B.C. premier calls for action on hate crimes in wake of Vancouver police report

·2 min read
The lion statues of Vancouver’s Chinatown Millennium Gate are seen covered in orange tape on May 29, 2020, after they were defaced for the second time in a matter of weeks.
The lion statues of Vancouver’s Chinatown Millennium Gate are seen covered in orange tape on May 29, 2020, after they were defaced for the second time in a matter of weeks.

(Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit)

British Columbia's premier says violence against people of colour needs to be treated as a hate crime, in light of recent data released by Vancouver police showing a surge in anti-Asian offences last year.

Data from the Vancouver Police Department shows the number of anti-Asian hate crimes rose from a dozen incidents in 2019 to 98 in 2020, while general hate incidents nearly doubled.

Queenie Choo, CEO of United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society (SUCCESS), points to mental health and stress due to COVID and job loss as a likely contributor to the rise in hate crimes.

"Nevertheless, these should not be contributing to the rise in hate crimes … targeting certain demographics," she said.

"There's no reason for it."

Vancouver police confirmed that the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes coincided with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in March 2020.

"It doesn't make an excuse for people taking out their stress on other people," VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin told CBC's On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

"This is people physically hurting, assaulting, threatening other humans. It's baffling and it's intolerable."

Premier John Horgan said there are difficulties in prosecuting hate crimes, as opposed to violent crimes, but it is important to do so.

He said the government is working on anti-racism legislation and that Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has contacted police forces to emphasize the need to prosecute hate crimes.

Visintin said Vancouver police will continue to investigate and provide support for victims of hate crimes, as long as people keep reporting them.

"We can only deal with what people call in to us," she said.

In the past year, Vancouver police have launched initiatives to encourage victims to feel more comfortable contacting police, including printing pamphlets in Chinese to explain the process of reporting hate crimes. They've also increased police presence in Chinatown and held a virtual meeting with more than 300 participants to educate the community on what constitutes a hate crime.