Community activists launch Stop Racism Alliance in response to recent incidents
A city councillor, religious leaders, academics and advocates from across Metro Vancouver have launched the Stop Racism Alliance after several high-profile racist rants, including one several months ago in a Richmond parking lot and one this week in a Burnaby drugstore.
The group, which signed a declaration and outlined its goals on Thursday, said it wants to raise awareness about racist behaviour that goes unseen, to work with police and government to establish policies for investigating racism, to support victims and to promote preventive measures.
Richmond Coun. Chak Au, who said he was acting in a personal capacity and not representing his office, said after the August video of a woman shouting racial slurs at another woman, he sensed frustration among thousands who signed petitions. They were seeking a response from police or accountability of some kind, he said.
“We noticed racism and hate crimes are more common than we thought and they can be more serious than the ones that get captured on camera,” said Au.
He said there are concerns “the handling of these cases and the application of law is inconsistent” and is not clear to the public. He said some cases lead to charges while others do not, and many people feel there needs to be better policies with specific guidelines for charges.
“I also feel that, in some cases, while the threshold for criminal charges may not be met, there should be other alternatives, such as a restorative justice system, to deal with them,” said Au.
The discussions also revealed numerous ethnic, religious and cultural groups were trying to figure out what to do about similar issues, but “they were handling them in silos with other groups, not responding to cases that involved another group. We thought that something has to be done in a different way,” said Au.
Also joining the alliance on Thursday were Adam Rubin, a rabbi with Beth Tikvah congregation in Richmond, Etti Goldman, a manager with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Wayne Lo, a Richmond pastor, and Vincent Yang, a professor of criminal law reform.
Vancouver experienced the biggest rise of hate crimes of any Statistics Canada metro region between 2014 and 2017, and the most common target was the Jewish community.
“Our historical experience obligates us to fight against hatred and discriminations in all its forms,” said Rubin. “We stand in solidarity with this new movement.”
Alan Hill, program coordinator for inclusive communities with Richmond Multicultural Community Services, described the alliance as a “groundswell of community activists.”
He said “we have been noticing that there are institutions, business organizations and public institutions who don’t know how to react to racist incidents and we need to find a way to tackle this.”
He presented a “Richmond community protocol” that gives steps for “quick assessment and responsive action toward critical incidents of racism and hate motivated incidents.”
It includes definitions of individual and systemic racism as well as what constitutes a stereotype, intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and hate crime. It advises community members to notify police of incidents of racism immediately and to reach out to community support groups who will “assist you to go to the police if you are afraid to do so yourself.”
“Support from the non-aggrieved community can be invaluable, and statements by public officials condemning racism and hate crimes are important.”
It urges caution with contacting the news media because reporting of minor incidents can cause a “copy cat” effect, but said people might consider contacting the media when there is a pattern or a major incident.
Yang said in the case of the Richmond parking lot incident, the victim didn’t want to speak further about it, but he could understand her feelings of isolation and vulnerability.