Hi, I’m Kasari Govender, BC’s Human Rights Commissioner. Today I join Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin in taking the ‘Different Together’ anti-racism pledge, and in speaking out and taking action against racism in British Columbia. There can be no doubt that the violence we are witnessing is catalyzed by the pandemic and the challenges it brings. COVID-19 has changed our lives forever, bringing great uncertainty and heightening anxiety and fear. That fear has some of us falling back on old racist tropes, racist words that have quickly escalated to physical violence. We must recognize that the hate we are witnessing is part of a long histories of racism in our province and our communities, but hate is not inevitable. We all have a role to play in interrupting racism and hate with our words and actions. It’s up to each of us to stand up for and with our friends and neighbors. Often the act of bearing witness is enough to change the dynamic of a situation. You can stand beside the person being targeted and let them know that you're here for them. You can choose to walk away with them from the situation so that they don't have to walk away alone. You can record what’s happening and report it. Where it’s safe for you to do so, you can intervene directly to say that spreading hate is not ok. Please join me in speaking up and standing up against racism in our communities.

Recent incidents of racism and violence across B.C. during the COVID-19 pandemic are deeply disturbing. These violent acts are rooted in ignorance and discrimination against our most marginalized communities, specifically Asian, Indigenous, and Black communities. B.C. is experiencing dramatic increases in hate-associated police files, in addition to many under-reported acts of violence. We have seen racially-motivated violent physical attacks and vandalism, leaving some communities stuck inside for fear of falling victim to violence.

In times of crisis, we must remember that racism against marginalized populations has a long history in Canada. From Residential Schools to the Chinese exclusion tax to institutionalized racism against Black communities, racism has been embedded in the power structures of our country for generations.

“When we recognize these incidents as embedded in bigger structures, we can see that the solutions must be transformative of those very structures.”

– Commissioner Kasari Govender, The Tyee op-ed

In an interview with CTV News (see video below), the Commissioner spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has lit the fuse of violence and racism across B.C. When the Prime Minister condemned these acts of racist violence in his address to the nation, he said “This is not who we are as Canadians.” But that statement will ring hollow for a lot of people of colour in Canada who have experienced racism and discrimination. We think a more correct statement would be “this is not who we want to be as Canadians.”

The surge of racism in B.C. leaves many with questions on how to learn, listen, and take action. Here are some opportunities for action and reflection.

Take the time to think about how you can communicate using inclusive, anti-oppressive language.

A Progressive’s Style Guide by Hannah Thomas and Anna Hirsch is a thorough resource on the impact of our everyday language.

Follow and support organizations who are doing important work around the recent surge of racism in B.C., like @Tulayan, @Bao Ve Collective, @project 1907, @Hogans_Alley, Black in BC Community Support Fund@VAFFvancouver, @Elimin8_hate, @VIRCSCanada, and many more. If you would like to see others added to this list, email info@bchumanrights.ca and let us know!

Surround yourself with media that represents the experiences of Asian, Indigenous, and Black communities across Canada.

Listen and participate in online conversations about racism, including MLA Mable Elmore’s Town Hall Against Racism, where Commissioner Govender speaks at the 12:35 minute mark, Collingwood Neighbourhood House’s Town Hall on Racism During the Pandemic, and the Tulayan and City of Vancouver Filipinx Community Town Hall.

Watch TV shows and movies that help represent the experience of Black, Indigenous, and Asian communities living in Canada, like Kim’s Convenience, Meditation Park, or Mr. Jane and Finch. CBC compiled a list of programs that explore the Indigenous experience across Canada.

Read some of the many incredible books written by Canadians to help readers understand racial diaspora, including Chop Suey Nation, The Woo-Woo, The Skin We’re In, From the Ashes, or This Place: 150 Years Retold.

Talk to your kids about racism – a roundup of resources for parents and educators: Anti-Racism for Kids 101: Starting to Talk About Race

Reflect and prepare yourself to respond to acts of racism and violence.

The Guide to Bystander Intervention by Hollaback! is a great resource to help understand your role and actions to take when you witness a violent act.

You can also file a report with the Elimin8hate project to help collect data on incidents of racism, hate and violence experienced by the Asian diaspora in Canada.

Report hate crimes and human rights violations

There are two official avenues available for people who face incidents of racism and racist violence. The first is that you can report these incidents to the police. Reporting incidents is part of the criminal process of responding to hate crimes. Here is more information about how to report a hate crime to the RCMP Hate Crimes Unit.

There is also a human rights approach to dealing with hate speech and discrimination. Under the BC Human Rights Code, you can file a complaint through the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Here is more information about how to file a complaint through the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

How to share your support online

Post and participate in online campaigns like B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor’s #DifferentTogether campaign or the #HealthNotHate campaign.

Tag us @humanrights4bc with other resources for anti-racism action and reflection.