People wear masks as they wait for the arrivals at the International terminal at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Saturday, January 25, 2020. Leaders of Toronto’s Chinese community said Wednesday the racist attitudes that led to widespread discrimination against Chinese Canadians during the SARS epidemic are threatening to resurface during the current outbreak of a new coronavirus.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

VIDEO: Chinese Canadians warn against a repeat of the racism they faced during SARS

The new form of coronavirus has sickened nearly 6,000 people and killed 132 in China

Leaders in Toronto’s Chinese community said Wednesday the racist attitudes that led to widespread discrimination against Chinese Canadians during the SARS epidemic are threatening to resurface during the current outbreak of a new coronavirus.

Community organizers held a news conference alongside local politicians, urging Torontonians — and Canadians at large — to learn from the mistakes of 2003, and inform themselves about this coronavirus rather than respond out of fear and implicit bias.

Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, said her agency fielded numerous complaints of human rights violations directly triggered by SARS-related hysteria.

“I certainly hope … that we do not have a repeat of SARS — not just the virus, but the virus of racism,” Go said at the news conference. “And the only way to stop it is for … our civic leaders to speak out.”

Go recalled helping tenants turned out by fearful landlords, workers who saw their hours scaled back by misinformed employers, and even Chinese refugee claimants taken aback when lawyers refused to be in the same room to hear their cases.

Evidence suggests little has changed, community leaders said, citing a petition that calls for schools at a board north of Toronto to urge students who have recently returned from mainland China to “self-quarantine” for at least 17 days. The petition had garnered more than 9,800 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he has heard of multiple instances of discrimination against Chinese residents as well as calls to boycott Chinese businesses. He decried all such incidents as unacceptable.

“That kind of stigmatization is wrong,” Tory said. “It is ill-founded, and in fact could lead to a situation where we are less safe because it spreads misinformation at a time when people are in more need than ever of real information and real facts.”

Amy Go, interim president of the Chinese Canadian National Council, said misinformation about the new virus is linked to implicit racism toward the Chinese community.

“In the time of this unknown, this fear, anxiety, it’s easy to blame,” she said.

Go said listening to Canadian public health officials — who have uniformly said the risk of catching the new coronavirus is low — is among the best ways to counter the misinformation.

Officials suggest frequent hand-washing and covering coughs and sneezes as best practices for preventing the spread of any virus, including this one. They have not recommended quarantine or masks.

Toronto has emerged as the Canadian centre of the new coronavirus outbreak, with both of the country’s two confirmed patients living in the city. The people affected are a married couple who recently returned from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

Officials in British Columbia have identified a third presumptive case of the new coronavirus in that province. In all three Canadian cases, the patients are expected to recover.

The new form of coronavirus has sickened nearly 6,000 people and killed 132 in China and has spread to numerous other countries, but the World Health Organization has not declared the outbreak to be a global public health crisis.

READ MORE: B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

READ MORE: Feds preparing plane to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, once China gives OK

Nicole Thompson and Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two overdose deaths in Nelson over the weekend

Police warn that much of the current drug supply in the city may be dangerous

Cottonwood Lake Society announces $15,000 in new funding

The Nelson Rod and Gun Club and Royal Bank of Canada have chipped in

Nelson and RDCK both eyeing waste wood to produce energy

Nelson’s five-year-old business plan will resurface at council table this summer

Investigation ongoing into death of Warfield woman

West Kootenay Traffic Services and BC Coroners Service working on the case

Castlegar students say thanks to local RCMP

Robson Community School students show up for RCMP Appreciation Day

Protesters barricade Premier John Horgan’s home ahead of B.C. budget unveiling

Demonstrators from the Extinction Rebellion have blocked the Langford driveway

Budget 2020: B.C. adds tax to sweet drinks and sodas

All soda, vending machine drinks will be subject to higher PST

Budget 2020: B.C. unveils new grant for students, phases out debt-relief program

For the first time, diploma, certificate students qualify for yearly post-secondary grant

2020 Budget: ICBC shortfall continues ahead of new rate-reduction plan

ICBC operating with $91-million deficit for 2019-2020 fiscal year

Budget 2020: B.C. NDP taps top tax bracket for more revenue

Minimum wage set to pass $15 an hour by 2021

Budget 2020: Not much new for B.C.’s struggling forest industry

Focus on wood waste utilization, efficiency, ministry budget cut

Skull reconstruction gives new insight into unknown man found in B.C. cemetery

RCMP released a 3-D skull reconstruction of a man who was found dead on July 2, 1998

Forest industry supporters and convoy arrive at B.C. legislature in Victoria

Rally delivers petition in favour of ‘working forests’

Ten poisoned eagles rushed to veterinary hospital in Nanaimo

Eagles stricken after eating flesh of euthanized animal at Nanaimo Regional Landfill

Most Read