Suspect charged in East Vancouver assault against senior, as anti-Asian hate crimes increase

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      Amid a disturbing surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver during the pandemic, an investigation into one such case has resulted in charges.

      The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) announced on July 23 that a male suspect has been charged with one count of assault upon a 92-year-old man in East Vancouver.

      In the afternoon on March 13, an Asian senior with dementia entered a convenience store near Nanaimo Street and East 1st Avenue. As he was distraught and confused, store staff attempted to help him.

      However, a male suspect in the store began yelling at the elderly man, allegedly making racist remarks and comments about COVID-19. Grabbing the elderly victim by the arm, the male suspect shoved the elderly man out of the store. The victim fell to the ground, hitting his head, and the suspect left the store before police arrived at the scene.

      “Everything about this assault and the behaviour of the suspect is despicable,” Const. Visintin had stated in an April 22 news release. “As a police department, we do not tolerate incidents motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate. It’s even more disturbing considering the victim’s age.”

      On April 23, the VPD announced that they identified the suspect.

      Then on July 23, the VPD stated that Jamie Allen Bezanson, who is 50 years old, will next appear at Vancouver Provincial Court at 9 a.m. on August 10.

      As the case is before the courts, the VPD isn’t providing any further details.

      Anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver

      On July 16, the VPD announced that this year, there have been 155 hate-related reported incidents compared to 69 within the same time period in 2019.

      When the Georgia Straight contacted the VPD for further details, VPD spokesperson Tania Visintin stated that from January to June 2019, there were only seven anti-Asian hate crime investigations.

      Within the same time period this year, there were 66 such investigations—an increase of 59 cases, or an 843 percent jump.

      Const. Visintin also said that if case numbers are isolated for April to June (the pandemic lockdown time period for this year), there were only three cases in 2019 whereas in 2020, there have been 66 cases.

      She also stated that in 2019, there was only one anti-Asian vandalism or mischief incident but in 2020 there have been 18 of these cases.

      Unfortunately data for the age and gender of victims is not available.

      Const. Visintin also explained that these cases are subject to further investigation to determine whether or not a hate crime did in fact occur, and if there are any links to other incidents. She added that these case number may differ from numbers provided by Statistics Canada, depending on how they define a hate crime. 

      The VPD is encouraging victims to report such incidents, as they previously stated that these types of experiences tend to be underreported.

      Anyone who is a victim of a hate crime is asked to call 911 while non-emergency incidents can be reported by calling 604-717-3321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

      The #HealthNotHate campaign, designed to address anti-Asian racism during the pandemic, released survey results which found that one in five Chinese Canadians experienced a racist incident during the pandemic.

      It also found that one in four Canadians agreed with a statement that was used to determine discriminatory attitudes.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.