New campaign urges Canadians to speak up amid surge in anti-Asian racism

WATCH: #HealthNotHate social media campaign aims to stop anti-Asian crime

Amid a surge in cases of anti-Asian racism, a new grassroots group of Canadians has launched a campaign to fight back.

Dubbed #HealthNotHate, the campaign’s message is that COVID-19 is the enemy, not our neighbours.

The group is calling on Canadians to speak out against racism.

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“We’re all in this together. Really the virus is something that affects all of us,” said Sonny Wong with Health not Hate.

“We feel they’re misdirecting and misguiding their hatred towards a particular people when that hatred should be directed towards a virus.”

On Friday, Vancouver police said they’d identified 77 hate-associated files in 2020, and have opened 29 investigations into anti-Asian crime so far this year, compared to only four by this time last year.

Trixie Ling is one of those cases.

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Ling operates a non-profit organization called Flavours of Hope, which helps refugee women build social and economic connections through cooking.

On May 9, Ling was walking near Emily Carr University when she was approached by a Caucasian man who hurled racial and sexual epithets at her, then spat in her face.

“It was shock, I was just disgusted,” Ling told Global News.

But as angry as she was, she says the message she drew from the assault was the need to speak out.

“This present moment in time with coronavirus really heightens and triggers this anti-Asian racism that has always been there,” Ling said.

“We cannot be silenced by the fear of the ongoing racism, and that it is up to each of us and our responsibility. That is our power, to take back the story, to feel a sense of belonging and a place of safety, but that starts with us supporting each other and being vocal about it.”

That’s exactly what the #HealthNotHate campaign hopes to achieve.

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The campaign is recruiting public figures and everyday people, asking them to take a photo of themselves wearing a mask, and upload it to social media using its hashtag.

“I thought it was so powerful, how they chose to use the masks,” said Fiona Forbes, one of the faces featured in the campaign.

“Not turning a blind eye. If you see something, say something.”

Ling said she reported her assault to police, who are taking the case seriously and looking for video evidence.

But in the meantime, she said she’s talking with her refugee clients — and anyone else who will listen — about not letting racists get the upper hand.

“We want to create something different. We really want to create this place of not just acceptance but belonging,” she said. “We are different but together this is how we can live together and recognize each other’s full humanity. We do not need to degrade each other.

“We can not let the people who are doing these racist acts take over the story.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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