Virus stokes Asian discrimination fears in Canada’s biggest city, Latest World News - The New Paper

Virus stokes Asian discrimination fears in Canada’s biggest city

This article is more than 12 months old

TORONTO: Canada has identified only three cases of the coronavirus so far, but there are fears a more serious outbreak could stoke anti-Asian sentiment in scenes reminiscent of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic that killed dozens in the Toronto area in the early 2000s.

More than 9,000 people signed a petition urging one of the area's school boards to keep children whose family members recently returned from China out of classrooms, and some businesses in Toronto's Chinatown are already recording a slowdown.

Sars killed 44 people in the Toronto area, causing widespread fear and making Canada the only country outside Asia to report deaths from that virus in 2002-2003.

So far, the new coronavirus has killed more than 130 people in China.

"This is exactly what happened during Sars," Ms Amy Go, interim national president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice said, in reference to the school board petition.

"We really, really have to check that we are not being overwhelmed by irrational fear and irrational panic," she said.

The York Region District School Board responded to the petition by saying it understood "that students and their families are feeling some anxiety" but cautioned that anyone can contract and transmit the virus.

The situation "can regrettably give rise to discrimination based on perceptions, stereotypes and hate", the board said.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu on Tuesday said there was a risk that Chinese Canadians could feel "somewhat targeted" because of the origin of the virus and that it could hurt their businesses if people shun them out of fear. But the Asian community is also among the most concerned about the virus, said Ms Polly Chow, a Chinese-Canadian mother from Toronto.

She agreed with the board petition and with her son's private school "emergency order" that children be self-quarantined for 15 days if their families had travelled where there were confirmed cases.

Ms Chow said many students in her son's class did not attend school on Monday. "All the kids who didn't attend were all the Asian kids," she added. - REUTERS