Honourable Chair and all members of the committee, good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me to appear before the committee.
My name is Frank Huang. I'm the national secretary-general of the National Congress of Chinese Canadians. I have been working in ethnic media since I immigrated to Canada in 2001. I used to work with Radio Canada International as a correspondent. I worked with the Global Chinese Press as an editor-in-chief, and I was a founder of New Leaf Media Inc. and the Canada Today Media Group. I'm also a commentator for Fairchild TV, OMNI TV, and Fairchild Radio. In 2005 I was one of the recipients of the Jack Webster Awards. I'm now the principal of D & H College as well as director for the Asian Art Museum of Greater Vancouver.
Thanks to the Canadian multicultural policy, as an immigrant I'm proud of our heritage in Canada. In our new home, we can feel free to speak our mother tongue even before the committee here in the House of Commons.
Next, I would like to speak in Mandarin, as a witness in the committee.
[Witness speaks in Mandarin with Interpretation, as follows:]
Mr. Chair, all members of the committee, today the topic of discussion is systemic racism and religious discrimination. Although Canada is one of the strongest countries in the world in pursuing racial harmony and religious equality, in reality there are many cases of racism and religious discrimination. Some of them are explicit, but more are implicit. I believe one root cause is that people of different religions lack understanding and awareness of other religions, so they have prejudices and biases deep in their hearts. I would like to give a few examples based on my own experience.
First is my own example. Many years ago, when I was studying in Europe, one day I saw a black guy and a white girl kissing in a Paris subway. At that time I felt really uncomfortable. I had always believed in racial equality and I don't think I have any discrimination for any people, but why did I feel so uncomfortable? After some soul searching, I found that actually deep in my heart I had some implicit discrimination against certain races. Maybe I wasn't even aware of that, but I think the reason is that I didn't know much about people of African origin. I never had the opportunity to interact with them. Later on, in my college there were lots of black people, so I had the opportunity to work with them and do projects with them, and I got to know them much better. Now when I see such a situation, I don't feel any discomfort anymore.
The second example is in Vancouver. At D & H College where I work, there is a TESOL certificate course for training English teachers. Last year we trained a batch of Chinese teachers. For their internship we arranged for them to teach basic English to Syrian refugees arriving in Canada. In the beginning, the Chinese teachers and staff at the college had some reservations and hesitations. In the first few days they felt very scared, particularly some of the young female teachers, when facing Muslim adults on their own. However, as the course went on, the Chinese teachers and Syrian refugees quickly got to know more about each other, and some of them even became friends. In the classroom there was no tension anymore, but lots of joy and laughter. Quickly, the Chinese teachers and the Muslim students became a tight group. Even upon graduation, some of them felt that they didn't want to leave each other.
This example told us that in the Chinese community there are indeed some sentiments of terror toward the Muslim community, but this kind of sentiment is due to a lack of understanding. Once they get to know each other, it's gone. So the two sides can actually learn from each other and coexist in harmony.
Of course, in the Chinese community there is indeed implicit discrimination at a deeper level against certain races. Nowadays, with the rapid development of social media, some incorrect and irresponsible information even fuels this kind of discrimination.
My third example was actually from last month. In the Chinese online community, there was sensational news. A social media WeChat account with the name T*T TD Canada Trust posted the following information: “I received at least 20 refugees to open bank accounts today. I just learned that the government gave each of them $800 every month and this family has four adults and six children, that means $8,000 per month and they don't even need to pay tax. So after tax, $8,000 a month means $200,000 per year.” This was posted by somebody who says that he's a TD Bank staff member working in Montreal. This news triggered intense responses in the Chinese community and was re-posted many times. It triggered backlash and outcry against the Chinese government and even the prime minister. These kinds of irresponsible words incite hostile sentiments towards refugees.
Personally, I believe this kind of discrimination is due to a lack of understanding and deep-rooted prejudice. To get over this kind of discrimination, we need to strengthen communication and education.
Therefore, I would like to propose, first, that we resume the ministry of multiculturalism of the federal government. Therefore, the government can take the lead to coordinate and push forward the construction of multiculturalism.
Second, led by the federal government, they should also push for the provincial and municipal governments to check whether there is racism or religious discrimination in their laws and regulations, in which case they should abolish them immediately.
Third, we should have a hotline service to accept the reports and complaints of all nationalities against this racism or religious discrimination.
Fourth, we should have special working groups to pay attention to social media, particularly to irresponsible and misleading comments, in which case we should have in-time correction.
Fifth, there should be more funds allocated to sponsor and encourage communities to have more dialogue and communication among different nationalities.
Finally, we should also have positive education and information sharing among the media, the universities, and the communities so that the national citizens may better understand the importance of multiculturalism to Canada.
That's what I would like to share with you. I thank you for this opportunity to share my understanding with you.
Thank you to all the committee members here.