Politics By Natalie Obiko Pearson 488 Views

This is why Vancouver has become North America's anti-Asian hate crime capital

It’s said to be the most Asian city outside Asia. Where a quarter of residents speak a Chinese language and the char siu rivals what’s served in Hong Kong barbecue shops. Where a Sikh gurdwara, a Tibetan monastery and a Chinese evangelical church coexist in harmony along a three-kilometre stretch of road dubbed the Highway to Heaven. The kind of place that should be immune to a rise in pandemic-fuelled racism.

Vancouver has been anything but.

Last year, more anti-Asian hate crimes were reported to police in Vancouver than in the top 10 most populous U.S. cities combined. With almost one out of every two residents of Asian descent in British Columbia experiencing a hate incident in the past year, the region is confronting an undercurrent of racism that runs as long and deep as the historical links stretching across the Pacific.

COVID-19 was the trigger. But the resentment had been building for decades. Few areas have been so visibly transformed by Asian immigration — and money — as the Lower Mainland. Vancouver itself has become a glittering cosmopolis of luxury condos and designer boutiques. The disproportionate rash of incidents has raised an unsettling question: Maybe Vancouver isn’t the bastion of progressive multiculturalism it thinks it is.

“COVID has just revealed what’s always been there,” says Trixie Ling, 38, a Taiwan-born immigrant who three years ago founded a nonprofit called Flavours of Hope to assist refugee women. She was accosted in May 2020 by a man who spewed a stream of racist and sexist insults before spitting in her face. “There is so much anti-Asian racism in our past that carries through.”

The recent backlash against the broader Asian community started almost as soon as COVID-19 began spreading beyond China in early 2020, with Vancouver seemingly poised to become an epicentre. The city had more direct flights with mainland China than any other in the Americas or Europe. A local businessman flying home from Wuhan became B.C.’s Case 1 on Jan. 26, among the first detected outside Asia at the time.


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