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We have Anti-Asian Racism here, too.

I’m still thinking about the rally to Stop Asian Hate that I attended last weekend. At that rally, I heard from an amazing group of speakers that made me think deeply about this issue. One young woman in particular said something that felt like a lightning bolt hitting me right between the eyes: “We are tired of being viewed as ‘Forever Foreign’.” It got straight to the heart of the matter. Despite being part of our country for centuries, Asian Canadians are still treated as “others.”

Anti-Asian racism isn’t new in Canada. We have a long, shameful history that dates back over a century. One of the earliest examples was the introduction of the Chinese Head Tax in 1885. In the years prior to the Head Tax, over 15,000 young Chinese men were used to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. As soon as the project was completed, the Head Tax was enacted to prevent those labourers’ families from joining them in Canada. The Government doubled down on this racist policy in 1923 when it passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which completely banned Chinese immigration for over two decades. The Head Tax and Exclusion Act left many Canadians, some our own grandparents and great-grandparents, with the impression that Chinese people could be used without regard for their humanity, or that they didn’t belong here at all. We continued to perpetrate anti-Asian racism with the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War Two. Over 20,000 Japanese Canadians were taken from their homes and either detained in camps or deported. My mother made sure my siblings and I understood how wrong this was at a very early age. She grew up next to a Japanese Canadian family that was forcibly taken from their farm in rural BC and put in an Ontario internment camp during the war. Though I was quite young, I will never forget driving across town to Downsview shortly after moving to Toronto in 1967 so my mom could reunite with her childhood friends she hadn’t seen for 25 years. While it’s important to understand our history, we also have to acknowledge that anti-Asian racism isn’t just part of our past. It continues today when we devalue and deny paid sick days to frontline workers, most of whom are racialized and women. It’s most apparent in the growing number of violent attacks against Asian people since the beginning of the pandemic. Just this week, an elderly Asian woman was viciously assaulted in Manhattan. Witnesses did nothing to assist the victim even after her assailant walked away. I take no comfort from the fact that this specific incident happened in America. Anti-Asian hate crimes are increasing across the country here in Canada. Children have been physically assaulted and elderly people spat on and coughed at. Nearly every day, a member of my team takes a call where an Asian member of our community, your neighbour, is referred to with bias.

It is finally time to recognize something about ourselves. We have to admit that our approach to our Asian neighbours as “Forever Foreign” is based solely on race. Many of us do not see ourselves as racist, but we have to take a hard look at the way we’re treating certain members of our community. This pandemic has made us all sit with our own thoughts for more hours than we ever wanted. Maybe that’s for the best. It has allowed us to finally face the biggest wrongs in our world. I believe we all have roles to play in the change that needs to happen. We have to look at ways to dismantle anti-Asian racism in our own communities. Wherever you are in Ward 17, you may be feeling hurt and fearful if you’re a part of the Asian Canadian community. If you aren’t, you need to look at what you can do to support your neighbours. I’ve heard from folks living right here in Don Valley North who are afraid to go for walks alone out of fear they’ll be verbally or physically attacked. Families who felt scared to celebrate Lunar New Year, one of the biggest celebrations in East Asian cultures. Young people, seniors, and mothers who have had racial slurs yelled at them on the TTC or at the grocery store. It’s shameful that Asian Canadian members of our community are being treated this way. There are many ways you can take action. If you’re part of a community organization, take a look at what you can do to show the community that you stand against anti-Asian racism. Learn about the work that other organizations are doing, like the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice and the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, and support their initiatives. Here in Don Valley North, we have amazing organizations like Hong Fook providing essential care and mental health services to our Asian community. You can also learn about the hate crimes taking place here in Canada, and how you can report them. As your Councillor, I am here to provide allyship and support. My team and I can help you navigate concerns and connect with resources if you’ve experienced anti-Asian racism. I want to listen to your experiences and hear your input on what my office can do to help. I know this is not something that one rally or E-Blast can solve. Fighting anti-Asian racism takes sustained, collective action. I will advocate for and support our community in any way I can, starting right here in Don Valley North.


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