May 7, 2021
Nearly 8 Million Canadians across Canada have proclaimed a Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism. Major national and local unions have also endorsed the Day of Action.
Monday is the Day of Action! To fight an increase in racist acts, more than two dozen municipalities across Canada, home to nearly 8 million people, will mark a Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism on Monday, May 10. Unions representing 3.3 million workers have stood up in solidarity and will also mark the Day of Action.
Giving momentum to a rapidly growing movement, people from across Canada will stand up against all forms of racism and anti-Asian racism in particular. The Day of Action will mark a first step by the grassroots movement Stand With Asians Coalition (SWAC) towards eliminating racism and advocating for badly needed policy initiatives.
The number of reported racism-related crimes and incidents has skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. In Vancouver, police-reported that hate crimes increased 717% in 2020. Toronto Police reported a 51% with the number of reported anti-Asian hate crimes rising 500%. Police agencies across the country have reported similar increases.
“Stand with Asians Coalition SWAC literally started at my kitchen table three weeks ago after I read a local newspaper about the 350% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in my city since the start of the pandemic. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an alarming increase in anti-Asian racism in Canada and across North America. All forms of hate should be condemned. There is no room for race-based hate in our community. We must condemn all forms of hate, which create unsafe conditions for members of Asian, Black, Indigenous, people of colour and all racialized communities,” said Doris Mah, co-founder of SWAC. “We are grateful to all those who have acknowledged the detrimental impact of systemic racism and hate on the members of Asians, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, and Racialized Communities. All of us have a part to play in ensuring members of our communities feel that they are safe and they belong in Canada.”
Along with nearly 30 cities that have made proclamations, multiple large unions have endorsed the Day of Action. Unions like the National Pensioners Federation, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the BC Federation of Labour, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union of Canada, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress and others, which represent a combined 3.3 million union workers across Canada, have expressed their support.
“Marking a Day of Action against Anti-Asian Racism is more important now than ever. It has forced us all to become more aware of our surroundings, including personal respect within ourselves and how we treat others,” said the National Pensioners Federation in a letter of support. “Canadians have a proud history of eradicating and condemning all forms of hate as it creates unsafe conditions for all races and cultural communities… The National Pensioners Federation (NPF) is proud to ‘Stand with Asian Coalition’ (SWAC), a community of people in Canada who are concerned about the surge of anti-Asian racism permeating across Canadian cities.”
“We’ve heard directly from our members about their experiences with anti-Asian racism, both when it’s directed at them and when they witness it in the workplace. We know the number and the severity of these incidents have increased during the pandemic,” said Larry Brown, President of the 390,000-strong National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), in a letter to SWAC. “But our members are also part of society. When society is sick, it hurts our members, their families, their friends, and their community members. We fully support taking a strong stand against anti-Asian racism for the betterment of all Asian Canadians and Asians living in Canada.”
The largest union in British Columbia, the BC Federation of Labour, endorsed the initiative. “We share your dismay and alarm at the increase of hate crimes against Asian community members, and the increase of bullying, racist comments and other forms of violence that have increased in our communities during this pandemic,” said President W. Laird Cronk and Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore in a letter.
“Workers must stand together against racism; it is our duty and obligation to lift people up and protect those most vulnerable,” said Rob Ashton, President of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada. “We must be the voices of anti-racism.”
Growing grassroots campaign
The campaign for local governments across Canada to proclaim a “Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism on May 10” started on April 23, 2021, and has grown fast. Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley was the first mayor to make an official proclamation on April 26 after noting a 350% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in his city during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, more than 24 other cities have made similar proclamations, representing nearly 8 million Canadians. These cities include:
|ON||City of Belleville||50,745|
|AB||City of Brooks||14,451|
|BC||City of Burnaby||230,080|
|AB||City of Edmonton||1,000,000|
|BC||City of Langford||35,342|
|ON||City of London||545,000|
|BC||City of New Westminster||79,835|
|ON||City of Oshawa||157,630|
|ON||City of Ottawa||1,000,000|
|ON||City of Peterborough||85,000|
|BC||City of Port Coquitlam||68,000|
|BC||City of Port Moody||39,118|
|BC||City of Squamish||25,370|
|ON||City of Thunder Bay||127,201|
|BC||City of Victoria||386,000|
|ON||City of Toronto||2,900,000|
|BC||City of Vancouver||675,218|
|BC||District of Central Saanich||16,814|
|BC||District of Mission||38,833|
|BC||District of Saanich||119,229|
|ON||Municipality of Port Hope||16,500|
|ON||Municipality of West Elgin||4,995|
|ON||Town of Ajax||109,220|
|ON||Town of Amherstburg||21,936|
|ON||Township of Russell||16,520|
|ON||Township of Scugog||21,617|
Membership in the private Facebook group Stand With Asians Coalition (SWAC) has swelled to more than 1,100 members.
Stand With Asians Coalition (SWAC) is a grassroots movement that started in Burnaby, British Columbia, on April 23, 2021, to stand up against the rising incidence of anti-Asian racism and other forms of racism. Centred around a Facebook group, SWAC is working to untie municipalities across the country in acknowledging the impact of anti-Asian racism as a first step towards developing more effective policy initiatives.
Doris Mah (she/her)
I acknowledge that I live and work on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples, as well as all Coast Salish peoples.