Coronavirus: Vancouver woman punched for sneezing in latest racist assault

Click to play video: 'More racist attacks reported in Lower Mainland amid COVID-19' More racist attacks reported in Lower Mainland amid COVID-19
Metro Vancouver has recorded two more racist attacks in what has become a disturbing and ugly side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grace Ke reports – May 17, 2020

An Indigenous Vancouver woman says she is the latest victim of a racist attack driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dakota Holmes told Global News she was walking her dog Kato in Gray’s Park near 33rd Avenue and Fraser Street when a man nearby heard her sneeze.

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“He came up and assumed I was Asian and was yelling all these racist slurs at me, and then he punched me in the face,” she said.

Holmes’ dog Kato intervened and scared the man away, but Holmes was left with visible bruises on her face.

Vancouver police say they were called to a potentially racially-motivated assault in the area around 8:30 p.m.

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The case has been turned over to the VPD’s diversity section, and is being led by hate crimes investigators.

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“As a police service, we work hard to build strong relationships with marginalized groups in our community and encourage anyone who has experienced hate, bigotry, or discrimination to call us,” said Sgt. Aaron Roed.

“Hate crimes and hate incidents have always been significantly under-reported.”

Roed said no one has been arrested in the incident.

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“It’s crazy, it’s ridiculous that even with COVID-19 and all that happening, the racism has picked up, if anything,” said Holmes.

READ MORE: Man accused of racially motivated attack on B.C. bus dies of overdose: police

“You hear it on the news, you see it, you read it, you don’t ever think it’s going to happen to you.”

Click to play video: 'City of Vancouver speaks out against racism' City of Vancouver speaks out against racism
City of Vancouver speaks out against racism – May 2, 2020

Holmes’ father is a special advisor to Premier John Horgan, and she is an employee of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).

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UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip called the attack “disgusting” and “cowardly,” and called for stronger penalties for racists assaults and assaults on women.

“There needs to be harsher consequences undertaken against the perpetrators of these vicious assaults on women of colour,” said Phillip.

“Racism is a reality that demands greater accountability. We’ve seen the failures of society. Racism will continue to manifest itself for as long as there is a higher tolerance for that type of behaviour.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver police seek help in identifying hate crime suspect' Vancouver police seek help in identifying hate crime suspect
Vancouver police seek help in identifying hate crime suspect – May 1, 2020

There has been a disturbing increase in incidents of anti-Asian racism around Metro Vancouver since the pandemic began, ranging from graffiti to verbal harassment to violent assaults.

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READ MORE: Suspect wanted in hate-crime assault of 92-year-old Asian man in Vancouver

According to Vancouver police, as of May 1 there had been 20 anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the first four months of the year, compared to 12 in all of 2019.

Holmes says the trend shows that it is more important than ever to speak out against racism, and for people who have been targeted to come forward and share their stories.

“We’re all in this together,” she said.

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