Throughout history, pandemics have spread with devastating consequences. However, because the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, there’s been cases of unwarranted discrimination toward Asians in Canada and elsewhere. It is un-Canadian to denigrate this community, especially in our multicultural nation with two official languages, 66 Indigenous languages, and 128 immigrant languages.
By stigmatizing Asians-Canadians who have nothing to do with the pandemic, we tarnish our own society’s values and give support to the Beijing narrative alleging Western racism. We criticize the Chinese regime for its repression of freedom for its own citizens and of truth; we do not criticize its diaspora here.
The Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice is documenting experiences of the community in relation to COVID-19. Members handed out “Stop the Spread of Racism” hand sanitizers in Toronto to raise awareness. Their Facebook page gives an example of someone posting photos of Asian women wearing face masks in public and then falsely declaring them as presumptive cases.
It’s more than just dirty looks, microaggressions, and prejudiced remarks. People have avoided sitting beside Asians on public transportation. Uber drivers have refused to pick them up or have cancelled their rides. There are Facebook posts labelling Asians as “dirty” or “disease-ridden.”
A woman who’d lived in Canada for 10 years was told by a stranger to “go back to China” while shopping at a Vancouver grocery store. She was wearing a face mask to protect herself and her unborn child from the virus. In Toronto, an emergency room nurse says she was spat on and verbally assaulted because she was Asian.
Such discriminatory words and actions are unjustifiable and unacceptable. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate based on race; xenophobia won’t protect anyone from the virus.
In Montreal, religious statues were smashed at Buddhist temples and a cultural centre. Lion statues at the entrance to Montreal’s Chinatown were splashed with paint. A Korean man was stabbed in mid-March, leaving local Asian-Canadians concerned and frightened. It’s grossly unfair to blame them for COVID-19.
Asian-Canadians bear no responsibility for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mis-governance. Canadians, waiting under self-isolation and stay-at-home orders, read how the police state’s concealment for weeks of the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan and inaccurate messages on transmission enabled the global spread of it and ended—hopefully only temporarily—many Canadian jobs. In these days of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and White Nationalism, discrimination and abuse against Asians is the last thing we need.
There is much to criticize in the actions of the CCP—the Xinjiang internment camps holding more than a million Uyghur Muslims and the horror of involuntary organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience, for starters. But such criticism is directed specifically at the CCP. Chinese citizens face arrest and imprisonment if they criticize their unelected government. Wuhan residents have often been heroic in opposing the irresponsibility of the party-state in concealing COVID-19.
The way to reduce the impact of China’s authoritarian regime is not through victimizing innocent people because of their origins. They should not feel alone or fearful living in Canada. We must let them know that we have their backs.
David Kilgour, a lawyer by profession, served in Canada’s House of Commons for almost 27 years. In Jean Chretien’s Cabinet, he was secretary of state (Africa and Latin America) and secretary of state (Asia-Pacific). He is the author of several books and co-author with David Matas of “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.”
Michael Davidson is a former public servant, now retired, with an interest in Canadian and international human rights issues.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.