As concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus grows, so does the number of people signing an online petition calling for the Canadian government to ban all flights from China to Canada.
As of Feb. 5, 42,000 people had signed the petition, putting it just 11,000 shy of its organizers’ goal of 50,000 signatures.
However, long-time Richmondite James Li finds it “heartbreaking” to see so many people support the petition.
“These concerns, which are driven by fear and rumours on social media, are creating unnecessary stigma against the local Chinese community. As residents, it’s important for us to stay calm and optimistic amid the crisis instead of fueling fear,” Li told the Richmond News.
A follow-up email was sent to the federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu and Minister of Transportation Marc Garneau to urge the Canadian government to suspend all flights from China.
However, in terms of stigmatizing, the majority of names on the petition appeared to be of Chinese ethnicity.
“Blocking the path of transmission is (the) most effective,” a person who identified as Yiu Sz commented on the petition.
Li came across the petition on WeChat last week when it was posted on Jan. 31 by an anonymous creator who claimed that they had received a mountain of attention from the petition within several days.
“I believe that the Canadian government is facing lots of pressure when it made the decision to not restrict inbound flights from China. It’s sad to see people have different opinions on this issue,” said Li.
He also noted that residents of China who plan to visit Canada must obtain a proper visa from the Canadian visa application centre or they won’t be allowed to board a plane.
However, Canada has temporarily closed its visa application centers in China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“Chinese tourists who plan to travel abroad all need to go through a stringent procedure,” said Li, adding that travelling to Canada is more complicated than what people might imagine.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed up at a Chinese restaurant in Toronto last Saturday to encourage Canadians to support each other and avoid discrimination based on misinformation from social media.
Li praised the politicians for showing support for the local Chinese community, and he hopes people will spread the positive message as well.
“I am thankful that our country is so open, diverse and inclusive to everyone. I believe Canada will earn more respect around the globe for not giving up its core values -- that’s what makes us beautiful and outstanding.”