Exactly one year before B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender released her massive report on hate during the pandemic, she heard testimony from Audrey Wong. Wong, executive director of Elimin8Hate, began by highlighting the pervasiveness of anti-Asian hate crimes.
She noted that more offences were reported to police in Vancouver in 2020 than in the 10 most populous U.S. cities combined.
“The pandemic was a catalyst in a tangible point in time for hateful incidences to arise,” Wong said. “But the underlying issues of anti-Asian racism and hate have always, and continue, to exist.”
In addition, Wong discussed how systemic discrimination “percolates into hate and hate incidents”. She emphasized that without combatting the source or underlying issues, one cannot eliminate these crimes.
“So, in our focus for today, I’d like to talk about the perpetuation of anti-Asian sentiment, and, essentially, irresponsible reporting in mass media,” Wong stated.
“There is a portrayal of Asians in mass media that often is perpetuating the othering, or the outsidering, or the issues of perpetuating stereotypes that are not true,” she continued. “And mass media is a key avenue of influencing and shaping macro-level ideology.”
Moreover, she said that “where there’s no representation, or there’s poor representation, it permeates into mainstream ideology and lack of understanding—resulting in hate”.
Wong added that events such as COVID-19 “provide a tangible scenario for which this hate is expressed”.
“An example in mass media that often perpetuates othering and misunderstanding is that all East Asians are rich,” she said.
In 2020, the Vancouver Asian Film Festival created Elimin8Hate as its social-change arm.
“Now, what Elimin8Hate focuses on is where our strengths are, which is harnessing the power of arts, film, and media to combat anti-Asian racism,” Wong said.
Watch Elimin8Hate executive director Audrey Wong’s testimony.
Elimin8Hate slams study on Chinese names
In her presentation to Govender, Wong cited a 2015 study on home ownership in a part of Vancouver’s West Side. Premier David Eby, while in opposition, supplied the data to the researcher.
Wong alleged that this study led the public to believe that Chinese buyers were responsible for Vancouver’s affordable-housing problems.
“Now, that received an inordinate amount of uptake, including major organizations like Bloomberg and the Guardian reporting on it,” she said. “And, of course, that permeated into people’s belief that Chinese buyers were fuelling the unaffordable housing crisis in Vancouver—that it was people that had no affiliation with Canadian society and communities.”
Wong highlighted “fundamental flaws in this study, where a sample size of 172 houses were used amongst over 40,000 transactions that year”.
“And the methodology was identifying non-anglicized names as a way of identifying a foreigner,” she maintained. “And, of course, we know how problematic that can be when many, many Asian Canadians born in Canada will not have an Anglicized name.”
Furthermore, in the month before her testimony, Wong said that the Vancouver Sun published a staff writer’s opinion piece identifying Chinese and South Asian Canadas as among the top earners and most educated, beyond non-visible minorities. She insisted that the methodology was flawed because it only measured those who were Canadian-born. According to Wong, data cited in the column ignored the very large group of immigrant Chinese Canadians and South Asians.
Wong stated this would lead people to conclude that discrepancies were not due injustice or unfairness.
Moreover, she claimed that this perpetuates the model-minority myth that Asian Canadians do well and are not victims of hate. And she said this information conflicts with census information indicating racialized people are more than twice as likely to experience poverty.
Govender skips over media criticism
In Govender’s 478-page report, she mentioned Elimin8Hate 16 times, including in six footnotes.
“In Canada, two of the largest online platforms colleting voluntary reports from individuals about experiences of hate, Elimin8Hate and covidracism.ca, documented over 1,000 reports of anti-Asian racism across Canada between March 10, 2020,, and February 28, 2021,” Govender wrote. “Updated in June 2021, the total number of reports exceeded 1,500.”
Of those, 73 percent were verbal harassment, 11 percent were physical force or assaults, 10 percent were being coughed at or spat upon, and four percent were vandalism or graffiti.
However, Govender’s report did not mention the housing study cited by Wong. Nor did the report cite the Elimin8Hate concerns about how this Eby-initiated study was covered by the media.
Eby has since apologized for his role in this.
Moreover, the human rights commissioner didn’t mention the Vancouver Sun column that Wong highlighted. Nor did Govender repeat Wong’s characterization of the mass media as “irresponsible”.
In fact, Govender’s report barely criticized the mainstream Canadian media for othering people of Chinese ancestry before the pandemic.
The Office of the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner is a cofounder of the Never Accept Hate campaign with the Broadcasters of British Columbia, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, and several advertising agencies.
Govender’s five-year term as human rights commissioner expires on September 3, 2024. According to the B.C. government website, she collected a $297,920.24 salary in 2021.
Under the B.C. Human Rights Code, the legislature can reappoint Govender for an additional five-year term through a resolution.