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Statement on anti-Asian racism and violence against Asian women

The murders committed in Atlanta recently demonstrate the violence and risk of murder that racialized women and migrant sex workers face everywhere, including in Canada, as political and social identities combine into unique modes of racial discrimination and hatred.

Racism and violence against Asian people and communities, and against sex workers, is not new. Anti-Asian racism is deeply rooted in the colonial history and continued colonial systems, policies and laws of Canada. Likewise, the misogyny, white supremacy and history of violence and those who tolerate it against sex workers is deeply rooted in the stigma, policies and laws that continue to marginalize people, especially racialized women, who work in these jobs. When hatred, racism, violence and stigma intersect like this, people and communities are at even higher risk of violence and death. Intersectional racism and hate are public health issues that everyone – individuals, organizations and governments – must face and reckon with. Only changes to wider attitudes, curriculums, and policies will create lasting and sustainable change.

One of the first steps in making change is for people to educate themselves, and unlearn and relearn the points in history that shape the present. History lessons range from the history of racist and colonial policies in B.C., to segregation and racial discrimination in other parts of Canada, to the bigger picture today, including the impacts of racism on mental health, to the importance of naming anti-Asian racism and microaggressions and taking action in policy, to reading about and listening to the experiences of Asian people and communities in Canada. These are all important areas for learning and unlearning the history of anti-Asian racism in Canada and its roots in colonialism.

We echo the statement released last week by Alliance member Somerset West Community Health Centre in Ottawa, in which the CHC gives a number of places that people can turn to report anti-Asian hate incidents, and ways to speak up through bystander training. For individuals wondering how to help, these are important starting points, too.

Policy and systems change must be another area we need to address. This past Sunday, March 21, was International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, adopted by United Nations General Assembly Resolution in 1966. Fifty-five years later, we’re still facing the same impacts of lost and destroyed lives from racism. One of the reasons is that governments and policymakers avoid the actions needed to make real change. If you’re looking for ways to join larger movements for action against anti-Asian racism, the Chinese Canadian National Council - For Social Justice has resources and campaigns to look into. There’s also a website, covidracism.ca, dedicated to tracking incidents of COVID-19-related hate crimes and incidents of racism. The site also provides points of action under its resources section for migrant workers, sex workers, paid sick days, and mental health supports in the community. We also want to share the open letter being circulated by the Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network) calling for changes to the criminal law, for strengthening legislation to protect sex workers, and for human and labour rights for migrant sex workers. Organizations as well as individuals can sign on to these calls to action.

The stigmatization and dehumanization that comes with intersectional racism and violence is dangerous and toxic. We see this in many forms. As a health equity organization, the Alliance is committed to supporting the actions and policy changes needed at all levels of governments, and within organizational cultures, to make this happen. It’s also why the 100+ community health providers we represent are also committed to the actions needed to address the intersectionality of racism, misogyny and white supremacy. This commitment is reflected in n our recently revised Health Equity Charter, and in 2020 AGM resolutions on reallocating funds to address harms linked to policing, and addressing violence through a public health approach. Many Alliance members work directly with and for Asian people and communities, as well as women, and people who do sex work. Their work in health care is guided by their advocacy efforts to address anti-Asian racism. The Alliance’s work is to strive for and support systemic and policy changes that can sustain real change for people and communities. Racism and hate are health issues that affect us all. It’s only through concerted and organized collective action that we can write new stories and histories in Ontario and across Canada.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021
health