It was a strong show of support for members of the Asian community as hundreds of people gathered at Calgary’s Olympic Plaza to denounce anti-Asian racism and targeted hate towards the group.
Sunday’s “Stop Asian Hate” rally joined other protests across Canada, including in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, in a growing movement calling for an end to violence.
Organizers told Global News the rally was meant to bring awareness to injustice against Asians and to mourn innocent lives lost.
“We are hosting this rally in hopes of keeping our communities safe, and we are trying to advocate (for) harmony in this multi-ethnic society,” co-organizer Jun Lin said.
In Atlanta, six of eight people killed in a shooting were women of Asian descent. The killings sparked a surge of rallies in support of Asians across North America.
Community leaders like Terry Wong of the Chinatown Business Improvement Area said the group attended the rally to speak out against Asian hate.
“There’s been a lot of hate represented in Chinatowns across North America… We want to let people know, ‘We welcome you. Please welcome us,'” Wong said.
Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer was among the speakers at the rally. She said everyone plays a role in stopping racism.
“When you see these kinds of things happen, we have a responsibility, not only to honour those who have left us but to make sure we do not allow these things to continue,” she said.
“(Sunday) is also Holi for the Southeast Asians, for my community, which is the triumph of good over evil and light over evil, and there’s never been a better time to celebrate those attributes,” she said.
“If we’re not willing to stand up and call it when it happens and shine a big light on it, it will never change,” Aheer told Global News. “It’s a solvable problem, if we do it together.”
A recent report by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter found there were 1,150 incidents of anti-Asian racism in Canada during the pandemic.
Many incidents involved people physically attacking, spitting at or coughing on Asian Canadians, the report said.
‘It’s important to raise this issue’
Racism was something 18-year-old Jing Hu has only recently experienced.
Hu is a co-founder of a volunteer group that helps youths get active during the pandemic.
Last May, hackers Zoom-bombed the youth group’s Zoom call and sent racist messages telling the group to “go back to China” and that they all “belong in sweatshops.”
“It’s hard to go back and review what happened but I think it’s important to raise this issue,” Hu said. “Events like this help us to speak up about our experiences, and I think what’s really important is it’s an opportunity to educate people about how their actions or words are harmful,” she said.
“It provides a voice for those who cannot speak up and a voice for those who are afraid to speak up.”
Hu’s mother May Han told Global News her daughter, who was 17 years old at the time, cried for two days.
“I was shocked and speechless… I knew as a parent, I had to do something,” she said, adding they planned another youth Zoom event.
Han has deep roots in the Asian community in Calgary and helped organize Sunday’s rally.
She told Global News a headcount saw close to 600 people. Calgary police were not able to provide a tally by publishing time.