The number of anti-Asian hate crimes incidents in Vancouver continues to be a cause for concern, police said this week, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and so does racist rhetoric and misinformation.
Hate crime incidents increased by 116 per cent over the same January to September period in 2020 from 2019, according to new data presented to the Vancouver Police Board. In the same timeframe, anti-Asian hate crimes incidents increased by 878 per cent.
In the first nine months of 2019, there were nine anti-Asian hate crimes in the city, police said at an October board meeting. This year, there were 88. Earlier this year, police there said the spike in incidents became noticeable around the beginning of the pandemic.
Those numbers are “really concerning,” Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow said at the board meeting.
“When we started to notice this back in April, we talked to our counterparts and many of them didn’t track the stats like we did. And we right away noticed that there was some concerning trends that were taking place,” Chow said.
In April, police said they were looking for a suspect who they believe wrote “disturbing, racist remarks towards the Asian community” on large glass windows of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Chinatown. Stone lions at Millennium Gate, the entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown, were targeted twice by racist graffiti in May.
Chow said there has been “quite a bit of work” done on these issues. He said police placed a camera at the Chinese Cultural Centre and Millennium Gate, and has been meeting with community groups and associations in Chinatown to raise awareness and ensure incidents are reported.
Chow said police have identified suspects and laid charges in a “number” of what he called “very high-profile” incidents.
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He pointed to a March incident where police said a suspect shouted racist remarks at a 92-year-old man with severe dementia at a Vancouver convenience store, including remarks about the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside the store, the suspect shoved the man, causing him to fall and hit his head.
At the time, Const. Tania Visintin said the March assault incident, which police said they were investigating as a hate crime, was “indicative of a larger issue.”
A suspect has since been identified, and Chow said that charges were laid.
“When COVID-19 began to spread, a rise in incidents of shameful behaviour, blaming minorities did as well,” Queenie Choo, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a charity that helps newcomers settle in Canada, said at a May press conference.
In May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the country.
“To Asian Canadians across the country, know we all stand with you. We will not let hate divide us,” he said.