After it was revealed that reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver skyrocketed last year, BC Premier John Horgan said this week that the information “brings home for all of us in British Columbia that we as individuals and as a community have more work to do to fight racism.”
Horgan made the comments during a press conference on Thursday, where he was asked for further details on his government’s plan to bring forward new anti-racism legislation this year.
Horgan said that in addition to plans for the new legislation, BC’s Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has also been reaching out to law enforcement across British Columbia to “reinforce the importance” of prosecuting hate crimes.
“We need to make sure that violence against people of colour is not just treated as violence, but in fact, as hate crimes, which carry much stiffer penalties,” he said. “These concerns were raised 12 months ago, and they have continued to persist.”
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The spike in anti-Asian hate crime appears to be in lockstep with the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus that first became widespread in China fuelled racist harassment and assaults in Metro Vancouver and around the world.
The police report also noted a 92% year-over-year increase in hate crimes overall.
Asked about what specifically he’d like to see in the legislation, Horgan offered few details, stating that the process is still ongoing.
“The parliamentary secretary for anti-racism is working… to prepare the legislation [and] I don’t want to pre-empt that,” he said. “There’s a lot of work being done, and a lot of work to do to get it into a final form, and I don’t want to pre-judge the work that has not yet come back to cabinet for [a] final decision.”