Blog: Asian Canadians’ safety amidst the pandemic

March 1, 2021

Starting this past summer, ESPC has released a series of posts focusing on racism in Canada: its history and influence on those working to dismantle systems of oppression. Racism and discrimination are deeply rooted in the structures in which we operate, and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted these systemic inequities.

With the rising coverage of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in the United States, it would be unwise to think that these discriminatory behaviours are not present within Canadian borders. Reports released by Statistics Canada (2020) found that Asian Canadians perceived an increase in race-based discrimination, which has risen since the pandemic’s onset. Specifically, 18% of visible minority participants perceived an increase in the frequency of harassment or attacks based on race, ethnicity or skin colour—three times greater than the rest of the population (6%). Chinese (30%), Korean (27%), and Southeast Asian (19%) participants were disproportionately more likely to perceive these kinds of threats. Moreover, the reports demonstrated that Asian Canadians were more likely to experience discrimination in public areas, and that harassment was typically based on race or skin colour. More visible minority groups have accessed victim support services since the pandemic began.

Similarly, a survey by Project 1907, a community organization in Vancouver,  found that anti-Asian incidents mostly occurred in public spaces. These incidents involved assault—most of the respondents reported verbal harassment such as racial slurs and threats of violence. According to Project 1907’s reporting centre, a community-based tool to track anti-Asian racism incidents, there have been over 600 events since the pandemic began. The actual number could, however, be much higher, as only reported incidents are collected and much of the data was sourced from British Columbia and Ontario. Imagine how much higher the number could be if the data included reports from across all Canadian provinces.

Media outlets and police services have also reported an increase in hate crimes since the start of the pandemic. Public announcements that indirectly highlight visible minority groups lead to increased risk and insecurity within these populations These racialized groups also have a reduced sense of belonging in their communities .

Anti-Asian incidents often go unreported. Various organizations such as Covid RacismElimin8Hate, and Act2EndRacism have created safe reporting tools, for those who may be uncomfortable reporting to police, that aggregate race-based data across Canada. These organizations will use this data to develop anti-racism initiatives and advocate for better policies.

Alberta is currently collecting race-based data in relation to COVID-19 impact, , but the government has chosen publicly release the data. Multiple organizations and academics, however, have pushed for this data to be shared widely. Using race-based data will help assess and understand the impacts of racism on marginalized groups.

ESPC’s recent feature article, Confronting Racism with Data: Why Canada Needs Disaggregated Race-Based Data, reported that current gaps in race-based data must be filled in order to understand the relationship between sociodemographic characteristics and the pandemic’s disproportionate impact  on racialized communities. The collection of race-based data will also allow service providers and governing bodies to monitor various program success rates. If collected correctly, race-based data can identify and address systemic inequities, hold governments and public institutions accountable, and validate racialized peoples’ lived experiences.

Asian Canadians and other visible minority communities are fighting the pandemic along with the health and economic burdens of systemic inequities. Consider supporting local and national organizations in your area that continue to provide support services to Asian Canadians. Help them through these challenging times.

You can also report a racist incident using the links below—available in multiple languages!

  • File a Report — Elimin8hate – The Elimin8hate reporting centre will collect data on incidents of racism, hate and violence experienced by the Asian diaspora in Canada. Data will be used to develop strategies, design interventions, raise awareness, advocate for policies, and improve our communities’ outcomes.
  • ACT2ENDRACISM – Asian Canadians Together to end racism – The data will help identify trends (new and recurring) and will be used to inform policy, service, and future anti-racism initiatives.

Source list:

Perceptions of personal safety among population groups designated as visible minorities in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and visible minority groups’ perceptions of safety Infographic:

Project 1907 Reporting Centre:

Canada’s COVID-19 blind spots on race, immigration and labour:

ESPC Blog Special Series — Using Race-Based Data as a Form of Transparency and Accountability:

Alberta is now collecting race-based COVID-19 data but won’t publish it yet | CBC News:

ESPC Feature Report — Confronting Racism with Data: Why Canada Needs Disaggregated Race-Based Data:



Posted by:

Justine Basilan

Related categories: Blog: Miscellaneous | Blog: Racism
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