A Juristat article newly published by Statistics Canada this week highlights that the number of Chinese people in Canada who said they experienced discrimination nearly doubled between 2014 and 2019.

The article analyzed data from the General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety, which showed that in 2019, 29 per cent of Chinese people in Canada said they “experienced discrimination or unfair treatment in their daily lives” at some point during the preceding five years.

While that figure is similar to those reported by other racialized groups, it represented nearly double the figure recorded in 2014, when 16 per cent of Chinese people in Canada reported experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment in the previous five years. This rise was greater than the increases reported by other racialized groups.

In 2021, approximately 4.7 per cent of Canada’s population, about 1.7 million people, identified as Chinese.

Shana Conroy, the author of the Juristat article, noted Canada’s long track record of anti-Asian racism. She wrote: “‘Yellow peril’ ideology considered individuals from Asian countries and those of Asian descent as a threat to western society … In Canada, longstanding and widespread anti-Chinese racism culminated in exclusionary immigration policies.”

Of those Chinese people who reported being discriminated against in 2019, 22 per cent said it was on the basis of race or skin colour, while 17 per cent said it was on the basis of ethnicity or culture, and 11 per cent said it was on the basis of language.

Graphic from Statistics Canada report.

Conroy noted that “the increase in the proportion of people that experience discrimination could represent an increase in incidents of discrimination, but it could also be reflective of a growing awareness and acknowledgement of inappropriate and offensive behaviours in society.”

However, the numbers recorded in 2019 predate the COVID-19 pandemic, when hate crimes and reported discrimination against Asian people in Canada skyrocketed.

The article noted:

“There was a 37% increase in police-reported hate crime in Canada in 2020, while the number of hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity increased 80% from the previous year … Among the East and Southeast Asian population — including those who are Chinese — targeted hate crimes tripled (+301%) between 2019 and 2020, reaching the highest point of any year with comparable data.”

As reported by CBC News in June 2021, an Angus Reid poll found that 58 per cent of all Asian Canadians had experienced discrimination in the past year. Twenty eight per cent said that such incidents happen “all the time” or often.

Last year, a survey by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CNCTO) and a grassroots organization called Project 1907 found that racist incidents across Canada increased by 47 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

CBC News explained: “Violent attacks were also a continued trend, with a 42 per-cent increase in Asians reporting being coughed at or spat on. Organizations warn the true number of all incidents is much higher.”

The GSS numbers for 2019 were also recorded before the latest media furore about alleged Chinese interference in Canadian politics, which critics have argued further stokes anti-Asian racism.

Back in April, The Maple’s opinion editor, Davide Mastracci, wrote: “accusing a Chinese MP of secretly working for China is inherently racist unless you can meet a high standard of proof showing it to be true. Such proof doesn’t exist in this case, and the fact that so many reporters and politicians think it does is further proof that racism has shaped the coverage.”

More recently, Chinese international students have reported having to undergo lengthy security checks in order to be allowed to enter Canada, leaving their academic futures in a state of limbo.

As reported by CBC News this week: “Will Tao, an immigration lawyer at Vancouver's Heron Law Offices, said the worsening geopolitical situation between China and Canada may be combining with the increasing use of algorithms to contribute to a rise in certain files being caught in review delays.”

Confidence In Institutions?

While a large majority of Chinese respondents to the GSS survey reported having confidence in the police, the number decreased from 92 per cent in 2014 to 85 per cent in 2019. Only 28 per cent of Chinese respondents said they thought the police do a good job of treating people fairly, and just 25 per cent said they felt police do a good job of ensuring the safety of citizens.

Notably, a minority of respondents, 40 per cent, said they have confidence in Canadian media. That figure is nine per cent lower than it is among other racialized groups.

However, a smaller proportion of Chinese respondents, 15 per cent, said they were not confident in Canadian media than the non-racialized population, of which 22 per cent shared that view.

Alex Cosh is the news editor of The Maple.

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