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Winnipeg restaurant owner speaking out after hateful message left on her car

Pad Thai Restaurant owner Claire Venevongsa says she was shocked to find a vulgar note left on her vehicle after leaving work Wednesday night. Global News has blurred the photo. Courtesy of Claire Venevongsa

The Asian-Canadian owner of a Winnipeg restaurant is speaking out after she says she’s been the victim of several hateful attacks over the last year.

In the latest incident, Claire Venevongsa, owner of Pad Thai Restaurant on Portage Avenue in St. James, said she left the restaurant Wednesday night to find someone had left a note that included a vulgar swear word scrawled in mud on the hood of her car.

Read more: Coronavirus fears could result in racism aimed at local Asian community: Winnipeg prof

“I was quite shocked,” Venevongsa told Global News this week.

“They targeted me. They know who I am, where I live, where I work — that’s the scary part.”

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Venevongsa reported the note to police, who confirmed they are investigating.

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And while police told Global News they are not investigating the threatening note as a possible hate crime, Venevongsa says she feels the action was racially-motivated because her restaurant has been targeted before.

She said over the past year, the building in which her restaurant is located was vandalized with graffiti and the restaurant has also received harassing phone calls.

Read more: Suspect in Atlanta spa shootings that left 6 Asian women dead charged with murder

The note left on Venevongsa’s car comes as police in the United States are investigating whether racism played a role in the fatal shooting of eight people, the majority of whom were Asian American, at three different Atlanta massage parlours Tuesday.

In total, six of the people killed as a result of the shootings were Asian and two were white. All but one were women.

A 21-year-old man is facing multiple charges in connection with the shootings.

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The shootings have sparked outrage among Asian communities, who viewed the attacks as racially-motivated.

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Jié Yang from the Asian Heritage Society of Manitoba says he has seen an increase in racism against Asian-Canadians — especially online — since the start of the pandemic last year.

While Yang says Canada hasn’t seen many cases of physical violence against Asian-Canadians, he’s worried the online hate may eventually spread into the real world.

Read more: Coronavirus: CUPE survey reveals anti-Asian racism towards Manitoba health-care workers

“I am personally concerned about my parents, who are senior citizens, that go out every day that they might be the victim of racism and violence,” he said.

“I really hope that what’s happening in the US doesn’t pour over into Canada.”

Yang says it’s important for everybody to call out racism when they see it happening.

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“It starts everywhere, it starts in the classroom, it starts at home, and there should be policies put in place where people feel comfortable to report racism,” he said.

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“It’s very important to denounce it and hold people who are committing racist acts accountable.”

Venevongsa said while she would normally keep quiet about the things that have happened to her, she hopes to spark a conversation by raising her voice now.

Read more: City to address racism in Winnipeg with Anti-Racism Week March 21-27

“There may be other people experiencing what I experienced … I want people to be open to know and talk about it,” she said.

“If there’s a problem we bring it on the table, educate everybody, solve the problem — create a better environment for our kids.”

–With files from Malika Karim. Emerald Bensadoun and Gabrielle Marchand

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