The global pandemic in 2020 and prolonged local shutdowns have put pressure on all of us, but especially East Asian communities – who are being scapegoated because of the coronavirus and facing increasing incidents of anti-East Asian racism and discrimination. Toronto’s motto – “Diversity Our Strength” – has been put to the test. Resilience must be our response.

While we all share mutual and common identities of being both Torontonians and Canadians, the City of Toronto is asking allies in the fight against racism to acknowledge and learn about our diverse histories within the context of living in this city.

Anti-Asian racism is not new. It is entrenched in our systems and is intertwined with local and national narratives. Here are some ways you can help us to grow, thrive, and contribute:

  1. Learn about East Asian diversity and unique identities as those with family origins and heritage from China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
  2. Abandon the myths of the “perpetual foreigner” and “model minority” in thinking and language (i.e. “Where are you from? Where are you really from? All Asian Canadians are engineers, accountants, doctors or lawyers.”)
  3. Explore, celebrate, share, and accept East Asian stories in Canada.
  4. Know that racism hurts the collective efforts of East Asian communities to build a thriving and prosperous Toronto and Canada.
  5. Call out and challenge racism when you see it.
  • According to the 2016 federal census, there were 299,465 people (11.1 per cent) identifying as visible minority Chinese living in Toronto. The city was also home to 41,640 residents (1.5 per cent) of Korean heritage, and 28,045 (0.5 per cent) of Japanese descent.
  • East Asian stories are mirrored in Canada’s national narrative and migration history.
    • Chinese pioneers followed gold rushes to the Fraser River in British Columbia in 1858, then many Chinese labourers were contracted to build the transcontinental railway. Discrimination followed and was marked by Canada’s Head Tax for Chinese residents, and later by the Chinese Exclusion Act (Road to Justice: Tarnished Dreams). Canada did not officially apologize for this unequal treatment until 2006.
    • Filmmaker Karen Cho travels from Montreal to Vancouver to undercover the stories from the last survivors of Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act. Through a combination of history, poetry and raw emotion, her documentary, “In the Shadow of Gold Mountain,” sheds light on an era that shaped the identity of generations.
    • In 1877, six years after Confederation, the first documented Japanese immigrant arrived in the province of British Columbia, but suffered disenfranchisement in 1895 under federal statute, and then further discrimination during and after the Second World War (1942-49), when they were sent into internment and exile from the west coast. All those of Japanese descent, including naturalized Canadians and those born in Canada were banned from living in the city of Toronto between 1942 and 1945.
    • The first Korean migrants to Canada were seminary students sent here by Canadian missionaries. Korean migration to Canada boomed in the late 1960’s and continues today.
    • An award-winning video by Justice Maryka Omatsu, the first female, Canadian Judge of East-Asian descent. The video details the injustices of racial discrimination faced by Japanese Canadians for over 60 years culminating in the unjust use War Measures Act.
  • How learning history builds resistance to hate. University of British Columbia (UBC) history professor Henry Yu critically rethinks Japanese Canadian history and its impact on today’s society. Reconsider Chinese Canadian history within a changing social context, to strengthen our national values of multiculturalism and diversity.
  • A documentary about Raymond Moriyama, world-renowned architect, whose works include the Toronto Reference Library, the Ontario Science Centre, Scarborough Civic Centre, Bata Shoe Museum, and the Canadian War Museum. He discusses his family’s experience with the extremities of racism he and his family endured and how he transformed these experiences into an architecture of inclusion and democracy.
  • Anti-East Asian racism is disturbingly common in Canada’s largest cities (Richmond News – April 28, 2020)
  • Historian Henry Yu describes the experience of racism in Canada during COVID-19: “White supremacy historically has relied on defining non-white ‘races’ as abstract categories that generally are not coherent and blaming non-whites for things that aren’t their fault.” Chinese people have been blamed for spreading the virus but targeting those who are mistaken for Chinese but aren’t is still wrong. “It’s never a ‘mistake’ to ‘get the wrong non-white,” Yu explains. Whether or not the target is actually Chinese or not, harassment and mistreatment of others should never be warranted.
  • Hate incidents during the pandemic
  • The numbers tell the story of anti-East Asian racism in Canada:
    • A telephone poll in April 2020, comprising 1,130 respondents in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, conducted by the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice found that one in five people do not think it’s safe to sit next to an Asian or Chinese person on a bus if they don’t wear a mask, while a quarter said they “don’t know” if it’s safe. Four per cent said they believed that all Chinese or Asian people carry COVID-19, and 10 per cent were uncertain.
    • Nearly 80 per cent of Chinese Canadians surveyed by pollster Angus Reid and the University of Alberta said they think that others do not view them as Canadians “all of the time.”
    • Since the pandemic began, more than 400 incidents of racial bias, from micro-aggressions to hate incidents and hate crimes, have been collected through the “Fight COVID Racism” tracking tool.
  • A report to the United Nations on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance documents the increase of racism and xenophobia as a result of COVID-19. This report highlights stats, key issues, and recommendations.

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Perpetual foreigner myth carousel 1, 2, 3, 4

Model minority myth carousel 1, 2, 3, 4

People of East Asian Descent in Toronto

Racism and harmful phases have no place in Toronto

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Perpetual foreigner myth carousel 1, 2, 3, 4

Model minority myth carousel 1, 2, 3, 4

People of East Asian Descent in Toronto

Racism and harmful phases have no place in Toronto