Gurpreet Singh: Seasoned broadcaster and antiracism campaigner calls for an end to hate against Chinese people

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      Amid growing bigotry against people of Asian origin during the COVID-19 pandemic, the founder of a multicultural radio station has urged everyone to maintain calm and be kind.

      Back in January 2015, the CEO of Burnaby-based Spice Radio, Shushma Datt, started a campaign against racism on the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.

      The #HandsAgainstRacism initiative has entered its sixth year and aims to educate people to be against discrimination in any form.  

      To mark the beginning of Asian Heritage Month on May 1, she called upon her listeners and the community at large not to indulge in scapegoating people of Asian origin, especially those of Chinese descent, when the entire world needs to fight back against COVID-19 together.

      Close to 250,000 human lives have been lost to the pandemic, which originated in China. Since then, Canada has witnessed a spike in hateful incidents against people of Asian ancestry.

      The Vancouver Police Department has already confirmed this.

      Datt believes that this is both because of ignorance and the anti-Chinese rhetoric of right-wing political figures like U.S. president Donald Trump.  Trump has been accusing China of spreading the disease and called it the “China virus”. 

      In response, Datt asked her Spice Radio audience on Sunday (May 3) morning to support Chinese restaurants and other local businesses to strengthen the Canadian economy.

      Early this year, B.C.'s minister of state for childcare, Katrina Chen, visited Spice Radio to participate in the campaign and share her concerns over growing animosity against people of Chinese ancestry.

      She noted that there have been attempts by right-wing forces to polarize people in Canada—and alleged that they are trying to take advantage of the current crisis.

      Only recently, a Conservative MP, Derek Sloan, questioned the nationalism of Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, who was born in Hong Kong.

      Tam has been giving updates on COVID-19 in Canada and advising the government on necessary measures to contain the virus. Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh denounced Sloan's statement.

      Vancouver police recently released these images of a suspect in connection with hateful messages posted on the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver.

      Datt thinks that Trudeau has shown leadership by trying to take the Chinese community into his embrace.

      “Unlike Trump, he isn’t bashing any particular group of people”, she said.  

      Notably in February, Trudeau went to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate his daughter’s birthday to dispel fears.

      Years ago, people of Chinese ancestry faced a similar situation in the aftermath of the deadly SARS virus hitting the country. The then-Liberal prime minister, Jean Chrétien, also went to a Chinese restaurant to show his solidarity. 

      In the meantime, Spice Radio named Harsha Walia and Kal Dosanjh as this year’s recipients of its annual awards for fighting against racism.

      Walia is a published author and social justice activist, whereas Dosanjh is a Vancouver police detective and founded a registered charity called KidsPlay  Youth Foundation to educate youngsters to avoid violence, racism. and gangs.

      Long-time antiracism activist Harsha Walia was honoured this year by Shushma Datt and Spice Radio.

      The event that was supposed to be held in Surrey on March 21 but had to be postponed indefinitely due to the public health emergency. Nevertheless, the conversation on racism continues on Spice Radio's airwaves.

      Gurpreet Singh is a cofounder of Radical Desi and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.