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Anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver hit high in 2020

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-04 12:38

Hate-crime incidents against Asians in Vancouver, British Columbia, increased by more 700 percent last year, according to a police report.

Anti-Asian specific hate crimes spiked the highest among all crimes at 717 percent, with 98 incidents in 2020, growing from 12 reports in the year before, the Vancouver Police Board said in a year-end report last week.

The majority of such incidents occurred in May and then slowed since the summer, according to Vancouver Police Department representative Constable Tania Visinitin. "The trauma and psychological impact from these incidents trumps everything," she told CTV News.

She said police officers have reached out to the community to encourage people to report hate crimes and to let them know that the force took the allegations seriously.

While the increase in reported hate crime is lower than what was reported in October — when a report comparing the first nine months of 2020 to the same period in 2019 showed hate crime was up 878 percent — it is still an increase of 717 percent.

BC Premier John Horgan called the number of crimes "deeply troubling".

"We need to make sure that violence against people of color is not just treated as violence, but in fact hate crimes, which carry much stiffer penalties," Horgan said on Feb 26.

He said that "what inspires me is discussions I had with the Chinese community through Lunar New Year celebrations" and a "sense of comfort that more and more people are stepping up to defend people if they find themselves being attacked verbally in public places".

The BC Prosecution Service said in terms of hate crimes as defined in the criminal code just one hate charge was approved in 2020.

At an unrelated news conference, Horgan said BC’s solicitor general was speaking to police about the importance of prosecuting hate crimes.

He said there is "more difficulty in prosecutions" but that "doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow through and make sure that people understand in BC if you’re going to turn against people (based on their race), you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That’s the message Solicitor General Farnworth is delivering, and I expect law enforcement to follow up on that".

Farnworth has been working with law enforcement across BC to reinforce the government’s priority of prosecuting hate crimes. The BC government is planning to introduce anti-racism legislation this year.

In the spring of last year, Vancouver Deputy Chief Constable Howard Chow said police had identified "some concerning trends".

In late May, Vancouver police reported a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, with 29 investigations opened since the beginning of 2020, compared to four over the same period in 2019. Among incidents reported publicly were repeated vandalism of the Chinese Cultural Centre and an attack on a 92-year-old man with dementia.

In April, police said someone wrote "disturbing, racist remarks toward the Asian community" on large glass windows of the cultural centre in Chinatown. Stone lions at Millennium Gate, the entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown, were targeted twice by racist graffiti in May.

Chow said police placed a camera at the cultural centre and Millennium Gate and have been meeting with community groups and associations in Chinatown to raise awareness and to ensure incidents are reported. The police department has also created a new hate crimes project team and made reporting forms available in Chinese languages.

A poll of Vancouver residents conducted halfway through last year showed nearly one-quarter of respondents of East or South Asian descent said they had been the target of racial slurs or insults. The poll coincided with the arrival of COVID-19 in the province.

"I had to go back and recheck the numbers. I thought maybe there’s something wrong with these calculations, maybe there’s something wrong with the way the whole data set is working," said Mario Canseco, head of polling firm Research Co, which surveyed 1,600 British Columbians between May 8 and May 17. "I went back and checked it several times, and it’s still 24 percent of South Asian and East Asian residents say, ‘Yes, this happened to me.’ It was very disheartening.

"To have it at 24 percent with these two groups certainly suggests that there’s a lot of people out there who are dissatisfied with the way things are going and they are taking it out on those who look different than them," he added.

Seven percent of people of European descent said they had been the target of racially motivated abuse over the same period of time.

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