3 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian hate still prevalent in Metro Vancouver: advocates

Lawyer and advocate Steven Ngo says the surge in hate crimes has become 'internalized' and many members of the Asian community have accepted the incidents as part of life. (James Mulleder/CBC News - image credit)
Lawyer and advocate Steven Ngo says the surge in hate crimes has become 'internalized' and many members of the Asian community have accepted the incidents as part of life. (James Mulleder/CBC News - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details of racist attacks.

Ivan Pak remembers racial slurs being hurled at him as he stood at a SkyTrain station.

Steven Ngo remembers garbage being chucked at him and being told to go back to his country.

These are just two of many painful memories members of the Asian community in Metro Vancouver experience.

During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, police said anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver increased from 12 incidents in 2012 to 98 in 2020 — a 717-per-cent spike.

Three years later, Pak and Ngo say they feel the targeted attacks have further increased.

Ngo, a lawyer and advocate, says he called for the Vancouver Police Department to make its hate incident reporting form, available online, accessible in different languages in 2020.

While that was implemented, Ngo says the problem hasn't been solved.

"There was such a surge in hate crimes and now it's become more internalized," he said.

"Now people have accepted it as a way of life."

Advocate skeptical over decline suggested by data

Hate crimes are defined as criminal offences against people or property that are motivated by hate, including assault and uttering threats. Hate incidents refer to a broader range of actions, including those that do not necessarily meet the definition of a crime.

According to data from the VPD website, gathered through a Freedom of Information request, there were 204 hate incidents or crimes in the city reported to police from March 2020 to Dec. 15, 2022.

  • 98 in 2020.

  • 62 in 2021.

  • 44 in 2022.

These incidents include hurling racial slurs, telling people to "go back to China," stalking, and physical assaulting, among others.

In Richmond, police say they've recorded 46 hate crimes and incidents in 2021, up from 34 in 2020; 67 per cent were related to racial discrimination, and of the people targeted, 61 per cent were Asian.

Richmond RCMP
Richmond RCMP

While there was an increase in hate crimes and incidents between 2020 and 2021 in Richmond, and data for 2022 is not yet ready for public release, "initial information suggests a significant decline in hate incidents" in 2022, Richmond RCMP Cpl. Ian Henderson told CBC.

But Ngo says figures reported by any jurisdiction should be taken with caution.

"The reality is people have just given up [reporting]," he said.

Pak, who co-founded the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Advocacy Group, echoed Ngo's sentiment.

Mike Zimmer/CBC News
Mike Zimmer/CBC News

"Those figures from RCMP or the police department might reflect the reporting has decreased, but to me personally, I have more people talking to me about the random incidents happening to them," Pak said.

"Targeted ... just because they are Asians."

Mayor encourages hate crime victims to speak out

Pak says members of the Asian community in Metro Vancouver are experiencing a level of fear that hasn't gone down in the last three years.

"I think the community itself is feeling unsafe ... and I don't see this getting any better," Pak said, adding that many have accepted the incidents they experience as part of life.

Richmond's mayor, along with Pak and Ngo, are encouraging people to speak out.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie says he wants to continue working with organizations like Pak's to hold events that support and create a safe space for Asians in the province.

But he adds that more could be done.

"I'm not saying there's no place for a forum, but I don't think it's a panacea for your problems either," Brodie said. "I don't think by having a town hall or a forum or something that you're going to cure the problem."

In 2022, the city created the "Hate Has No Space" campaign, encouraging citizens to report hate incidents.

"If people just keep it to themselves," Brodie said, "then it's very difficult for us to do anything about it."