March 4, 2022 by Emily Zarychta, Human Rights Clinic Advocate
From Japanese Canadian internment camps to Chinese head taxes, anti-Asian hate and discrimination have a long history in Canada. The recent rise in awareness about anti-Asian hate validates what Asian communities have always known: anti-Asian racism continues to plague Canada and must be taken seriously.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, there has been a significant increase in reported hate-related incidents in BC. Statistics Canada has stated that during the pandemic, there has been an increase of police-reported hate incidents involving ethnicity, with a 301% increase in incidents against East Asian and Southeast Asian populations, and a 47% increase against South Asian populations in 2020. In the City of Vancouver, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by a staggering 717% in 2020. These numbers do not account for all the incidents that go unreported by victims.
The BC Human Rights Commission launched a year-long inquiry into hate in August 2021. So far, the Commission has reported that 1 in 4 British Columbians have experienced or witnessed hate incidents since the start of the pandemic.
You can read the BC Human Rights Clinic’s submissions to the Commissioner’s Inquiry here.
Under the BC Human Rights Code (“Code”), you are protected against discrimination related to your Indigenous identity, race, colour, ancestry, and place of origin. These characteristics can also intersect with other protected grounds such as sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability, and others. You are protected against discrimination in your access to services like business, stores, and transit, as well as in your tenancy and employment.
Here are some examples that could constitute anti-Asian discrimination under the Code:
- Your co-workers keep joking about the “Wuhan flu” and asking you why you had to eat bats. You have complained to your supervisor, but she shrugged it off. You could make a human rights complaint against your employer for failing to provide you with a discrimination-free workplace contrary to section 13 of the Code. You could also name your coworkers in the complaint for their racist comments.
- You are looking for a new apartment, and a prospective landlord refuses to show you the apartment because he says he had “issues with the Chinese” in the past. You could make a human rights complaint against the prospective landlord for discriminating against you in tenancy contrary to section 10 of the Code.
- You are at a restaurant. The server refuses to serve you an makes an anti-Asian racial slur. You could make a human rights complaint against the restaurant and server for discriminating against you in a publicly available service contrary to section 8 of the Code.
It’s important to know that the Code does not protect you from discriminatory treatment that occurs outside the protected areas listed in the Code. For example, if someone verbally or physically attacks you due to your Asian ancestry while you’re walking down the street, you could not make a human rights complaint because the attacker was not providing you with a service, tenancy, or employment. However, you may report the incident to the police or a community-based agency. Check out Resilience BC’s Anti-Racism Network and Elimin8Hate to find more information on anti-racism tools and resources.
Anti-Asian hate is a very serious and increasingly reported problem. People of Asian ancestry continue to face discrimination, harassment, and prejudice. The Code provides one avenue for challenging this unacceptable behaviour and seeking accountability and redress.
BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner is seeking input for its Inquiry into hate during the pandemic. You can share your experiences of discrimination and hate during the pandemic by taking the survey, linked here, before March 6, 2022.
 To learn more about these issues, see: Canadian Human Rights Museum, “Japanese Canadian internment and the Struggle for redress,’ by Matthew McRae, online: https://humanrights.ca/story/japanese-canadian-internment-and-the-struggle-for-redress and “The Chinese Head Tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act,” by Matthew McRae, online: https://humanrights.ca/story/the-chinese-head-tax-and-the-chinese-exclusion-act
 The author uses the term “Asian” as an umbrella term for people of Asian ancestry, and acknowledges it includes a diverse variety of cultures and identities, rather than a singular, pan-Asian identity.
 British Columbia Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, “Human Rights Commissioner launches province-wide public inquiry into hate in the pandemic,” August 18, 2021, online: https://hateinquiry.bchumanrights.ca/b-c-s-human-rights-commissioner-launches-province-wide-public-inquiry-into-hate-in-the-pandemic/
 Statistics Canada, Police-Reported crime statistics in Canada, 2020, retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2021001/article/00013-eng.htm
 Vancouver Police Board, “2020 Annual Report,” retrieved from: https://vancouverpoliceboard.ca/police/policeboard/AnnualReports/VPB-AR2020.pdf at page 5
 British Columbia Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, “1 in 4 British Columbians have experienced or witnessed hate incidents since start of pandemic,” February 2, 2022, retrieved from: https://hateinquiry.bchumanrights.ca/1-in-4-british-columbians-have-experienced-or-witnessed-hate-incidents-since-start-of-pandemic/
 See ss. 7-14 of the Code for the full list of protected areas and protected characteristics in each area.