During the pandemic, numerous concerns and reports have chronicled and raised concerns about the rise in hate crimes, particularly those directed against people who appear to be Chinese, East Asian, or Southeast Asian.
In addition, Indigenous community members in B.C. have also experienced COVID-19-related racism.
The Vancouver Police Department has previously reported a 717-percent increase in anti-Asian hate crime cases from 2019 to 2020, and now Burnaby RCMP are reporting a similar trend.
Delta police are reporting an escalation of hate crime incidents—but, in contrast, these cases do not involve Asian targets.
Meanwhile, in the wake of Canada banning flights from Indian and Pakistan, the B.C. government is moving to prevent any racist targeting of South Asian people, and is also raising awareness about reporting hate crimes.
This month, Burnaby RCMP found that anti-Asian hate crimes surged by 350 percent from six incidents in 2019 to 27 cases in 2020.
In 2019, six out of 20 hate-motivated offences, or 30 percent, involved an Asian victim or target.
In contrast, there were 27 out of 43 hate crimes, or 63 percent, that involved an Asian victim or target in 2020.
Burnaby RCMP Supt. Graham De la Gorgendiere stated in a news release that offences include property damage, offensive graffiti, threats, and assaults.
Out of 301 officers, over 120 speak at least one additional language, including Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Malay, Thai, Japanese, and more. In addition, RCMP has an established system to identify officers at other neighbouring detachments who speak additional languages and can be called for assistance.
Anyone who would like the above Hate Crime Awareness poster—written in English, simplified Chinese, Punjabi, and Korean—can contact the Burnaby Crime Prevention Unit by phone at 604-646-9811 or by email.
Although Delta also experienced a significant increase in hate crimes this year, these hate crimes diverge from surge in anti-Asian hate crimes experienced elsewhere in Metro Vancouver during the pandemic.
The Delta Police Department (DPD) stated that from March 29 to April 12 of this year, police received reports of 10 suspected hate crimes, including racial slurs being yelled in public or at store employees and racist graffiti (including anti-Semitic comments) at parks and schools.
In an assault involving racist remarks and a victim sustaining minor injuries, police arrested a suspect at the scene and charges are expected.
Meanwhile, investigators believe one individual may be responsible for several examples of graffiti.
Deputy Chief Harj Sidhu stated that the DPD recorded a total of 12 cases of suspect hate crimes in 2020 while this year already, there have been a total of 15 hate crime incidents from January to mid-April.
About two-thirds were categorized as mischief, such as graffiti.
South Asian concerns
Concerns are now being raised about whether South Asian people will be targeted next, due to the B1617 variant found in India as well as escalating case numbers in South Asia.
In the wake of Canada banning all flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days, B.C. parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives Rachna Singh issued a statement to address the situation.
"Throughout the pandemic we've seen specific communities scapegoated and targeted by hate crimes—Asian communities and Indigenous peoples,” she said. “I know there is a lot of stress in the South Asian community for their loved ones back home. The concern as to whether their community will be targeted next only adds to that stress during this difficult time.”
She also asked everyone to recognize that we are all in this situation together.
“The stress of the pandemic does not give anyone the right to spread prejudice and hate,” Singh stated. “This is about fighting the COVID-19 virus, not our fellow British Columbians.”
Singh asked anyone who is a victim of a hate crime to report it to police or to contact the Resilience B.C. Anti-Racism Network.
Post-secondary students who are affected by the flight ban, including those anxious or stressed out about being separated from their families, can find support through online chat sessions in English or other languages (including Punjabi) with a trained counsellor on B.C.’s Here2Talk app, or by calling the toll free number 1-877-857-3397 or direct at 604 642-5212.