Burnaby woman inspires national day of action
Group co-founder pushing for more effective measures to address racism
At least 30 cities and over a dozen unions across the country have joined a grassroots movement calling for a day of action against racism as a result of a Burnaby woman's efforts to combat the deep-seated anti-Asian racism exposed during the pandemic.
Doris Mah, co-founder of the Stand With Asians Coalition (SWAC) and a member of the Social Planning Committee of the City of Burnaby was moved to action following reports that anti-Asian hate crime in her city jumped by 350 per cent in 2020 as COVID -19 spread around the world.
“This is when it started to hit home,” Mah said, noting that after reaching out to local groups that tackle anti-racism, she realized that there were “an unbelievable amount of gaps” in addressing anti-Asian racism.
We need a dedicated person to connect the dots, said Mah of the task force. She said it was important to have someone who can come up with “comprehensive goals and a strategy” to address the gaps.
“I talked to a lot of counsellors in Burnaby, and they're all very supportive,” she said.
The Stand With Asians Coalition was organized with the aim of developing more effective policy initiatives to address anti-Asian and other forms of racism.
Police-reported hate crimes in Vancouver increased by more than 700 per cent in 2020 and 500 per cent in Toronto.
Mah said there are a number of actions planned around the province and the country today, including an online rally featuring Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan and former MP Olivia Chow, among others.
Over a dozen teams will be promoting the day at locations across the Lower Mainland from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., including SkyTrain stations at Commercial Drive, Burrard, Surrey Central, New Westminster, Metrotown and others.
Several politicians have also agreed to read public statements or introduce bills on anti-Asian racism at legislatures in B.C. and Ontario. Nearly two dozen unions from across the country have endorsed the day of action, including the B.C. Federation of Labour, the National Union of Public and General Employees and the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.
“The work of the Stand with Asians Coalition which brings allies together to raise awareness and fight anti-Asian racism is essential in our community to combat the staggering increase of racism in Greater Vancouver,” the president of the BCGEU, Stephanie Smith, said in a statement.
Racism is a learned experience. The only way to unlearn it is through education.
“This action is to ask Canadians to recommit again and say `let's stand against racism,'” said Mah.
She said education and speaking out are a critical first steps in combating racism, whether someone is the subject of, or a witness to, racist violence.
“The No. 1 thing is to condemn all forms of racism, discrimination, and bigotry,” she said. “Discuss what it means to be racist, and try to reflect and think about `what are my own biases?'”
“Racism is a learned experience,” Mah said. “The only way to unlearn it is through education.”