Hundreds turned out to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday in a show of solidarity against anti-Asian racism.
Similar rallies were held in Penticton, the Tri-Cities, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.
The event came in the wake of a multiple shooting in Atlanta, GA., that many have labeled a hate crime, and amid a surge in anti-Asian racism at home in British Columbia.
“I’ve been in Canada for 49 years, I’ve spent most of my life here, this is the only home I know, but I’ve never felt 100 per cent at home,” rally attendee Andrew Li told Global News.
“In the recent past year with the pandemic, there has been ever-growing fear-mongering and hatred towards Asians.”
Statistics presented to the Vancouver Police Board in January showed anti-Asian hate crimes were up 717 per cent in the city in 2020.
Over the last year, there have been multiple reports of racist incidents, ranging from verbal harassment and graffiti to spitting incidents and outright assaults.
Binci Lai told Global News anti-Asian racism has always been present in Canada, though socially submerged.
“Growing up there was a lot of racism, even though it’s minimized by a lot of jokes … a lot of people don’t acknowledge racism, it’s silenced and used as a way to pit us against other minorities. A lot of it is covert and microaggressions,” she said.
Lai grew up in Vancouver, but like Li, said she always felt Asians weren’t fully accepted in Canada, adding both Asian men and women are subjected to racist stereotypes of submissiveness and femininity.
She said the twin pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and former U.S. president Donald Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric have served to push it to the surface.
“Racism has always been here, has always been alive, but it was swept under the rug,” she said.
“The pandemic and a lot of comments from Trump calling COVID the ‘China virus,’ the ‘Kung Flu virus’, has exacerbated the racism and has made it more overt and more physical.”
In February, B.C. Premier John Horgan said an anti-racism bill being developed by his government was nearing its “final form” and would head to the legislature soon.