Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

Opinion: It is not wise to accept this stereotype of Vancouver, which creates a scapegoat and causes unnecessary fear

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Some international media this year described Vancouver as “the anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.”

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They focused on a police report in Vancouver that showed hate incidents against East Asians (not “Asians” as the articles fail) and jumped with a staggering 717 percent in the year COVID hit, up 98 from 12.

Bloomberg, The Guardian and other media outlets then rushed to compare the Vancouver hate crime unit’s data with figures from some major Canadian and US cities, concluding that there had been several incidents in this relatively small west coast town.

While it is always important to combat the scourge of hatred, many specialists are concerned that startling and misleading characterizations of the inhabitants of a city can mislead guilt and cause unnecessary fear.

Sgt. Val Spicer, of the Vancouver Police Hate Crime Unit, talked about the difficulty of collecting comparative data. Spicer said Vancouver is the only city in BC with a police unit dedicated to hate crimes, that it does more to encourage reporting than other cities, that Vancouver’s numbers are not much different from other Canadian cities, and that peer-to-peer hate statistics between Canada and the United States is “comparing apples and oranges.”

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Here are five clear reasons to hesitate before accepting the stereotype that Vancouver residents are the most anti-Asian on the continent.

1. It is impossible to compare Canadian and American hate crime statistics

This is the most obvious problem in reporting. Even the California academic who collected the data that led some media outlets to declare Vancouver the capital of anti-Asian behavior says you can not directly compare hate crimes across the border.

Canada has more consistent and much broader laws against hatred than the United States, where, among other things, hate speech is not punishable. Dan Levin, of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, says U.S. methods are so inconsistent that they can lead to a state like Alabama that has a legacy of racism that does not report hate crimes, while Vancouver, which is under 700,000 , reports dozens.

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Bloomberg News underscored its claim that Vancouver, where nearly half of the population is of Asian descent, is a hotbed of hatred, highlighting a survey that reports that 43 percent of British Colombians of Asian descent say they have experienced a racist incident in the past year, ranging from racial sloppiness to physical assault.

However, the accusatory articles did not attempt to measure other Canadian provinces or the United States, let alone Mexico. If they had looked beyond the bounds of BC, they would have noted similar conditions.

For example, the Angus Reid Institute found 58 percent of East Asian Canadians, who include Chinese Canadians, say they have been affected by some form of racism over the past year, including having seen offensive social media posts (28 percent) or be attacked by strangers (three percent).

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A study by Pew Research also found that anti-Asian reports increased in the United States under COVID (as they did for other ethnic groups). Overall, 45 percent of Asian Americans said they were on the receiving end of a possible threat, an epithet, or a joke.

2. Hate is terribly difficult to categorize

Textbooks can be written about the difficulties of classifying cases of hatred, most of which are not criminal offenses in Canada or the United States – despite the media’s use of the umbrella term “hate crimes”.

Spicer is among the many who make it clear that police and judges can spend days going over evidence to determine what emotion motivated an alleged hate “incident” (a more inclusive term than “crime”).

Adding to the confusion are the remarkably different definitions Canadians have about hatred. For example, Angus Reid found that 68 percent of Canadians do not believe that it is necessarily racist to “imitate someone of a different ethnicity.” But 32 percent think it is racist.

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As Canadian authorities this year investigate dozens of cases of arson and vandalism against Catholic churches, they run into a related challenge: For some reason, virtually no one has so far been classified as a religious hate crime.

3. British Colombians are a paradox – the most embracing of racial diversity and the most concerned about hatred

A survey this year found that residents of BC are among the most likely in Canada to advocate for and accept racial diversity, which would indicate that British Colombians (including Vancouverites) are among those least likely to participate in hate.

Paradoxically, Angus Reid also found 40 percent of British Colombians, compared to 34 percent of all Canadians, also agree with the statement “Canada is a racist country.” Which suggests that British Colombians and Vancouverites tend to be vigilant, which would make them more likely to report a possible hatred.

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Source: Vancouver Police Unit for Hate Crimes
Source: Vancouver Police Unit for Hate Crimes

4. Courts do not associate discussion of offshore investment with anti-Asian hatred

Although Bloomberg claimed that Vancouver’s rise in East Asian hate crimes was in part a response to a 2015 case study that showed people with non-Anglicized Chinese names made up the majority of buyers of certain exclusive houses, it cited no evidence to link thaw. Nevertheless, the indictment gave the green light to partisans, e.g. BC Liberals, to blame the NDP for housing policies that made the city a hate crime mecca.

And while, oddly enough, both Bloomberg and The Guardian before 2020 had bravely maintained “tidal waves” of capital from China that distorted Vancouver’s housing and luxury car market, BC’s Court of Appeals concluded that such reporting is not xenophobic. The three judges unanimously agreed that it is not hateful for a society to have an honest discussion about offshore factors that affect house prices.

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5. It is in the interest of some powers to exaggerate hatred

It is not just the BC Liberals who are seeking to take advantage by claiming that Vancouver has become the center of hatred. The autocratic rulers of China are also causing division by spreading the story Canadians and Americans are unusually racist.

Chinese Communist Party officials, state-controlled media and tens of thousands of provocateurs who are supporters of Beijing on Facebook and Twitter, for example, have accused Canada of “white supremacy.” The regime’s goal is to distract from its own human rights violations and expansionist ambitions.

Hatred in all its forms is a disorder that must be resisted. It must also be tracked accurately if resistance is to be effective. It does not help to create an artificial scapegoat.

While it is not possible for an entire city to initiate a defamation case, Vancouver would then have a strong case to make it in no way guilty of the epithet: “Anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.”

dtodd@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/@douglastodd

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