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Misty Santerre and her daughter Jasmina react near flowers laid at the fatal crime scene where four members of a Pakistani family were crushed by a truck | REUTERS

North America: Pandemic, gun laws and the rise in 'hate crimes'

By : Krishti Aung Leona
Published : Jun 08, 2021 07:15:00 PM | World

Just imagine, you are out for a regular walk with your family, and your family gets crushed to dead out of nowhere, just for being of different faith.  That is the reality for nine-year-old Fayez who now lies alone in a hospital bed with serious head injuries, after being the sole survivor of a premeditated attack that killed his family.

The Pakistani family moved to Canada 14 years ago, and worked extremely hard to excel. Among those killed were a 15-year-old girl who was a bright student and always among the top of her class. 

On Sunday, members of the same family were hit with a truck while trying to cross a street in the city of London, 200 km southwest of Toronto in Canada.

Detective Superintendent Paul Waight of the London police department told reporters: There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate.

What is ‘hate crime?’

In simple terms, hate crime can be defined as criminal offences perpetrated on the basis of race, color, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender.

'Trump whipped the situation'

Former US President Donald Trump stirred up the hate against Asian Americans by tagging the coronavirus as ‘Chinese Virus’ and calling out an open war against the Chinese virus.

These terms and political bias have led to the uptake in crimes against non-whites, believes Asian researcher Russell Jeung of San Francisco State University compiling data on ‘hate crime’. Incidents such as an elderly woman being chased by a bully with a hand sanitizer, an Asian man on the metro being sprayed with antiseptic spray include the hundreds of incidents against the Asians.

Increasingly physical attacks on Asian-Americans or South Asians are becoming visible. The 84 year old Thai man who was shoved to the ground, and killed just after being vaccinated also got viral on social media, sparking protests.

In fact, the FBI has warned that hate crime incidents against Asian Americans may continue to surge, “based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.

Vancouver – the North American hate crime capital

Vancouver is often dubbed as the most Asian city outside Asia. More than a quarter of residents speak Chinese, and the road is filled with shops serving Hong-Kong food, there are Gurdwaras, and Tibetan monasteries along a three-kilometer stretch of road dubbed the Highway to Heaven. However, according to Canadian media outlets – 1 out 2 residents in British Columbia experienced bias or hate incident.

In 2020, A report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernadino shows Vancouver saw and reported anti-Asian hate crimes more than any other city in North America.

Did the pandemic trigger 'hate crimes'?

While ‘hate crime’ isn’t a new phenomenon, the incidence of hate crimes has certainly spiked in recent times. The coronavirus pushed the number of hate crime incidents; however, many believe it has only revealed what was already there. The coronavirus, being deemed as the Chinese virus contributed to the spike in hate crimes.

Fragile gun laws fueling ‘hate crimes’?

Recently, the US witnessed the senseless killings of six Asian American women and two others in Atlanta, and shortly after that incident, 10 people were shot and killed in a Boulder supermarket. In both the mass shootings guns were involved. According to US media, 41,500 people were killed by guns in 2020, a grim milestone for the country.

Where does it stop?

US President Joe Biden has signed six executive orders/actions to control gun laws in the US calling it ‘the gun violence public health epidemic,’ When these firearms turn up at crime scenes, they often cannot be traced by law enforcement due to the lack of a serial number, so with Biden’s new laws, there may be some control on gun violence.

However, it’s important to note, that any number of laws will not be enough unless people are not sensitized. Advocating compassion and respect should be key to end ‘gun violence’ and ‘hate crimes’.