation. Some jurisdictions will take reports of both – others only take reports of hate crimes.
Over two thirds of victims of hate crimes don’t report to police. In some communities – and particularly among newer migrants – this number can be as high as 85 per cent.
Those that do report to police are sometimes discouraged from filing a report - in examples we've heard, either because it's not criminal (a hate incident) or because the officer doesn't believe they will be able to find the perpetrator and suggests to the victim that reporting is a waste of time. If the responding officer takes their report, the officer has to have to have the training to recognize an incident as a hate crime and tick a box on a form. In some jurisdictions, there will be another level of review which may remove the hate crime designation if there isn’t sufficient evidence (note: not disproving the incident, but not having the evidence to state it as fact either).
The cases that remain are stuck in limbo. If there is sufficient evidence to indicate the incident occurred and to move forward with an investigation, that case will be reflected in the numbers law enforcement pass to Statistics Canada. If the investigation isn’t going anywhere, it may not be included in the numbers. This process isn’t the same in every jurisdiction and the patchwork nature of hate crime training and reporting is another issue.
The result? Only a tiny proportion of hate crimes are reflected in the police reported statistics.
Then there are the issues of classification. For example, there are multiple categories an anti-Muslim hate crime can be coded as – racially based (eg. Arab) or based on religion (eg. Muslim). The system forces officers to make very subjective judgement calls - for example, race or religion, pick one - but bigots and racists often don’t draw these distinctions. In the United States, a Sikh man was killed in ‘retaliation’ shortly after 9/11. Often, brown skin is enough. Or consider this example – a swastika is scrawled over a poster of a woman in hijab. How should that be coded? Antisemitic, anti-woman (part of the 'other motivation' category), anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, or all of the above?
Since newer immigrant communities are less likely to report, and classification difficulties dilute the statistics further for groups and people with intersectional identities, some communities – like the Muslim community - are very likely underrepresented in the statistics.
We have a much better tool – in 2014 Statistics Canada did a survey on victimization as part of the General Social Survey. This self-report has its own methodological flaws but it’s the best tool we have, and suggests far higher levels of hate crimes across Canada.
That survey is scheduled to be repeated for release in 2019.
We need an audit and standardization of police-reported hate crimes. However, there is a more immediate solution. If we want a better measure of hate crimes in Canada, Statistics Canada should add additional questions and do the victimization survey every year.
Anti-Muslim blogger facing hate crime charge ran for mayor of Mississauga and came in second place
Kevin J. Johnston’s next court date is later this month
November 8, 2018
Kevin J. Johnston selling Faith Goldy for mayor t-shirts.
Elections in Ontario last month drew international media attention to the failed candidacy of Faith Goldy, a self-proclaimed propagandist for the alt-right neo-Nazi movement. Although she ended the Toronto mayoral race in distant third place, she received more than 25,000 votes, or 3.4 per cent of the total ballots cast.
In nearby Mississauga, Canada’s sixth largest city, anti-Muslim blogger Kevin J. Johnston came second in the mayoral race, securing 13.5 per cent of the vote — despite facing a hate crime charge.
For many, Johnston may have been the default protest vote against Mayor Bonnie Crombie. The third-place candidate received less than 4 per cent of the vote.
Police charged Johnston in June 2017 with wilful promotion of hatred against Muslims following a five-month investigation. The case is still before the courts. If convicted, he could face up to two years in prison.
Johnston’s record of anti-Muslim activism goes back several years.
In 2015, he led a racist campaign against a proposed mosque in Mississauga. On his website StopTheMosque.com, Johnston claimed without evidence that the Meadowvale Islamic Centre would lead to an increase in vandalism and sexual assaults, and that the mosque’s presence would erode free speech and women’s rights. He published an article on his website in 2016 baselessly accusing Muslim high school students of widespread sexual assault against their classmates and inciting Mississauga residents to “take the law into your own hands.”
Johnston publishes daily videos on his website, where he has called for violence and harassment against Muslims. In early 2017, he offered a $1,000 bounty for videos of Muslim children praying in Peel Region schools. In another video, according to the Toronto Star, Johnston said it was time to “take our masculinity back and beat the living hell out of Muslims.”
“Pin them down on the ground, and beat them until they pass out. And when they’re passed out, you beat them further; and when they’re on the ground passed out, kick them, break a kneecap, break an elbow, press their hands backwards turn their wrists sideways, start breaking these guys down,” Johnston said in the video.
Leila Nasr, the communications coordinator for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said such quotes underline how disturbing it is that Johnston received 16,079 votes for mayor.
“Mississauga is an incredibly diverse community with a significant Muslim population, which makes the vile sentiments expressed by Mr. Johnston even more concerning to us,” Nasr told the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “Like many in the community we are very troubled that these elements not only exist, but have increased in prominence so quickly.”
Johnston also regularly attacks women, the LGBTQ+ community, and others. His videos rarely receive more than a few hundreds views online, and his crowdfunded Patreon account receives a paltry $31 a month from supporters. Johnston has appeared on Rebel Media shows and until at least December of 2017, he co-hosted a YouTube series called Rebel Yell with Rebel correspondent David Menzies. He has also been a guest on the far-right conspiracy outlet InfoWars.
Johnston previously ran for mayor of Mississauga in 2014, when he came in 11th place with 741 votes, comprising 0.5% of the final tally. His second-place finish last month marks a dramatic increase in support.
Johnston’s campaign appeared to downplay his inflammatory views. On his campaign website, Johnston listed housing, crime, and transportation issues as some of his top priorities. Johnston claims he would have won if the media covered his campaign. He was not invited to the main election debate, held at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. The Mississauga News published an op-ed by Johnston about his campaign that didn’t mention his hate crime charge and ran without any sort of editorial note.
In an interview with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Johnston said that while his campaign website highlighted local issues, he did not hide his views about Islam and other social issues during private conversations with Mississauga voters. He claims to have taken part in over 100 public speaking engagements.
Unlike in 2014, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie did not face an established opponent in the election and won re-election with 77% of the vote, suggesting Johnston benefited as the default alternative or protest vote against the incumbent from voters who may not have been aware of his record.
“In the better part of 15,000 people I spoke to over the course of five months,” says Johnston, “everyone said the same thing - they hate Bonnie Crombie - they just didn’t know who the alternative was.”
Johnston continues to produce videos targeting Muslims, LGBTQ+ persons and others and said he plans to run more political campaigns in the future, as well as finish a documentary that denies Myanmar is carrying out a campaign of what the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. Johnston was allowed into the country to work on this ‘documentary’, escorted by military handlers, while Reuters journalists were imprisoned.
Johnston livestreamed our interview on his Youtube and Facebook channels. In the same video he says that “LGBTQ laws” would legalize the rape of four-year-olds by adult men. At other points in the interview and his subsequent monologue, Johnston said Islam is not a religion but a political ideology, and that he refuses to eat halal meat or fly on airplanes with Muslim pilots. In response to a viewer question, he encouraged parents to train their children to respond to bullying with extreme violence such as breaking bones, adding that the children’s criminal records would be expunged at age 18 anyway. In arguing for the superiority of “Western culture,” Johnston said: "African culture right now is to just walk around the country and kill white people. Rape them first, then kill them second." He described new immigrants from Muslim-majority countries as violent “psychopaths.”
"We have imported 100,000 psychopaths into this country and they're going to choke you, they're going to hit your kids, they're going to lift your daughters' skirts up and grab their asses," Johnston said.
Johnston says his lawyer was recently in court to receive disclosure from the crown regarding the hate crime charge and that there will be another court date at the end of November to review that disclosure.
Asked about the election result, Mississauga Mayor Crombie said the city remains a place where diversity is respected: “I think we can all be more vigilant to call out hate and discrimination and to better vet our candidates for office.”