On March 16, eight people were shot and killed during a series of mass shootings at three separate spa and massage parlours in Atlanta, Georgia. Six of the victims were identified to be Asian women, causing many people to question whether these crimes were racially motivated.

While the local police have not declared the Atlanta shootings to be hate crimes towards the Asian community, the tragic event did take place during a time where anti-Asian discrimination was exceptionally high. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, racial discrimination towards Asian communities increased significantly following the emergence of Covid-19. Almost 40 per cent of Asians reported that more people have been acting uncomfortable around them after the Covid-19 outbreak. In comparison, only 13 per cent of white people have stated that they’ve experienced the similar scenarios. 

Similar findings were made in a study led by Weiguo Zhang, associate professor at UTM’s Sociology department, and Xiaolin Wei, associate professor at U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Their study found that Chinese immigrants in Canada have experienced “highly visible discrimination” in the past year.

The study conducted two separate surveys, one in April and another in early 2021. 11 per cent of the people surveyed in April reported experiencing acts of racial discrimination since the beginning of the pandemic. However, that number increased by over 310 per cent in the 2021 survey, with more than 35 per cent of participants saying that they experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity.

On March 22, Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party, presented a motion to the House of Commons and urged the members of Parliament “to condemn the rise of anti-Asian racism and racist attacks throughout North America, and urge the government to take further action to tackle hate crimes.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Singh had previously voiced his opinions regarding anti-Asian racism on Twitter, urging people to take a stand against such discriminatory behaviours.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen an increase in acts of racism against Asian Canadians,” tweeted Singh on March 17. “This ignorant, violent, and discriminatory behaviour has no place in Canada —or anywhere in the world.”

University of Toronto President Meric Gertler released a statement on March 19 in solidarity with the Asian community at U of T following the shootings in Atlanta.

“The University of Toronto emphatically condemns anti-Asian discrimination and racism, and all forms of hate and racial violence,” stated Gertler.

Gertler acknowledged the increase in discrimination and harassment directed towards Asian communities during the global pandemic and emphasized the services U of T offers to students who are in need of support.

“Our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and to the human rights of all people is absolutely fundamental to our values and our excellence as an academic community,” continued Gertler. “Let us remember that, of course, we still have work to do in combatting racism, and let us commit to calling out hate whenever we witness it, and redouble our efforts to combat discrimination and violence on every level.”

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