Building Resilience

The #FaceRace Campaign is a living history of the experience of racism by Chinese and Asian Canadians during the global COVID-19 pandemic – and beyond.

This story is still being written and it challenges Canada’s history of inclusion with a true narrative of our lived experiences – not just national myths – as all Canadians confront a racist past and present.

And it’s not just us. Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour have similar stories to tell, though our circumstances and outcomes are vastly different. Systemic racism still exists and is ingrained into Canadian society.

The federal government has created the Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-’22 and directorate which work on a vision “where all Canadians benefit from equitable access to and participation in the economic, cultural, social and political spheres.” This key policy paper specifically targets anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and anti-Semitic racism – but notably leaves out anti-Asian racism, which has resurfaced in Canada with COVID-19. 

Our experience of racism during the pandemic is different across Canada, but it is persistent in all provinces, territories and in our cities. Racialized communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, when health outcomes are compared to other groups. In parts of the country, Chinese and Asian Canadians also are disproportionately represented on the health-care front lines, especially in the lower-paying jobs.

Our history of resilience, through the generations of our families who first settled here, defines our collective experience – and our identity in Canada. This is what being Canadian means to us.

Our “Canadian Experience”

Chinese and other Asian communities have been frequent visitors and settlers to Turtle Island. Chinese presence on Native lands that became Canada pre-date Confederation, in 1867, and Chinese Canadians who described North America as “Gold Mountain” have witnessed and participated in every major historic event in the building of our country.

Turtle Island (© Katalinks/Dreamstime)

Throughout Canada’s history, people of Chinese, other Asian, and Indigenous heritage have experienced historic injustices at various times. Resilience to racism and other forms of discrimination has become part of who we are – and it is ingrained in our Canadian identity. The experience of COVID-19 is no different.

(2002-2004) SARS

In interceding years, Chinese Canadians also built community resilience under the onslaught of further racism, notably during the first coronavirus outbreak in 2002-2004 of Severe

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(2010) “ ‘Too Asian?’ ”

Chinese Canadians continued to suffer under deliberate cultural racism and misrepresentation. In 2010, Maclean’s news magazine published an article, in its 2010 University Rankings edition,

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