Lyle Chan, 32, and Steven Ngo, 35, say they are exhausted from being ignored in the face of racial hatred, violence and slurs directed against their community solely on the basis of their ethnicity. “There are people everyday now that [are] get attacked… something needs to be done now, ”Ngo said.
That’s why the two have launched their own ways to help the Asian community in British Columbia.
Vancouver lawyer Ngo has created more accessible hate crime reporting forms for the community.
An investigation by the Toronto branch of the Chinese Canadian National Council found that more than 1,000 self-reported incidents of anti-Asian racism have occurred since the start of the pandemic.
The analysis, which confirmed incidents in every province, found that 44% of all cases were reported in British Columbia.
Data from the Vancouver Police Department shows the number of anti-Asian hate crimes increased from a dozen incidents in 2019 to 98 in 2020 – an increase of over 700% – while general hate incidents have almost double.
“It’s a clear obstacle to justice here”
Ngo was confronted with hatred earlier this month when someone hurled racist slurs at him and then started throwing trash at him.
“I was… stunned and realized that it could happen to anyone. Not just for the elderly and those who cannot speak English, ”says Ngo.
It was his turning point.
He attempted to report the crime on the Vancouver Police Department’s website, but found that the form was only available in Simplified and Traditional Chinese, and not in English.
“East Asia doesn’t mean Chinese, it also means Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, those born here too,” he said.
Vancouver Police Department Const. Tania Visintin asserts that “online forms were created as an option for a very specific segment of our population that was targeted by hate crimes last year”.
She says VPD is reviewing its hate crime reporting process. But says the best way to report a crime is to call 911 or the non-emergency line.
“Our workforce speaks over 50 languages… We can usually find someone to speak to a complainant in the language of their choice,” says Visintin.
The BC Ministry of the Attorney General on Friday announced plans to develop a hotline for racist incidents in response to an increase in frequency. Information gathered from the hotline will be used to develop anti-racism initiatives, according to a press release from the ministry, and race-based data collection methods.
Ngo says that while he is grateful for the support, he thinks there is still a long way to go.
He has created his own website to report hate crimes by members of the Asian community who speak different languages.
“The website is not at all meant to replace the VPD website, but it is really meant to stop the bleeding,” says Ngo.
‘Took this pain and transformed it’
For Vancouver model Carlyle Chan, seeing Asian women killed in Atlanta, Georgia in March was her turning point.
“I had never felt this before… I took this pain and turned it into something positive and powerful,”
He decided to use the month of April, the month before United States of America and the Pacific Islands Heritage Month (AAPI), to raise funds for groups that support the Asian community, as well as others, in the midst of racist attacks and violence.
He also kept the conversation online to give victims a sense of comfort.
“You are seen and heard. You count. You don’t have to be subordinate, or submissive or calm, just because it was like that, ”Chan says.
In addition to his fundraising, he touched on his poetic side.
“I wrote a poem called Asian is Human… I posted these poems on the walls… and even if you are not an Asian person, you read it. It’s a bit humanizing who we are, ”says Chan.
Chan and Ngo say, exhausted or not, that they will continue to stand up for their communities, using their dynamism, social media presence and voice to effect change.
“I’m super exhausted … [But] closed mouths are not fed. If you don’t ask [for help] so it can’t happen, ”Chan says.