Vancouver, B.C.

 An attack on one is an attack on all


By Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas

Editor, Philippine Canadian

A man shoves an elderly Chinese man out the door.

In another incident, a man shouts racist slurs at a woman inside the skytrain and grapples with a bystander who tries to intervene. 

A woman walking her dog in a park was punched on the face twice for sneezing. 

All these happened in Vancouver. The perpetrators were all white men shouting racial slurs. The victims were Asian except the woman with a dog, who was Indigenous.

While the current state of racist attacks are blamed on the covid-19 pandemic, we have to look beyond that and see if other factors are playing into the upsurge.

We have to remind ourselves that Canada has a history of racism against the Chinese long before this coronavirus erupted.

Just look at how the Chinese railroad workers were treated and the Chinese Head Tax that effectively banned Chinese immigration into Canada.

Even Canada’s oldest insurance company, the venerable SunLife, once excluded Chinese immigrants from getting insurance because of the “yellow fever” and therefore, a high risk.

Who is fanning the fear?

Right-wing politicians has always been fanning the fear and hatred towards ‘others’ by their pronouncements.

One does not have to look that far to Alberta where Premier Jason Kenney fired the first salvo in the concentrated attack against the Hongkong-born Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s top doctor for allegedly failing to implement measures undertaken by other countries.

Alberta PremierJason Kenney questions Dr. Theresa Tam’s allegiance.

It was Kenney, as Immigration Minister under Harper who tried but failed to ban face covering (niqabs) in citizenship ceremonies. In 2015 he called the niqab “a tribal cultural practice where women are treated like property and not like human beings.”

Wonder what he will say now that we are all encouraged to wear masks to help prevent the spread of the virus.

His Conservative boss, Andrew Scheer, did not denounce Kenney nor did he reprimand leadership hopeful Derek Sloan for reinforcing the attacks.

Next came the attack by Conservative mouthpiece Rebel Media, which mounted a ‘petition’ calling for the resignation of Dr. Tam.

Calgary Herald columnist  Licia Corbella followed suit with a stinging attack on the doctor. The Herald of course did not offer a contrary piece in support of Dr. Tam.

“Comments don’t exist in a vacuum, ” says Ricochet contributor Justin Kong, adding that “they are part of a larger current of thought that seeks to reshape and reduce the COVID-19 narrative to the culpability of China, Chinese people and those who look Asian.” He suggests that it feeds into an overarching bid by “the ruling classes … to shift the blame for current crises from neoliberalism, corruption and state failure to a ‘state enemy.’”

We the ‘other’, then becomes the surrogate ‘state enemy’ that needs to be destroyed by these self-appointed defenders.

“The violence of the tongue leads to the violence of the trigger finger,” Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins once wrote in the aftermath of the My Lai Massacre. He argued that the indoctrination of American soldiers that Vietnamese people are indispensable resulted in the cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians including children.

The ultimate danger to our country I believe, is not the coronavirus but the insidious poison of hate cultivated by fear that leads to unprovoked attacks against innocent people.

This is what we wrote 30 years ago about racism.