Burnaby eyes adding anti-racism task force amid spike in anti-Asian hate crimes

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A new anti-racism task force could be implemented in Burnaby after a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. 

At the end of April, Burnaby council passed a proclamation declaring May 10 a Day of Action Against Asian Racism after a plea from the group Stand With Asians Coalition and Burnaby resident Doris Mah. 

“As a racialized woman of Asian descent, I have experienced numerous racist incidents because of the colour of my skin,” Mah wrote in a recent letter to the NOW. “I have been stopped while driving, in the middle of the road, by a white man telling me to go back to China. My elderly mother has also experienced hostile stares and verbal assaults on public transit. We must condemn all forms of hate in public spaces as it creates unsafe conditions for members of the Asian, Black, Indigenous, people of colour, and racialized communities.”

On Tuesday (May 4), the Social Planning Committee of the City of Burnaby approved a motion to look at the possibility of an anti-racism task force, which would look similar to the Mayor's Task Force on Housing. 

That task force issued a comprehensive report and possible solutions to housing issues on July 17, 2019. 

Burnaby RCMP say they've seen a massive 350% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, the detachment responded to six hate crimes with an Asian victim or target – that number jumped to 27 in 2020, police said.

Of all the hate-motivated offences reported to police in 2020, 63% (27 out of 43) were identified as having an Asian victim or target – that was up from 30% (six out of 20) in 2019.

Burnaby’s top cop, Supt. Graham De la gorgendiere, said the incidents have ranged from property damage, including offensive graffiti, to threats and assaults.

“Throughout the past year, our officers have continued to monitor this increase,” he said. “When notified of a possible hate crime, our officers are instructed to respond and conduct a thorough investigation. Victims of these offences can be reassured that their complaint will be taken seriously.”

In Vancouver, police have reported a 717 per cent spike in hate crimes.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an alarming increase in anti-Asian racism in Canada and across North America," Mah says in a press release dated May 4.

"All forms of hate should be condemned. There is no room for race-based hate in our community.

"There is no room for race-based hate in our community. We must condemn all forms of hate. May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada. I think it is very fitting that we honour Asian culture by committing ourselves, once again, to eliminating racism and hate. A dedicated task force is the right move to fully understand the insidious and dangerous impact of all forms of racism, including anti-Asian racism, in our community.”