Canada witnesses a steep increase in racism since the start of the Pandemic
Bengaluru: Data from Statistics Canada shows that there has been an 80 percent increase in hate crimes motivated by race and ethnicity in the last year.
Monidipa Gallant, an Indian-Canadian, said, “As someone who grew up in a smaller town, I think it has been ever present, but I didn’t know how to recognize it when I was younger. Comments like ‘why is your skin so much darker?’ or ‘why does your food smell?’ occurred quite frequently when I was younger, but at that time all I knew was that I was different than the rest of the people around me.” She added that as an immigrant, they were taught that they should always be grateful for the opportunity, no matter the consequences.” She also said, “When I spoke about it initially at home, the response was always to let it go because look at all the opportunities (we have gained).”
She said that experiences at schools made it evident how deep-rooted racism is. She said, “The little things also get carried along with you as you grow up. I was put in ESL (English as second language) as soon as they saw what I looked like; there were no tests to actually judge my capabilities, and that has a huge impact on a child in a different country and how they interact with others, because right away, I was seen as the outsider. Commenting on my food when I was younger
, made me throw away my lunches every day and stay hungry, and even as an adult, I struggle with that because it’s now a habit.”
However, as an adult she now recognises the instances and initiates more conversations about the same. She added, “I am able to have those conversations and escalate it where needed. I work in customer service, and I see that as soon as someone is unhappy, race is usually the first thing one comments on. ‘That Asian driver almost ran into me’ or ‘those black guys look scary’ – I think it’s something we all need to stop and reflect on.”
Racism also affects their mental health. There is a constant fear of being attacked, fear of alienation, lack of confidence and self-esteem, and anxiety. Gallant added, “I have a lot of anxiety, and I struggle with depression, but small things like feeling uncomfortable or unsure that if I go and walk my dogs, will someone say something racist, or if I listen to Indian music while camping, will someone say something, is ever present. The way I deal with it, is therapy, definitely, but also I work hard in educating people and having those uncomfortable conversations. Is it my job to teach people at a time where everything is available online? Absolutely not, that is a personal responsibility. But I do go out of my way to create opportunities for people to learn.”
Nalini Kumar, a student in Toronto, said, “It seems very subtle that sometimes you can’t tell. But it’s your intuition that tells you. It is very evident in the hiring process at work”. Gallant also added, “I always question things, like is my name on the resume going to limit my chances of getting picked for a job? I am married to a Canadian, and I wanted to change my last name to match his, not because I’m ashamed of my last name, absolutely not, but because I recognized that life is easier having a white last name. I absolutely see that change now, in terms of how many clients perceive me.”
Hate crime incidents reported is more than double the number of those reported in the US with Vancouver leading with the greatest number of anti-Asian attacks in Canada. Immigrants also say that they don’t feel safe to complain to the police as they react differently to situations with a person of colour in comparison to a white person.
KG Banjoko, United for Revolution, said, “Just a month ago, Latjor Tuel was mercilessly killed in Calgary. The officer shot him four times. He was mentally unstable; the guy needed assistance, not to be shot. If he wasn’t of colour, it wouldn’t be the same case.” The amount of racism also depends on the province. There is also a resistance in acknowledging the problem. She also added, “Anti-racism bills need to be addressed. Education is an integral part, and until people are aware of impact, they won’t be willing to make that change.”