Rise in Asian Hate Crimes as COVID-19 Pandemic Grows

Montreal’s Asian Businesses Vandalized

Graphic Joey Bruce

As COVID-19 rises to one million confirmed cases globally, experiences of discrimination and hate crimes against Asian-Canadians have increased in Quebec.

Facebook users reported acts of vandalism on Asian businesses and religious institutions, including Buddhist temple Quan Am on Courtrai Ave. in Côte-des-Neiges.

On March 2, Louis Le, one of Quan Am’s volunteers, posted photos on Facebook of the temple’s vandalized gate lions and the ones standing in front of Chinatown’s entrance.

According to MTL Blog’s interview with a worker at Quan Am temple, the faces of the gate lions were bashed by an unknown individual using a sledgehammer, leaving the statues disfigured.

“Mostly lion figures were vandalized, one buddha statue and one incense holder,” Le said.

Another photo showed one of the gate lions from Chinatown’s south arch—also known as the South Paifang on St. Laurent Blvd. and Viger St.—covered in graffiti with illegible writing on its right shoulder.

Guardian lions are an important religious symbol of protection for many Asian and Buddhist communities. They’re commonly found guarding the entrance of Asian-owned businesses and religious buildings.

While there isn’t any evidence connecting the vandalisms, Le believes both cases were racially motivated.

“At first, they thought it was just simple vandalism. But seeing the patterns of attacks, it’s clear that they were oriented toward the Asian community,” Le said.

Another act of vandalism was carried out at the Korean restaurant GaNaDaRa on Maisonneuve Blvd. W. On March 15, GaNaDaRa posted photos on Instagram of their restaurant’s glass windows smashed open and their cash register along with other items thrown off the counter. According to the Instagram caption, the restaurant was robbed for a second time during the month of March.

“It’s even more upsetting because the staff is always so nice and welcoming there,” said Lorenza Mezzapelle, a frequent eater at GaNaDaRa, about the restaurant break-ins.

On the morning of March 15, a man was stabbed on Decarie Blvd. According to Jihae Sohn’s original Facebook post, the victim is of Korean descent and was left critically injured after the attack. “The knife slightly missed the blood vessel,” Sohn wrote.

The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal stated they are still investigating the motivations of these recent crimes but cannot confirm whether they are racially motivated.

Sohn said she spoke with the victim the day after the attack for work purposes. She continues stating that East Asian people are afraid of being another target and some may use the virus to justify their discrimination against them.

Another post from Le Journal de Montreal’s journalist Richard Martineau has been getting some heat from Facebook users.

Martineau is a French-Canadian journalist well-known for his provocative opinion columns such as L’amour du marginal, where he mocks the identity of ethnic minorities and LBTQ members.

Martineau wrote in a caption that China’s unsanitary markets, as he puts it, are the cause of two pandemics and the country should pay for “everything they did to us.” The now-deleted comments referred to Chinese people with ethnic slurs.

Chen He posted photos on Facebook on March 13 of a woman harassing her while grocery shopping at Costco in Brossard. The woman in the photos allegedly tried to attack He for being Asian and wearing a mask according to her Facebook caption. The post garnered over 3,000 shares and almost 2,000 comments by users expressing their concern and disappointment in the incident.

During this pandemic, Montrealers are concerned with their health and the health of their loved ones, but the rise in blatant discrimination against Asian people, businesses, and religious buildings left the community on edge.

Despite their vulnerable position, Quebec’s Asian communities demonstrate their solidarity with Groupe d’Entraide contre le racisme envers les asiatiques au Québec that now has over 2,000 members. From cultural and community centres to Asian churches, a list of support groups can be found in the Facebook group for members who prefer to talk about their experience of discrimination outside social media.

“We have to protect our loved ones. What we need is love, not hate,” said Sohn.