How often do we hear a Prime Minister make such pronouncements in response to racially motivated attacks in Canada? In the case of COVID-19, politicians were very soon making blanket values statements about our identity as Canadians, inclusivity, and commitment to diversity.
“It’s unacceptable. Hate, violence, and discrimination have no place in Canada. This is not who we are,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the end of a daily pandemic press briefing on May 22, 2020.
“I want to thank those who have stood up against violence and exposed what is happening in our communities. We need to speak out against racism wherever it is found, so we can stop it.
“To Asian Canadians across the country, know we all stand with you. We will not let hate divide us,” he said.
Trudeau’s words should have been reassuring, except that widespread racism had already occurred, when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) ravaged the globe. The 2002-2004 outbreak was first detected in southern China, and then – as now – Canada was not immune to the virus, or to the racism that followed. Toronto became an epicentrer of worldwide outbreaks during SARS. Government reacted predictably. They funded projects to document the experience, and then politicians and policy makers promptly forgot about the lessons of the crisis