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‘It’s up to all of us’: B.C. woman speaks out after intervening in racist incident

Mira Oreck was in line at this Home Hardware when she says a woman began berating an Asian man. .
Mira Oreck was in line at this Home Hardware when she says a woman began berating an Asian man. . Global News

An East Vancouver woman is speaking out after intervening in a racist incident on Commercial Drive.

Mira Oreck was in line for the Home Hardware at Gravely Street with her son Thursday afternoon, when she heard a commotion behind her.

“A woman in the line was yelling at another man in the line who happened to be Chinese, telling him to move away from her, to move back to Wuhan, and that he was going to get her sick.”

READ MORE: Alleged racist comments investigated near park in Richmond, B.C.

Police have documented an uptick in racist incidents, particularly those targeting people of Asian descent, since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Cases have ranged from graffiti to verbal harassment to full-on violent assaults.

City of Vancouver speaks out against racism
City of Vancouver speaks out against racism

At least 20 anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported to Vancouver police so far this year, compared to 12 in all of 2019.

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In recent incidents, a young woman was punched in the face while waiting for a bus in what Vancouver police called an “unprovoked attack” and a 92-year-old man was assaulted outside a convenience store on March 13.

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Oreck, an NDP candidate in the 2015 Federal election, said even though she is pregnant, she was compelled to intervene.

“We keep hearing about these things happening, and here it was happening before my eyes,” she told Global News.

Vancouver Chinese Cultural Centre attacked with racist vandalism
Vancouver Chinese Cultural Centre attacked with racist vandalism

“I just felt the sting of her hate, and it was not directed towards me … the man who it was directed towards just made himself so invisible I felt sick about it all.”

Oreck said she told the woman her comments were hateful and unacceptable.

She said the woman defended the comments by saying that people were dying of the virus, but ended her tirade towards the man.

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In at least one recent racist incident in Vancouver, a Good Samaritan who intervened was seriously hurt.

Oreck said she understands why people may feel hesitant to get involved, but that it is important to show people targeted by racism that they are supported.

READ MORE: Suspect sought in hate crime at Vancouver’s Chinese Cultural Centre

“Hate is clearly on the rise … and it’s up to all of us to speak out and say something, even if you’re not sure what to say, just intervene,” said Oreck.

“I could tell that other people around me were happy that I spoke out, and they could show me support for saying so.”