Vancouver, B.C.

First update: May 30, 4PM

A hollow proclamation without systemic and structural changes


Mildred German

Unceded Territories – Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart proclaimed  May 29 as a Day of Action Against Racism amidst increasing anti-Asian racism because of the coronavirus pandemic.   

As a  “city of reconciliation, Vancouver is committed to addressing racism and hate,” the mayor said in his proclamation .

Safety concern: the increasing anti-Asian racism, growing cases of hate crimes

The iconic lions guarding the entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown was vandalised May 20 and 29 for a second time, the day when of the Day of Action Against Racism was proclaimed.

In Metro Vancouver, reports of anti-Asian racism linked to COVID-19 keep adding: from the despicable March 13 video of a white man grabbing a 92-year old Asian elderly man by the arm in a convenience store in Vancouver, to the racist April 2 vandalism of the historical Chinese Cultural Centre. To the April 12 assault against a young Asian woman waiting at a bus stop.

An elderly Asian man was shoved out a grocery store by a white man.

And still these incidents: a wrestling and scalp-damaging April 15 attack against a woman defending two Asians in a bus and a young woman punched in the face several times on the Skytrain on April 25. A three-generation Japanese family in Whistler yelled at:  “Chinese, go back home!“ on May 3. A woman and her mother yelled at “Go back to China!” on May 8.
An attack on an Indigenous woman in Vancouver and punched by a random man who assumed she was Asian and heard her sneeze, testifies to the troubling and irrational “racist assumptions”  leading to expressions of hostility against Asian Canadians.

The stigmatization directed to Asians linked to the coronavirus emerged as the COVID-19 outbreak did as well. Misinformation and stigmatization, increased by social media, online misinformations, and with U.S President Donald Trump’s referral to the coronavirus, as the “Chinese Virus”, only fuel the discrimination and hostility against Asians communities in North America.

Make anti-racism education mandatory for teachers

This week, Klaus Hardy Breslauer, a high school teacher from Vancouver who reportedly told students racist slurs, his sex life, and violent outburst comments, got suspended for three days from May 27-29.

Breslauer told students to “go back to the Philippines if they were not prepared to try”, “go back to working on rice farms”, and be “sent out in the minefields” in Iran, “go work on chicken farm and pluck chickens”, and to a student of Japanese descent if “they were watching too much hentai (anime pornography)”.

The  B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation noted that Breslauer also had previously been issued disciplinary actions in 2008 and 2009, and was “required to complete anger management training, a non-racist program, and counselling sessions. There are many more details of his inappropriate behaviours as an educator.

The question is how is he allowed to come back to teaching? Why is the Vancouver school system allowing this racist person to stay in the education system and violate our youth and students?

Our education system must be at the forefront of anti-racism education at all times. Prioritize mandates on making our schools more inclusive, and accountable when it comes to racism, that systemic racism affects students and the communities of colour. Anti-racism education should include understanding redress and reconciliation, and the importance of land-based education focused on Indigenous knowledge. It should incorporate anti-racism struggles, white privilege, racism and a more culturally-appropriate, compassionate approach in dealing with the drop outs of our Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students in the school system, which is a major issue.

More resources not more police

Deputy Chief Constable Howard Chow reports alarming increase in racists incidents in city. (Vancouver Sun photo)

The Vancouver police budget has grown by more than $100 million in the last decade, and represents about one-fifth of the city’s $1.6 billion 2020 operating budget’, according to the GlobalNews report on May 15 and May 19.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Vancouver has been grappling with the housing crisis, overdose crisis, racism, and heightened police presence. With the required social distancing protocols amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, housing has been a big issue . Without proper housing, how are people able to practice social distancing protocols?

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth declared its first COVID-19 provincial state of emergency in B.C. on March 18. Despite that, it took until May 10 to house our city’s most vulnerable, including the homeless population. The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions enacted an order to move homeless people living in tent-city encampments in Vancouver and Victoria into more permanent spaces for the duration of the pandemic. The Vancouver DTES Oppenheimer Park has been decamped of campers as a result. 

Providing social, affordable and emergency housing is a good initiative. However, why did it take for the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction nearly two months and after several more provincial state of emergency declarations to act?

The province said it found 686 hotel and community centre spaces in Vancouver to house people, and 324 hotel spaces in Victoria, in partnership with nonprofits and municipalities. Is this enough?

The City of Vancouver’s homeless count in 2019 found that out of 2,223 residents identified as homeless, 614 living on the street and 1,609 people living in sheltered locations, with no fixed address.

In addition, is the city protecting communities of colour such as Chinatown Vancouver, East Vancouver, Joyce/Collingwood, Vancouver Kensington, and other racialized neighbourhoods, in terms of preventing gentrification?

No Pipeline

On February 10, the RCMP raided the peaceful land defenders of the Unistʼotʼen Camp in Northern B.C. including a Filipino, Pocholo Conceptcion. 

While COVID-19 pandemic is happening, construction of the pipeline and man camps continues, bringing concerns of more environmental threats of the pipeline being built in Western Canada. Workers have not been practicing social distancing since the pandemic began, thus risking many remote communities with nearby man-camps and workplaces.

In Vancouver, the police budget increase is also associated with the arrest of protesters and dismantling pipeline protesters, many of whom are concerned members of racialized communities.

White Nationalism and White Supremacists groups

The anti-immigrant and white supremacist group, Sons of Odin has presence in Vancouver, and in Canada since 2016.

Who is ‘essential’?

We need  politicians and government bodies to commit to tackle the racism embedded in our political systems and social structures by any means necessary.

And it is critical to look into who are greatly affected—what data do we have on the impacts of COVID-19, who are being truly benefitting in terms of assistance, and are the most vulnerable? How are communities housed in this city, with many racialized communities still housed in crowded homes due to racism affecting their means of livelihood, survival, and reaching full potentials? Who decides what is essential? The decision dictates the outcome of emergency assistance benefits, in terms of refusal of unsafe jobs and the latter, many racialized communities in Vancouver face.

While proclamations are welcomed, when it comes to racism however, what Vancouver needs is political will to eradicate colonial racism in the system and in its social structures.

(The opinions expressed in this article are that of the writer and does not reflect the opinion of Philippine Canadian News. Com)