Groups call on city to denounce racism towards Asian Montrealers, incidents on the rise
MONTREAL -- Following a rise in racism towards Asian communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, groups are calling on the city to officially denounce hatred towards Asian Montrealers.
A motion prepared by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and tabled on Friday by independent city councillor Marvin Rotrand is asking the city to “unanimously and vigorously denounce acts of hatred, discrimination, and violence directed against Montrealers of various Asian origins.” It will be voted on in the upcoming city council meeting on June 15.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Rotrand pointed out that adopting the motion would mean the city is taking real action to fight discrimination towards Asian Montrealers. It’s also an opportunity for non-Asian Montrealers to stand in solidarity with the community.
“It tells the population ‘Hey, this is unacceptable’,” he said.
But beyond this, Rotrand and several representatives from Montreal’s Asian communities hope the motion will allow minorities in Montreal to feel safe. Since the start of the pandemic, places of worship have been vandalized and Asians have been attacked both verbally and physically. The CRARR says it has received more complaints in the past three months than in the past 12.
"There is not enough action on the part of the Montreal administration against this phenomenon," said Fo Niemi, the executive director of CRARR.
A report by McGill University student Lily Wang and Montrealer Kyungseo Min documented some of the hate that has taken place in the city lately.
“In the span of less than three months… We’ve received almost 20 incidents targeting people who aren’t just Chinese, but Chinese-looking, all sorts of ethnicities, all sorts of ages, male, female, but mostly female” Min said. “We don’t want our voices and these incidents to be erased... If we don’t record these incidents they will be shoved under the rug and will be deemed as if they never existed."
Laura Luu, who founded a Facebook group a few months ago to unite Asians experiencing hate in Quebec, said many of the group’s 5,000 members have expressed a fear of going out. Luu has been collaborating with local police in both Montreal and Longueuil and the CRRAR to provide tools that support members.
“It’s important to be able to denounce these acts of hate,” she said.
The student unions from McGill and Concordia Universities – which represent thousands of students each – voiced their support of the motion during Wednesday’s press conference.
“Establishing from today onwards, solidarity across all racialized communities, is something that the SSMU is committed to doing in order to really meaningfully fight racial discrimination,” said Ayo Ogunremi from the Students’ Society of McGill.
In other Canadian cities, like Vancouver, police gather race-based data, which helps to shed light on acts of racism and hate crimes against minorities, Rotrand said. In this respect, Montreal has some catching up to do – and adopting the motion would be a step in that direction.
“We want this motion to be a new benchmark for the city’s commitment and concrete action on racism against everyone,” Niemi said. “We need the Montreal police to show leadership on that.”
“I have tabled this motion and I’m trusting that my colleagues at city council will rise up and unanimously adopt this motion," Rotrand said.