Newly released federal records reveal ‘darkest days’ of Chinese exclusion era

Part of our history:
Standing over a table at the Chinese Canadian Museum in Chinatown, Brandt Louie slowly and methodically sifts through the documents before him — occasionally bristling at what he sees.
The scanned, century-old documents were forms filled by bureaucrats as they interrogated and kept track of all existing Chinese in Canada after Ottawa imposed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923, which banned immigration from China for almost a quarter of a century.
The nine documents Louie showed to a reporter Wednesday record the registration of Louie’s grandparents, his father and six uncles.

They are the first to be seen in a set that includes 56,000 similar documents for other Chinese in Canada at the time.

“We were quite excited because when we started to look through them, we realized that all the things we had heard about are now true,” said Louie, the 79-year-old B.C. businessman who is president and CEO of the H.Y. Louie Co. Ltd., which distributes to IGA stores, and the chairman of London Drugs.

Some of the records have small but important details such as the exact year his grandfather arrived, or that his grandmother was exempt from the head tax because she arrived in Canada as a “merchant’s wife.”

He said confirming oral history and buttressing stories didn’t carry much relevance for him before, but anti-Asian racism during the pandemic made him reconsider the value of doing this so they can be of value to the current and next generation.

He has been writing opinion pieces, promoting the Chinatown Storytelling Centre and a new exhibit, “Seeds to Success,” at the Chinese Canadian Museum in Chinatown that traces his family’s experience.

“When we heard these stories before, we used to merely assume they were stories of previous generations, that they didn’t apply to us,” said Louie.

For decades, the 56,000 forms have been stored at Library and Archives Canada, which was reluctant to make them accessible until Randall Wong, the first Chinese-Canadian lawyer to be appointed to a federal court, joined others in calling for them to be released.

Historian Catherine Clement is currently cataloguing the forms. She estimates the process will take a year and then they will be publicly available.

“What’s fascinating is that this is a snapshot of our community just before it enters its darkest days. And I always remind people, at the time this happened no one knew if this (Exclusion Act) law would come off the books, if things would change or get better. You couldn’t foresee it would last (until 1947).”

She notes that newspapers at the time give a sense of how the mass registration drive provoked fear and anxiety as much as the closing of immigration.

“There are headlines where we the community is afraid of the registration, afraid of how they’re going to be interrogated, of what’s going to happen to people if they don’t remember exactly what boat they came in,” said Clement.

Louie’s grandfather, Hok Yat Louie, who started the family’s legacy in Canada as a wholesale grocer, would have taken his family in for the process, submitting three photographs for each person. His form states he arrived in Victoria in 1898 while his grandmother, Young Shee, arrived in Vancouver in 1911. The forms for his father and six uncles list them as being born in Vancouver with two recorded as being 10- and 11-year-old schoolboys and the youngest a three-year-old child.

Each has “facial marks and physical peculiarities” listed, including the location and size of scars and moles, whether they are raised or small, by the left jaw or over the right eyebrow.

“It was really quite a classification,” said Louie, reading through the forms. “It’s almost as if (they) had to undergo a physical examination because how would you know where all these moles are?”

Louie remembers that even after the Exclusion Act was in place, his grandfather did go to China a few times as he was still in the business of importing sesame seeds, ginger and walnuts.

“If he wasn’t in the registry, he would have been denied entry. It was used to track people,” he said.

Clement, who is gathering the beige paper identity cards known as C.I. certificates issued by the government to people after they were registered in 1923, said that while families are finding and bringing some of these in, many have also been lost or damaged.

“Even though tens of thousands were issued, there are so few left. In some families, they didn’t recognize the value and so they threw them out. It was just grandma’s stuff. Or as soon as they got their citizenship (in later years), the first thing they did was to rip them up because of the symbolism.”

And Clement was able to manually go through and find the nine documents for the Louie family members because they had one beige paper card for Quan Louie, the uncle who was three-years-old when he was registered.

Source: Newly released federal records reveal ‘darkest days’ of Chinese exclusion era

Ethnic and immigrant Chinese have range of feelings toward Beijing Olympics

Not that surprising to find a diversity of views:

Shuyu Kong recalls being a new Asian studies professor at a Canadian university when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008.

Now, in 2022, with many years of seeing students explore their identity and a sense of belonging, the Simon Fraser University academic is once again thinking about the feelings of those with ethnic, heritage or immigrant ties to China as the Winter Olympics unfold in Beijing.

Source: Ethnic and immigrant Chinese have range of feelings toward Beijing Olympics

COVID-19 related racism impacts sense of belonging, reporting incidents: Study

Of interest given lack of major difference between first and second generation:
The dramatic increase in reports to Vancouver police of hate crimes targeted at Asian-Canadians in 2020 shocked many.

Now, a new study delves into the psychological impact of experiencing COVID-19 and racism when it comes to the sense of belonging held by different generations of Chinese-Canadians. It finds these feelings could hinder the reporting of incidents just as policy-makers are grappling with how to better understand what’s happening.

Source: COVID-19 related racism impacts sense of belonging, reporting incidents: Study

Chinese-Canadian Tories urge O’Toole to resign, saying tough-on-China platform alienated voters

One perspective within the Chinese Canadian community, largely aligned with Beijing:

A group representing Conservatives of Chinese descent is urging Erin O’Toole to resign as federal leader, charging that his call for a tougher approach to China alienated Chinese-Canadian voters and cost the party three seats in last month’s election.

The Chinese Canadian Conservative Association is advocating a less-confrontational stance toward Beijing, saying immigrants from the Mainland don’t like the Communist Party but still feel affection for China as a nation.

Source: Chinese-Canadian Tories urge O’Toole to resign, saying tough-on-China platform alienated voters

Racist labour exploitation continues in multicultural Canada [Odd to showcase Chinese Canadians]

Bit surprising that one would choose Chinese Canadians as the example of contemporary exploitation compared to other visible minority groups and temporary residents. Issues of anti-Asian hate, of course, have increased during COVID-19:

The history of racialized labour exploitation that began with Chinese workers arriving in Canada in the 19th century to take up jobs employers had trouble filling with European settlers continues unabated in multicultural Canada.

Canada has been applauded for being the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as federal policy. Multiculturalism, which turns 50 years old on Oct. 8, successfully established a positive image of Canada as a diverse, inclusive and immigrant-friendly nation.

Multiculturalism has defined national identity, resulting in Canadians perceiving themselves as tolerant, benevolent and peace-loving. It has persuaded many people to immigrate to Canada and many refugees to look toward Canada for safety.

However, multiculturalism as state policy has also perpetuated the discriminatory immigration and labour policies of white Canada. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become evident that Canada’s job market simultaneously relies on Asian essential workers and scorns them.

Canada has witnessed a sharp increase in racial violence against Asian Canadians during the pandemic.

The most recent uptick in anti-Asian racism is not an aberrant response by anxious or fearful Canadians during a health crisis, but the continuation of old hierarchies of racial difference, a legacy of legalized and everyday racism that structures the lives of Asian Canadians and other racialized minorities.

It will be important to ensure that anti-Asian racism during COVID-19 is not obliterated from Canada’s collective memory of the pandemic.

Robust public education, through intentional changes in school curricula and public outreach, informed by the experiences of affected communities, can help Canadians unlearn biases and understand Canada’s history of racial violence. Remembering the past might provoke inquiry into the ways things are and how they should be.

According to the 2016 census, one in five Canadians are foreign-born, and half of these are from Asia. A little more than a quarter of all Canadian children have at least one foreign-born parent. Chinese presence in Canada can be traced back to the early 19th century and Asian Canadians are sometimes called the “model minority.

How then did Asian minorities of varying age, immigration status and national origin suddenly become objects of hatred during the pandemic?

A look back at 1960s and 70s immigration reforms is helpful in situating anti-Asian racism during the current pandemic.

British Columbia was the site of the first Asian settlement in Canada, when Chinese prospectors were lured by the gold rush. Soon after, the Canadian government actively recruited Chinese labourers to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.

After the completion of the CPR, Chinese workers began taking up employment in logging camps, fisheries and mines, before competition between white and Chinese workers culminated in calls for legislation to restrict Chinese immigration. The perceived threat fermented into a stereotype of the Chinese, and then eventually other Asians, as a menace or “yellow peril.”

The Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration of 1885 was established to assess the impact of Chinese immigration to Canada. The commission heard testimony linking infectious disease to Chinese sanitation, food habits, housing and cultural practices. While the commissioners found little evidence to support those claims, they recommended restricting Chinese immigration. This laid the grounds for exclusionary immigration policies, such as the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which levied a head tax on all Chinese immigrants, and the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which more or less stopped Chinese immigration entirely.

Reforms in immigration policy in the 1960s and 70s facilitated Canada’s rebranding of itself as a multicultural nation. The elimination of overt racial distinctions in immigration policy signalled a successful transition from a white settler colony to a multiracial society.

The selective entry of workers based upon Canada’s economic needs continued, however. The introduction of the point system in 1967, for example, favoured immigrants from particular professions and educational backgrounds. New immigrants selected to come from Asia were largely medical, industrial and other professionals, and this change in the immigrant profile fed the “model minority” stereotype.

The celebration of the “model” multicultural subject sets off racial groups against one another and shapes the public’s understanding of national well-being and threat. It masks the fears and anxieties that the increasing visibility of racialized minorities in Canada provokes in white settlers. By inscribing inclusivity and cultural diversity as core Canadian values, Canada’s policy of “multiculturalism within a bilingual framework” articulates a narrative of tolerant nationhood, erasing claims of Indigenous peoples to their land along with the history of African Canadian slavery.

Despite the point system that enabled the entry of skilled immigrants, data shows that racialized immigrants continue to experience higher levels of unemployment and earn less income than white Canadians. Our labour-market policies have resulted in the over-representation of Asian Canadians in so-called essential jobs which are typically low-paying, low-skilled and precarious, such as warehouse, personal support, and cleaning work.

Some of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in Canada have occurred in long-term care and meat-packing facilities, where racialized people, including Asians, are disproportionately employed. More than 1,500 COVID-19 cases were linked to the Cargill meat plant in Alberta, the largest COVID-19 outbreak linked to a single facility in North America, where 70 per cent of employees are of Filipino descent.

The current pandemic has also brought to light how early 19thcentury representations of the Chinese as “a serious public health risk” combined with legalized racism in immigration policy have effectively embedded in public consciousness the perception of Asian Canadians as disease carriers and foreigners within their own nation. Yet Canada’s successful marketing of official multiculturalism as an end to past racism and the framing of recent or emergent racism as aberrations deter acknowledgement of exclusionary and discriminatory policies contributing to anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Asian Canadians, the pandemic has intensified the racial grief of exclusion from their own nation. In June 2020, a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of Alberta suggested a “shadow pandemic” of racism exists. Exactly half of surveyed Canadians of Chinese ethnicity reported being called names or insulted as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and 43 per cent said they had been threatened or intimidated.

Learning the history of anti-Chinese racism in Canada can equip us to intervene in structural racism, which must take a central place in the pandemic recovery process, so that living well together, which is the premise of multiculturalism, can be grounded in justice, rather than mere tolerance of difference or selective inclusion.

Improved public policy that moves past celebrating diversity and enhances cross-cultural, cross-racial learning can facilitate difficult and necessary conversations.

Source: Racist labour exploitation continues in multicultural Canada

Conservatives could have done better job talking to Chinese Canadian voters: ex-MP

Of note:

A former Conservative MP who lost his seat in the recent election thinks the party could have done a better job speaking directly to Chinese Canadians.

Kenny Chiu was defeated in Steveston-Richmond East, a British Columbia riding with many residents of Chinese descent.

The party also saw the losses of longtime Conservative MP Alice Wong in Richmond Centre and Bob Saroya in Markham-Unionville, both home to many voters with Chinese roots. Neither responded to requests for comment from The Canadian Press.

The defeats have the Conservatives wondering what happened, and what connection the losses might have to the party’s stance and messaging on China.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has been an outspoken critic of China’s human rights abuses, calling on the Liberal government to adopt a tougher approach with the authoritarian regime.

Chiu says there’s no single reason for his loss, but points to online WeChat posts he says contained false information about the Conservatives and allegations a private member’s bill he tabled would discriminate against Chinese Canadians.

“Hindsight is always 20/20. I think there could be more proactive communication directly addressing Canadians of Chinese descent that we could have done,” Chiu said in an interview.

The party could have bought more targeted advertisements, he said, adding it’s clear the communication efforts weren’t enough to counter what he considers misinformation.

Improving how Conservatives speak to constituents is one of the issues Chiu said he had hoped to raise heading into the next session of Parliament. Another was how to reassure people that their criticism of the potential influence of the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t mean they are attacking China, a country with a rich and storied history, or its people.

O’Toole hasn’t addressed the issue specifically, but expressed general disappointment in last week’s election results, promising that what went wrong will be examined in a postelection review. Details have yet to be provided on its parameters or who will lead it.

Besides failing to grow the party in key areas like the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver, home to many immigrants and new Canadians, the Conservatives have five fewer elected people of colour because of defeats in and around these two cities, as well as in Calgary.

That comes as a hit to O’Toole’s pledge to grow the party, and make it a place where more Canadians and people of all backgrounds call home.

During the campaign he tried courting voters by telling them Conservatives were no longer their dad’s or grandfather’s party, despite having a predominantly white caucus.

For Tenzin Khangsar, who worked for Jason Kenney when the Alberta premier served as immigration minister under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, success in making inroads with newcomer communities came down to having an authentic presence there before any election was called.

Under Harper, Kenney prioritized aggressive outreach with diaspora communities, noting that Canada’s demographics had changed.

Kenney was a key supporter of O’Toole’s when he ran to win the party’s leadership in 2020, with O’Toole crediting his former colleague for having helped grow the party when he served in Harper’s cabinet.

More recently, Conservative MPs including Alberta’s Tim Uppal have apologized for not speaking out when he was in Harper’s government against its efforts to ban face coverings during citizenship ceremonies and its 2015 election promise to set up a so-called “barbaric cultural practices” hotline.

Source: Conservatives could have done better job talking to Chinese Canadian voters: ex-MP

Racism led to a rise in anti-Asian hate in the pandemic. What the community wants to see in Canada’s next leader

More anecdotal than systemic treatment of hate:

Canada has faced a rude awakening around the rise of anti-Asian racism. The COVID-19 pandemic brought along a surge of attacks on Asian-Canadian seniorsand vandalism of many Asian-Canadian businesses. As a result, the Chinese-Canadian community continues to silently live in fear, isolation and anger.

On the eve of the 44th Canadian federal election, they’re now speaking out about what they demand from the federal electoral candidates.

“Canada is a multicultural country with people from all over the world. Our politicians should strive to make it a vibrant nation where everyone is treated with respect and dignity,” Shiwei Mao, a Chinese-Canadian retiree, said in Mandarin, the only language she speaks besides her native Shanghainese. “But what did they do? It’s been almost two years of COVID-19 and our politicians have made a mess. Our society and economy has undergone profound disruptions, with chaos and racism everywhere!”

Mao has encountered racism herself. Early on in the pandemic, before mask mandates, she wore a face mask on public transit. “As soon as I sat down on the bus, the person next to me got up and changed seats. It made me feel very uncomfortable,” she said. “We Chinese understood the importance of wearing masks as the pandemic started in our country. But everyone else was looking at us strangely for wearing masks.”

In her late seventies and living with her husband in Scarborough, Mao is angry that the pandemic has become a political issue and has changed her idea of saftey. She believes that pandemic measures should have been led by experts and scientists instead of politicians who have “little knowledge and training in public health and epidemiology.”

As a direct result of COVID-19, Mao has not been able to go out much. “My husband, who is 86, is of reduced mobility and uses a wheelchair. Every time we want to go out, it’s a huge hassle, as we don’t have a car and use public transit,” she explained. “It’s extremely inconvenient for us that there is not enough public transit and that its schedule is inconsistent. I want more accessible public transit with a more regular and consistent schedule.”

Another issue is accessibility to health care. Though Mao and her husband were able to find a Chinese-Canadian doctor who gave them information on how to protect themselves, she is aware that not everyone in the community is so lucky. “It’s hard for a lot of Chinese people to find a doctor that speaks their particular dialect. I believe the percentage of doctors in Canada who are of certain cultural backgrounds should match the percentage of Canadians who are of that same background,” she said.

Amy Go, the president of the Chinese-Canadian National Council (CCNC), thinks that this pandemic has highlighted wealth disparities in our society. “The pandemic really highlights the differential access to services of racialized seniors and seniors who don’t speak English” she said. “On top of an already scarce amount of culturally adapted services, COVID-19 has disrupted the few services there were. Chinese-Canadian seniors who rely on home-care to get their daily basic needs met and who need regular health care have been hit extremely hard.”

Go has heard from many seniors who have struggled through the pandemic. “They were so afraid because of all the assaults. Many of them made heartbreaking comments such as ‘We moved to Canada in order to build a better life for our children. But now we are questioning that decision and hope our children won’t have to move again,” she said. “Seniors go out and see people treating them differently. They know it is wrong, but they don’t know what to say, as they don’t have the English skills to say anything.”

CCNC has submitted questions to the federal parties regarding these matters, but received no response. The Conservative party, the Liberal party, and the New Democratic Party did not return requests for interviews either.

Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy said that since its establishment in 2019, “the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat has since been leading a whole of government approach to tackling racism and discrimination in all of its forms in Canada, including anti-Asian racism.” In March they set up a task force to work with “government organizations and diverse communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic… including Canadians of Asian descent, to ensure that our response to COVID-19 is informed by lived experiences.”

But for some, the lack of politicial representation leads to a lack of understanding on how to best care for diverse populations which require a more targeted response.

“We need Chinese-Canadian politicians to represent us at the House of Commons so that our demands can be put forward” Ru Xie, another Scarborough resident who lives with her husband and her daughter said. “I believe that in a multicultural country like Canada, it is the federal government’s responsibility to intervene when there is racism.”

Though COVID-19 has largely kept Xie in her home due to safety concerns, she ventured out to participate in an anti-Asian racism protest after seeing reports of attacks circulating on WeChat, a Chinese social network.

Dr. Henry Yu, a professor of Asian-Canadian and Asian Migration studies, believes that this past year and a half has forced Canada to face its history of anti-Asian racism. “Our communities are looking for some commitment from all party leaders that’s not empty. Saying, ‘We’re not racist in Canada’ won’t cut it, because you say that doesn’t mean it’s true. Because this is happening in Canada,” he said. Dr. Yu strongly believes that Canada needs to take a hard look at itself and ask why is it that this nation scapegoats the Asian-Canadian population to solve structural issues rather than simply enact superficial measures.

“What needs to be implemented across the board is to collect more disaggregated data, especially in the context of COVID-19, about who’s being served in the mental health system, and what access is like for people who are linguistically diverse or marginalized and other ways,” said Cindy Quan, a researcher at the University of Victoria. She believes that part of the solution lies in getting disaggregated data on anti-Asian racism, because Canada historically has not been vigilant collecting data to address its issues with racism.

“We need greater accountability at various levels of government, tougher hate crimes and discrimination laws, better crafted legislation along those lines, and clear consequences for engaging in racist behaviour,” she said.

Source: Racism led to a rise in anti-Asian hate in the pandemic. What the community wants to see in Canada’s next leader

The racist history of Chinese labour in Canada shows not much has changed. Deemed essential, but still invisible

Overwrought, IMO, in terms of the implications that nothing has changed. Not as much as needed, of course.

Given the examples, an interesting question would be whether Chinese Canadian are employees treated worse or better in Chinese or “mainstream” supermarkets?

Arab, West Asian and Korean have greater incidence of low income than Chinese first generation, but second generation Chinese Canadians, particularly those with university education, have higher median incomes than non visible minorities:

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese Canadians and other visible Asians became targets of threats and attacks in the nonsensical scapegoating of the coronavirus.

In 2020, the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTO) and community partners across Canada documented 1150 cases of racist attacks nationally, with Vancouver seeing a 717 per cent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes.Asian elders have been especially targeted, including a 92-year-old man with dementia who was violently shoved onto the pavement in Vancouver and an 80-year-old woman who was assaulted and struck in the head with a rock in Pembroke.

A year and a half later, new anti-Asian racism cases continue to flood into Fight COVID Racism’s self-report and witness-report tracking tool.

While these are examples of overt, hate crimes, the type of racism that cannot be tracked, but continues to happen is the experience of someone like Michael. Michael is a Chinese Canadian who has worked in Chinese supermarkets for nine years. He has low pay, works long hours and faces the systemic violations of minimum wage and vacation pay. It is par for the course in this line of work. Michael’s situation is already far better than that of his co-workers who have precarious immigration status and endure worse treatment and exploitation.

When the pandemic hit, Michael saw his pay and hours reduced. He and other workers had to pay out-of-pocket for their own masks and even disinfectant to stay safe on the job and at home. Confronted with the financial squeeze and risk of infection at work, he also faced a growing anti-Asian sentiment outside of work due to racist scapegoating.

Michael’s experience, detailed in a new report Our Lives Are Essential by CCNCTO, is both recurrent and commonplace within Chinese Canadian working class communities, where precarious working conditions and endemic poverty are deep and persistent. Chinese Canadian communities experience conditions of low-income at rates nearly double that of white communities (22.2 per cent to 11.5 per cent), making up the largest population of racialized people living in poverty.

Racially-motivated hate is the most obvious manifestation of anti-Asian racism; the tip of the iceberg visible above water. Beneath the surface lies the far more subtle and insidious nature of racialized social and economic exclusion: elevated levels of poverty, racial disparities in employment, underinvestment in working-class communities, reduced access to health and social services, legally-produced immigration status precarity, reduced support for collective bargaining and morepronounced violations of workers’ rights. The hypervisibility of hate crimes and related calls for greater policing stand in stark contrast to the normalized indignities of racialized poverty and labour injustice.

This invisible side of anti-Asian racism often is erased by the “model minority” myth, which fixates on visible Asians who are wealthy, educated, and upwardly mobile, rather than the poor and marginalized. But the working-class genesis of the model minority trope originated more maliciously. When white settlers enlisted Chinese migrant workers in the 1880s to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, Chinese workers were seen as economic threats because of their supposed inherent “propensity” to be compliant, manageable, accepting of lower wages, longer hours, and dangerous work … all threats to white workers’ chances for prosperity.

Operating parallel to the federal government’s imposition of racially exclusive policies, like the Chinese head taxes and immigration restrictions, were white labour unions that passed restrictions banning Chinese workers (and later Japanese and South Asian workers) from their ranks. The idea of the toiling Asian worker continues to manifest as a threat to Canadian labour to this day — with former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford infamously remarking “Oriental people work like dogs” and were “slowly taking over.”

The entanglements between worker exploitation and racial caricature of the Asian labourer has resulted in a host of anti-Asian racist harms: perpetual foreignness, immigration controls combined with racial exclusion, and the undermining of labour solidarity — limiting our capacity to see workers’ struggles as tied to struggles for racial and migrant justice.

As a result, the successes of Chinese Canadian labour organizing is also lost, from the strikes led by Chinese and other Asian shingle mill workers in British Columbia that predated the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, to the creation of the Ontario Employee Wage Protection Program in the 1990s after Chinese Canadian garment factory workers organized against wage theft by Lark Manufacturing.

Alongside anti-Asian racist attacks, a hierarchy of “essential” work has emerged during this pandemic. The invisible low wage labour that disproportionately relies on racialized immigrant workers in industries like food, transportation, personal support and more. Those jobs were first labelled non-essential, despite taking the front-line brunt of running establishments that supplied basic necessities to us during the series of lockdowns. This Labour Day, in the shadow of a federal election and another spike of COVID cases, the invisible side of anti-Asian racism hidden behind the model minority myth — valuing certain labour over others — must be made visible again.

Michael is not the only racialized immigrant low wage worker whose blood, sweat and tears remains ignored by our political system. So many have been made invisible and isolated in their labour struggles, while simultaneously made hypervisible by continued anti-Asian sentiment.

Only by seeing the labour and lives of racialized immigrant workers as essential to our communities will we recover towards a fair and just society for all.

Vincent Wong is a human rights lawyer and PhD student at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Kennes Lin works as a community social worker and is the co-chair of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter.

Source: The racist history of Chinese labour in Canada shows not much has changed. Deemed essential, but still invisible

CSIS warns China’s Operation Fox Hunt is targeting Canada’s Chinese community

Risk to Chinese Canadians of note:

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service says Beijing routinely uses undercover state security officials and “trusted agents,” or proxies, to target members of Canada’s Chinese community in an effort to silence critics of President Xi Jinping, including threats of retribution against their families back in China.

The federal spy agency says these illegal activities in Canada are part of a global campaign of intimidation that constitutes a threat to this country’s sovereignty and the safety of Canadians. One of the most high-profile efforts is Operation Fox Hunt, directed by Beijing’s Ministry of Public Security, which has been under way since 2014.

Operation Fox Hunt was ostensibly launched as an anti-corruption campaign by Mr. Xi that targeted wealthy citizens and corrupt Communist Party members, who had fled overseas with large amounts.

However, FBI director Christopher Wray said in July that Operation Fox Hunt’s principal aim now is to suppress dissent among the Chinese diaspora. He called Fox Hunt nothing more than a sweeping bid by Mr. Xi to “target Chinese nationals who he sees as threats and who live outside China, around the world.”

On Oct. 28, the FBI charged eight individuals, including three Chinese citizens, with conspiring to act as “illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China” as part of Operation Fox Hunt. The charges stem from a foiled plot beginning in 2016 to coerce an American resident and Chinese citizen identified only as John Doe to return to China with his family – by threatening his wife and daughter in the United States and other relatives still in China, the U.S. government said.

Now Canada’s spy agency is speaking out on the same issue, publicly acknowledging to The Globe and Mail that China is using threats and intimidation against members of Canada’s Chinese community that are akin to the tactics used in Operation Fox Hunt.

While China may be trying to coerce some fugitive criminals to return home, CSIS said, “these tactics can also be used as cover for silencing dissent, pressuring political opponents and instilling a general fear of state power no matter where a person is located.”

John Townsend, the Canadian spy agency’s head of media relations, was speaking in reply to a question from The Globe about whether CSIS had the same national security concerns about Operation Fox Hunt as Mr. Wray.

“Certain foreign states routinely attempt to threaten and intimidate individuals around the world through various state entities and non-state proxies. These states, such as the People’s Republic of China, may use a combination of their intelligence and security services as well as trusted agents to assist them in conducting various forms of threat activities,” the CSIS spokesman said.

He urged Chinese nationals and Chinese-Canadians to report any threats or intimidation to Canadian authorities.

“Importantly, when foreign states target members of Canadian communities, these individuals, for various reasons, may not have the means to protect themselves or do not know they can report these activities to Canadian authorities. The fear of state-backed or state-linked retribution targeting both them and their loved ones, in Canada and abroad, can force individuals to submit to foreign interference,” Mr. Townsend said.

“When individuals in Canada are subjected to such harassment, manipulation or intimidation by foreign states seeking to gather support for or mute criticism of their policies, these activities constitute a threat to Canada’s sovereignty and to the safety of Canadians,” he added.

Mr. Townsend declined to say how many members of the Chinese community in Canada have been targeted by Fox Hunt. The FBI’s Mr. Wray said hundreds of U.S. residents have been pursued by agents of China.

In a separate statement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they are aware of China’s operations in Canada, adding “at this time, the RCMP has not laid any charges” of foreign-influenced threats covered by the Security of Information Act. Canada Border Service Agency was unable to say how many Chinese citizens had been removed from Canada because it was determined they were in this country to put pressure on or coerce people.

Former CSIS director Richard Fadden, who also served as national security adviser to prime ministers Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, said it is noteworthy that CSIS is publicly acknowledging what has been a significant national security concern for many years.

“The Chinese authorities are very active. They are very sophisticated. They have almost unlimited resources and in particular, the Chinese diaspora in Canada is quite large,” he said.

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said this intimidation from China on Canadian soil has become “standard operating procedure” now.

He said sisters and brothers are often used to exert pressure on behalf of Beijing. “In British Columbia, siblings are fair targets and they’re not even shy about it. It’s literally in your face.”

“The proxy from China will have a face-to-face conversation … to explain either subtly or not subtly what they expect in terms of the family member’s behaviour in Canada and next steps that will be taken if people don’t co-operate.”

Mr. Kurland said the Chinese state has grown “less reluctant to do this kind of dirty work on Canadian soil to members of the Chinese Canadian community.” Such direct pressure would be virtually unheard of 15 to 20 years ago, he said.

“It’s one thing to receive a telephone or message indirectly. It’s something quite different when you get a knock on the door from a proxy from China right here in Canada.”

A former CSIS official said Chinese government officials have made a habit of booking meetings in Canada with government ministries but arranging these appointments so that there were days or weeks between the meetings. That left the visitors time to pay visits to Chinese citizens living in Canada and intimidate them. The Globe is not identifying the former official because he is not authorized to discuss these matters publicly.

He also pointed to incidents in 2018 where an unidentified individual took out full-page ads in Ming Pao Daily, a Chinese language newspaper with Hong Kong owners, that accused a Chinese citizen living in Canada of being a fugitive from justice in China. The ads listed his birthdate, Chinese passport number, Chinese citizen identification number and alleged he was a Communist Party official guilty of embezzlement and taking bribes. It implored the individual to “give themselves up” and admit their guilt. The sponsor of the ads was not identified in the ads.

Toronto refugee and immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman told The Globe that some of his clients in Canada have received cellphone messages from Chinese security officials threatening them and their families if they don’t return home.

Mr. Waldman said he has has worked several cases where Chinese citizens in Canada were the target of intimidation to force them or their relatives to return to China.

“This is a very serious problem,” Mr. Waldman said.

In some cases, Chinese authorities have dispatched people to Canada to try to put pressure on people to return, he said. In other cases, his clients’ relatives in China were detained to force them to come back.

Mr. Fadden said Chinese Fox Hunt agents come to Canada either under diplomatic cover or covertly on tourist visas, as business people and students to bully expatriates, including some suspected of corruption, to return home.

“They try to do it in such a way where it is not obvious,” he said.

Mr. Fadden said it can be difficult to lay criminal charges in these cases, but CSIS and the RCMP are able to stop the intimidation tactics if people come forward to complain.

“Either CSIS or the RCMP can make a point of making it very clear that we are onto to them and they better stop. I would guess in most cases they would stop and go away,” he said. “It’s difficult to get a grip on unless the people who are being approached, harassed, intimidated complain and very few do.”

In a heavily redacted report issued in March, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians said the RCMP had co-operated with China’s Fox Hunt, facilitating their requests for police and prosecutors to travel to Canada to interview alleged fugitives. However, the committee said the “RCMP imposed increasingly stringent criteria on PRC investigators as time passed.”

Source: CSIS warns China’s Operation Fox Hunt is targeting Canada’s Chinese community

Data shows an increase in anti-Asian hate incidents in Canada since onset of pandemic

Although collected through online portals with anonymity, of concern and buttressed by official police stats:

More than 600 incidents of hate targeting Asians within Canada have been reported to Chinese Canadian groups since the pandemic began, and one in three of those attacks have been assaults, say the groups.

The data, collected through online portals that have allowed victims to report hate incidents anonymously, are consistent with reports from Canadian police forces that they are also investigating an increase in anti-Asian attacks.

The data, released last week, were compiled by the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, Project 1907, the Vancouver Asian Film Festival and the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice. All of the incidents were reported through two online platforms based in Toronto or Vancouver. The reports were received from seven provinces.

Justin Kong, executive director for the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, said the data again indicate Asian Canadians have been targeted through the pandemic and racism will continue to taint Canada until there are policies in place to tackle it.

“Those attacks stemmed from historical anti-Asian racism, but also because of the ways in which COVID-19 has been racialized,” he said, adding COVID-19 is seen as a Chinese disease, similar to SARS.

“We saw what happened during SARS, and I guess it became obvious that this was going to go the same way. … That’s why we started collecting the data on the racist attacks.”

Mr. Kong acknowledged they weren’t able to verify the reports, and the groups instead have been relying on “a trust system.”

The data, which have been collected since February, show that 83 per cent of the incidents were reported by East Asians, followed by 7 per cent by Southeast Asians. It says 44 per cent of the attacks were reported from B.C. – the highest in Canada – while 38 per cent of the occurrences were reported in Ontario and 7 per cent in Quebec.

Women reported 60 per cent of all incidents. In B.C., women were even more disproportionately affected, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of all reported incidents there.

The data found nearly 30 per cent of reported incidents are assault, including targeted coughing, physical attacks and violence, and that verbal harassment is the most common type of discrimination.

These groups’ findings echo those of the Vancouver Police Department, which has reported a dramatic rise in hate incidents against East Asians.

In July, Vancouver police said they have had 66 hate-motivated incidents against East Asian people reported to them so far in 2020, a huge spike from the seven during the same period last year. A VPD spokesperson said the most targeted community continues to be East Asian.

Toronto Police Service spokeswoman Connie Osborne said, in comparison to 2019, her force has seen an increase in the number of hate-motivated occurrences, including where race has been a factor.

She said many of the 2020 cases are active investigations and the motivation of the offence may change or more offences may be uncovered, so the force can’t provide specific numbers for the year so far. But she added such incidents often go unreported and the number of reports received by police are not an accurate reflection of what people have experienced.

Earlier this year, Korean Montrealer Kyungseo Min compiled testimonies from Asian Québécois of racist incidents since January. In the span of about a month and a half, Ms. Min collected more than 20.

She said some of her findings match those from the advocacy groups. For example, female Asians reported more harassment or violence than men, and the majority of the racism was verbal.

In Alberta, the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee has been running the portal since 2017 to encourage people to report incidents and talk about what happened to them. The portal’s reports include four incidents reported this year of an East Asian Canadian being verbally assaulted in a public space in a tirade related to COVID-19.

Since it began collecting data, the portal has logged 74 incidents of hate in Edmonton, 69 in Calgary and 31 in Lethbridge. There are a handful of reports from other areas of the province. The data were last updated in July.

The groups are calling on the federal government to include an anti-racism strategy in its postpandemic recovery plan.

Mr. Kong said as the pandemic has posed more challenges to racialized communities, he hopes that the government could also come up with policies aimed at helping migrant workers and low-income immigrant workers.

The House of Commons’ standing committee on justice and human rights issued a report just more than a year ago with recommendations for battling online hate. They include recommendations for more funding for police, judges and Crown prosecutors to enable them to better respond to hate complaints as well as better data collection on hate incidents.

The report, submitted in June, 2019, noted a 50-per-cent jump in hate crimes targeting Black people in 2017 relative to the year earlier. However, the report does not refer to hate crimes against those of East Asian descent.

In a response this month, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Toronto-based foundation, provided several recommendations to the Justice Minister’s office, including placing online hate crimes under federal jurisdiction and developing a more clear and comprehensive definition of illegal hate activities.

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the foundation’s director of policy, said it is the responsibility of the justice system to recognize hatred as the poison that it is and confront hate crimes.

“We want to see all hate crimes aggressively investigated by police, regardless of what community is being targeted and what form these crimes take, so that perpetrators are brought to justice.”