understanding Anti-Asian racism, indentity,
& belonging

From the Pacific Coast race riots of 1907 to the upsurge of anti-Asian Racism during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Chinese and Asian Canadians have wrestled with questions of belonging, cultural difference, identity, and otherness. Our experiences and narratives are often invisible, minimalized, and misrepresented throughout this nation, even after a century since the repeal of the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act. These same racist systems and prejudices still operate in Canadian society today.

Anti-Asian racism takes place within a larger context of systemic oppression situated in anti-Black racism and Indigenous erasure that is deeply rooted in the foundations of Canada as a settler-colonial state. It persists throughout history and continues to affect Chinese and Asian Canadians, extending its impact on racialized newcomers, refugees, and (im)migrants.

It is a marriage of racist policies and ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities and exists in several intersecting forms, including negative and stereotypic attitudes about ‘racialized’ groups, the dominance of White Supremacy and Western knowledge and systems, overt aggression and violence, and more subtle discriminatory behaviors, as well as structural inequities and social exclusion.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, large numbers of anti-Asian racist incidents occurred in public spaces, businesses, and private residences, with the most notable increase online. Fueled by disinformation and inflammatory rhetoric tying East Asian communities to the origins and spread of the COVID-19 virus, echoes existing anti-Asian tropes and narratives of the perpetual foreigner that positions racialized communities as existing outside of the nation, regardless of legal, generational, or cultural status.

Following the social movements of Chinese and Asian Canadian communities from laborers to war veterans, benevolent societies and family associations, the beginnings of Chinatowns and the growth of Asian communities across Canada, to social media, our work aims to engage community voices to capture the political and cultural activism around resistance, intergenerational organizing, community building, identity-making, racial equity, and social justice to inform anti-racist practices, policies, and legislation.


A history of Social justice

In this resource we will examine the histories of Chinese racial justice movements in conversation with histories of Indigenous, Black, and other non-white settler communities. Told from the perspective of resistance to (and in some cases, refusal of) oppressive power, this resource seeks to dismantle colonial structures and systems that the state has attempted to naturalise as “inevitable” (ie. the nation-state, citizenship, private property). To do so, we must also critique limitations within Chinese resistance movements, intra-community conservatism. Wherever possible, we will draw from communities’ wisdom and consultation.

Identifying Anti-Asian Racism Online

IMPACTS and responses to online hate

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, fears of the coronavirus fueled the rise of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian sentiments online combining traditional slurs and new terms such as “kungflu. Data from reports show a massive increase in web traffic to previously lesser-known web sites that are actively supporting and promoting racist hate speech.

Social media platforms that are being used to spread hate online such as gaming communities, blogs, forums, streaming sites, and video sharing platforms are all being called upon to steer users to reliable sources of information as well as preventing and blocking the spread of misleading or false information. To curb this issues this project aims to address misinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news by assessing its affects on Chinese and Asian Canadians and  analyzing current international models of policies and legislation that tackle racism and online hate.


Melanie Ng (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation research studies clandestine Chinese migration to and through Canada during the twentieth-century. More specifically, she explores how Chinese migrants’ methods of “passing” simultaneously subverted state legal categories in circumventing anti-Chinese immigration state laws, while also, had the unintended result of reinforcing those same systems. As a former Museum Educator at the Royal Ontario Museum, Melanie comes from a strong public history background. She currently works as the Project Manager for expanding CCNC-SJ’s Road to Justice website. Beyond academia, her work focuses on amplifying grassroots organizing efforts through education and historically contextualizing issues faced by Chinese Canadian and other racialized communities.

Emily Chan (she/her) is a second-generation Canadian settler based in Toronto and Vancouver. She is a researcher, designer, community organizer, and a board member of the Toronto Chinatown Land Trust. She works in the areas of user experience and human computer interaction; solidarity economy; and equity and justice. She holds a Bachelor of Design (OCADU) and Master of Library and Information Studies (UBC). Emily strives to centre and contribute to community driven, just, and equitable initiatives.

Koby Song-Nichols (he/him) is a PhD candidate in history with a collaborative specialization in food studies at the University of Toronto. His research follows how Chinese Canadians and Chinese Americans have used Chinese food and foodways to feed intercultural, intergenerational and diasporic relations and communities in the multicultural cities of Toronto, Montreal and Phoenix. By placing these histories within the same frame and centring Chinese Canadian and Chinese American voices, his work aims to help us recognize and reimagine the many ways we do and can relate to one another, our foods and our pasts. His work has been published in Food, Culture, & Society, Gastronomica, and Chinese America: History & Perspectives. He has presented his research internationally including at the Oxford Food Symposium, Mills College, and the Università di Scienze Gastronomiche di Pollenzo.

Serene Tan is a settler of Chinese heritage (Hokkien/Hakka) who grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong. She is a sessional lecturer in the Canadian Studies Program at University College, University of Toronto, as well as a project coordinator at the Tkaronto CIRCLE Lab (Social Justice Education, OISE) for the Returned Lands Projects. Serene holds a PhD in Geography (YorkU). Her doctoral dissertation examined Chinatowns in Southeast Asia as a diasporic, ethno-national landscape. She has published research on labour movements, community-led demonstrations, public policy in relation to diasporas, and cultural heritage. Serene is curious about social and cultural identities and relationships, diasporas, social justice and community organizing, returning land, and decolonization.

Nicole Yakashiro (she/her) is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. Her dissertation research examines the politics of what she calls “neighbourly relations” in settler colonial British Columbia and in particular, the meanings of Asian-Canadian property possession – or lack thereof – on unceded, occupied Indigenous lands throughout the province. Her publications include “‘Powell Street is dead’: Nikkei Loss, Commemoration, and Representations of Place in the Settler Colonial City” in Urban History Review (2021) and “Daffodils and Dispossession: Nikkei Settlers, White Possession, and Settler Colonial Property in Bradner, BC, 1914-1951” in BC Studies for which she won the 2021 BC Studies Prize. Nicole is an active member of the Japanese Canadian community, primarily as part of the Powell Street Festival Society’s Advocacy and Outreach Committee in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She is especially passionate about bridging community work with academic research through innovative pedagogical approaches and mobilizing histories in the present to support grassroots activism.

Supported by the Royal Bank of Canada.

Project Team

Victoria Lin currently works at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) as a Community Advocate, focusing on Economic Justice and Anti-Displacement. She graduated from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) with a Master of Science in Urban Planning specializing in Community Economic Development and the Built Environment, and she received her Honours Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies and Public Policy from the University of Toronto.

During graduate school, Victoria served as the research assistant of the GSAPP Anti-Racism Task Force and helped run the Common Circle initiative in which graduate students of architecture, real estate development, planning and preservation came together to research and share common examples of racial injustice in the built environment that intersects with their work and studies. She also worked as a legal assistant and interpreter in Toronto as well as a research intern for the National Trust of Historic Preservation researching and profiling North American Chinatowns.

Supported by the United Way of Greater Toronto.

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