Demonstrators rallied against anti-Asian racism outside the B.C. legislature on Sunday as they tried to bring awareness to the issue and joined Stop Asian Hate events taking place across the country.
People are gathering at demonstrations across North America this weekend as calls to address hate and violence against the Asian community have intensified since the March 16 Atlanta-area spa shootings —where six women of Asian descent were among the eight people killed.
At least 150 people were at Sunday’s event, where speakers from the crowd told stories of the racism they’ve faced in their own lives, bringing several of them to tears.
“We are gathered here today to acknowledge anyone who’s been discriminated against, unfairly attacked or degraded due to their race or the colour of their skin,” organizer Leighla Foster said to the crowd.
She said the pandemic has caused a rise in anti-Asian hate in Canada and across the world.
“I wanted to send the message that racism is never acceptable and we can take steps to prevent it,”
Foster told Black Press Media, adding that her mother has been a target of racism.
“If you see someone being targeted, say something because racism is a problem that can only be solved if there’s awareness.”
Another speaker, Betty Tsai, said she’s been called racial slurs since the age of seven and now fears her kids will go through the same thing.
“This is real and it’s not just the pandemic, it’s been all my life ,” she said, adding that it “heartwarming” to see support at the rally.
Elder Rose Henry, who received the Intercultural Trust award from B.C. for her anti-racism work, said we must step up and face the issue of racism head-on.
“We can eradicate almost any issue when we act as one,” said Henry, before leading the crowd in a “the people, united, will never be defeated” chant.
Other speakers at the event, on the steps of the B.C. legislature, brought up Canada’s historically racist treatment of Asian Canadians.
In a statement on Sunday, British Columbia’s parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives said the province remembers the Atlanta shooting victims and recognized Canada isn’t immune to anti-Asian racism.
“The Asian Canadian community has demonstrated inspiring resiliency. The strength and spirit of our communities will not be diminished,” said Rachna Singh. “We must speak out against racism when we see it, as uncomfortable as it is.”
Singh said racism leaves a lasting impact that hurts physically and mentally. She said the government will commit to stand with Asian Canadians, against racism.
“We will not let senseless and illogical hatred, based on the colour of our skin, intimidate or make us feel like we are less than others.”