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Asian man yelled at in Montreal grocery store by woman angry about COVID-19

Montreal -

What began as a regular grocery run became an upsetting ordeal for a Montreal man, who says he was berated by a woman claiming the pandemic happened "because of you Chinese people."

Nuns' Island resident Ken Mak says he and his girlfriend were minding their own business at the checkout of his local grocery store when the woman approached them.

The woman asked if he was Chinese, he said. "So I told her ‘yes’ ... Then, she started asking questions about the pandemic.”

At first, he said, he thought she just wanted information, but then she got more aggressive.

"She started a monologue, and she started taking off her mask and getting closer to me," he said. He took out his phone to start recording.

"It's nothing against you, It’s about all of this 21 months of bull****," the woman was heard saying in the video. "It's because of you Chinese people."

Shortly after the interaction, the woman appeared to be escorted out of the store.

"We are incredibly disheartened and upset by the customer’s disrespectful behaviour," wrote IGA Louise Menard, where the incident took place, in a statement to CTV.

"In such circumstances, we ask the customer to leave our store, as our team did in this instance. Local authorities were contacted to assist in this matter," the statement continued. "At IGA, we denounce all forms of hate. This is never acceptable."

A spokesperson for the Montreal police confirmed with CTV police were called to the scene, and that the women left the store after officers asked her to. 

Mak, who moved to Canada 20 years ago, said that he was "shocked" by the encounter, because "Canada is a very accepting country."

Asian Montrealers have long called attention to increased anti-Asian intolerance and insults they say they’ve faced following the arrival of the pandemic. He says he was compelled to shoot and upload the video to show people what it’s like.

"I can show Canada that these things are happening and that it's real, and it needs to stop," he said.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante also condemned the "unacceptable" verbal attack, saying in a message on Twitter that "I denounce this woman's racist remarks."


A Montreal police report found hate crimes and incidents against the Asian community saw a spike in 2020. That year, residents held a vigil following attacks in Canada and the United States which some believed were racially motivated. 

Anti-Asian racism has existed in Canada since the early years of the country's founding, when Chinese workers were employed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, according to Winston Chan, board member of National Coalition Against Anti-Asian Racism.

But, he says, ever since the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in China, it's gotten worse.

"Ever since then, Asian people became the scapegoat of this pandemic," he told CTV.

"I anticipate (that) when there are ... restriction measures" due to rising case counts, "it brings out the worst of some people," he said. 

Chan says he wants the Quebec Government to do more to denounce prejudice against Asian people, specifically with regards to the COVID-19.

"I think that now is another opportunity for Premier Legault to speak out against anti-Asian racism," he said. That means, he said, telling Quebecers that Asian people "are not to blame" for the pandemic.


An earlier version of this story included a misquote, wherein the woman was accused of pushing the victim. The quote has been corrected. CTV regrets the error. Top Stories

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