MONTREAL -- As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Asian Montrealers say they've increasingly become the target of racism and discrimination.

Adam Gagnon was grocery shopping at a Longueuil Maxi when he said he was verbally and physically harassed because of his Asian heritage.

“A man came up to me and said 'You should go back to where you're from with your virus' and he just spit on my feet and left like nothing happened.”

Gagnon said he paid for his groceries and left without telling anyone about the incident.

“I felt threatened and really scared and agnry,” he said. “I couldn't believe something like that was happening to me at the moment. I was in shock.”

Another victim took video outside another grocery store, which appears to show a man harassing an Asian couple. Last month, two lion statues at the Quan Am Temple in Cote-des-Neiges were defaced with a sledgehammer.

Vivian Pham's family goes to the temple regularly.

“It definitely reveals that there's a bigger issue here than people being a little bit scared,” she said. “People are directly attacking these places that are representative of the community.”


Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations director Fo Niemi said his group has noted an increasing number of incidents reported by the Asian community. The organization has started a campaign, dubbed 'COVID-19 doesn't discriminate, neither should you,' to combat the phenomenon.

“To be spat on is a criminal offence,” said Niemi. “People need to know that it's a criminal offence, they can ask the store clerk to detain this person while they call police because once someone feels their psychological or physical safety is threatened, they can call police.”