Richmond South Centre NDP MLA Henry Yao said it truly warmed his heart to witness a collective condemnation of racism in the legislature.
Yao was responding in the B.C. legislature to a motion brought forward by Vancouver-Hastings MLA Niki Sharma on March 22 - one day after the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The motion in full reads: “Be it resolved that this House recognize the historic and present-day acts of structural, systemic and institutional racism perpetuated against racialized people and reaffirm our commitment to combating racism in all forms.”
The motion triggered Richmond MLAs to share their own experiences of racism and speak to the disturbing rise of anti-Asian hate crimes in North America and the Lower Mainland.
Yao noted that it’s not only important to address the observable racism but also acknowledge the existence of hidden racism, such as systemic racism, which can be invisible to individuals who are not impacted by racial discrimination.
“Diversity never seemed to be an issue for frontline or low-paid positions. Instead, many of my past colleagues and I had to report to a management team that neither reflects the diversity of the population we served or the staffing. It is difficult to feel Richmond is a community where such a division exists.
“Together we need to shatter the invisible glass ceiling often too easily felt by indigenous, black and people of colour. We can do better and we need to do better,” said Yao.
Richmond North Centre B.C. Liberal MLA Teresa Wat said the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how racism and intolerance could spread throughout the community, and it’s important to speak out and continue the conversations.
Wat recalled her personal experience of being labelled a foreigner because of her skin colour and the fact she speaks English with an accent, although she has lived in Canada for more than 30 years.
Wat also noted it’s not just Asian-Canadians who have been targeted. Muslim and other communities have also seen an increasing number of hate crimes.
Richmond-Queensborough NDP MLA Aman Singh said he hopes people are aware the Vancouver police department has seen a 717 per cent increase in reported anti-Asian hate crimes since COVID-19.
“The actual number, I surmise, is much, much higher than that. This has always been unacceptable and is still unacceptable,” added Singh.
Singh also praises the provincial government’s efforts in making B.C. a better and safer place to call home through launching Resilience B.C., a province-wide network to challenge racism at the community level and to address systemic and institutional racism across the province.
In 2020, the province committed $1.9 million in new funding to combat racism, he added.
“Much-needed police reform is around the corner. We’ve taken positive steps in that direction as well,” said Singh.