House of Commons Hansard #210 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have unanimous consent to see the clock at 1:30 p.m.?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from December 8, 2022, consideration of the motion.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes to provide some comments on the member for Scarborough North's motion. I think the member has done us a great service, in terms of providing this motion before the House, and I just want to thank him for the work he has done in bringing it to the stage at which it is.

The issue of racism is very much alive, and there is a role for parliamentarians to do what we can. This motion, if it passes, and I sure hope it does pass, would ensure a direct action that would see a standing committee of the House do a study with a particular focus on hate crimes, an issue that affects all of society. We need to be able to come together.

I was just reflecting, a few minutes back, on Canada's diversity, and it is no doubt one of the greatest strengths we have here in Canada, if not the greatest. We should never, ever, take that for granted. We have, in the month of June, for example, Indigenous History Month. We have Filipino Heritage Month. We have the Portuguese community, the Italian community and all the communities that are celebrating their heritage in the month of June. This speaks in terms of Canadian heritage, which is ongoing and continues to evolve. It speaks volumes about our diversity.

As elected officials, we often go out into our communities and talk about Canada's diversity. Part of that is the responsibility of recognizing, as the member for Scarborough North has done, that there are racial incidents that are causing harm, and we need to be able to address that. From my perspective, the best way of addressing issues such as discrimination and racist behaviour is through education. I have advocated for years for the importance of cross-cultural education and ways we can marginalize those with attitudes that are negative and have a racial bias. That would include, for example, looking at our education system and encouraging its incorporation into the curriculum.

There are all sorts of things, from the school board level to the Parliament of Canada. Here we have an opportunity to take a tangible action, and I would encourage all members, of whatever political stripe, to get behind the member for Scarborough North, who has been leading on this issue, and support the motion today.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to rise to speak to the motion on the floor of the House, a motion that touches so many Canadians across the coast, myself included, Canadians who trace their roots back to Asia.

If we are going toward a future free of anti-Asian racism and discrimination, we need to learn from the past. One in five Canadians, 20%, including my family and many members of the House, traces their roots back to Asia. Asian Canadians have made a significant contribution to Canada, going back to the mid-19th century. For example, Chinese immigrants began to enter Canada in the mid-1800s. Many of these Chinese immigrants were labourers. The opium wars had just ended, and many were looking for work. Some of them came in the British Columbia gold rush of 1858. Some of them ended up working on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, playing a major role in Confederation.

In fact, Confederation would not have happened if not for the thousands of Chinese labourers who came over to the west to build the railway. Their back-breaking labour literally laid the steel foundation that laid the constitutional foundation of our 1867 Constitution. The Canadian Pacific company was formed in 1881 for the express purpose of fulfilling a promise made to the colony of British Columbia. This was the promise: If British Columbia joined Canada and Confederation, then the Canadian government would build a railway connecting eastern Canada to the Pacific Ocean. B.C. joined Canada and Confederation on July 20, 1871. The Canadian Pacific Railway was established subsequently, in 1881, and the railway was completed in 1885.

The construction of this railway was incredibly dangerous; through the Rockies, the Pacific coast mountain ranges and the vast Prairies, it was very dangerous work. Tens of thousands of labourers worked to construct the railway, including 15,000 Chinese railway workers. They worked in the harshest conditions year-round, with little pay. Historians have estimated that at least 600 Chinese railway workers died constructing the railway. That is an incredible human toll of suffering and misery to complete what laid the base of this country's Confederation. Despite all that work and sacrifice, they were discriminated against during and after.

The Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 was passed and put in place by Parliament to discourage Chinese immigration to Canada. Under that act of 1885, a $50 head tax, a great sum of money at the time, was levied on all Chinese immigrants. That tax was then increased to $100 per head in 1900. It was increased to $500 per head in 1903. Even this punishing head tax did not deter Chinese immigration to Canada as the act had intended. In fact, the Chinese population in Canada tripled during the time of the head tax, from 13,000 people in 1885 to 39,587 people in 1921. Therefore, the government decided to put in place an even harsher solution: full exclusion, a full ban. Parliament passed the Chinese Immigration Act, with the exact same title as the initial Chinese immigration act. It was also known as the “Chinese Exclusion Act”. The act, which was in place from 1923 to 1947, banned virtually all Chinese immigration to Canada for those 24 years.

Although immigration to Canada from other countries was restricted during those years as it is today, unlike today, only Chinese people were singled out and banned entirely from immigrating to Canada and entirely on the basis of their race and race alone. It took until 1947 for the Parliament of Canada to repeal this law and it took until 1967 for all immigration rules based on national origin and race to be fully eliminated.

My father was one of the Chinese immigrants who immigrated to Canada. He immigrated from Hong Kong in 1952 to Winnipeg, just five years after the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed by this very House.

He arrived as a young student at the University of Manitoba, but even though the act had been repealed five years earlier, the sentiments behind the act still lingered on. He faced racism and discrimination that our generation can only imagine. He was also, I have to say, met with the incredible generosity and fair-mindedness of ordinary Canadians who invited him, as a single student thousands of miles away from home and very much alone, to a Sunday roast beef dinner or to a Thanksgiving dinner or to spend a weekend with a fellow student's family. Nevertheless, it was tough times in those 1950s for Chinese immigrants.

He had to support himself. At one point he could not find work here in Canada as a student, during the summer, and so he decided to go down to New York City to work in Manhattan's famed Chinatown. He worked in a Chinese laundry and in a Chinese restaurant washing dishes, as thousands of Chinese immigrants in decades past have done coming to Canada, in order to save the dollars he needed to put himself through school. Eventually, my father found a position as a summer student working as a lumberjack in northern Ontario in Kenora, which is something I cannot think of as more Canadian to do during a hot summer in northern Ontario. All along, he saved, saved and saved.

As the 1950s transitioned to the 1960s and 1970s, Canada began to change. In 1967, we got rid of our race-based requirements for our immigration system. Since then, much further progress has been made, such as the 1982 Patriation of the Constitution along with the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms and such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology on June 22, 2006, for the head tax that had been levied on some 81,000 Chinese immigrants to Canada.

However, despite all this progress in creating a society free of racism and discrimination, a society where one's race, religion or creed do not determine one's standing in Canadian society, we still face racism and discrimination. The pandemic revealed the ugly side of that in the last several years and so has the rise of the PRC's threats, both here and abroad. People have exploited those issues to foment racism and discrimination against their fellow Asian Canadians.

Today, the Asian community is a cherished part of our Canadian society. Whether from places like the People's Republic of China or the Philippines or the Republic of India or so many other places in Asia, the Asian community, which includes one in five Canadians, has made a vibrant contribution to this country. From business to politics and from the academy to arts and charity, Asian Canadians play leading roles in Canadian society.

Therefore, as we debate and hopefully adopt this motion and as the committee begins its work, let us remember all the contributions and sacrifices that Asian Canadians have made to this country for well over 150 years. Let us stand in solidarity with Asian Canadians when they face racism and discrimination and let us celebrate Asian Canadians for the contributions they have made and that they continue to make to this our home and native land.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, since we are on the second hour of considering Motion No. 63, it is important to remember when the first hour occurred. It was in December. It is said that six months is an eternity in politics. I think we had a clear example of that today. In that first hour of consideration of the motion, we did not yet have the revelations from The Globe and Mail and Global News on Beijing's interference in our elections. Not everyone was aware of all of Beijing's measures targeting people from the Chinese community here.

This second hour of debate on the anti-Asian racism motion makes it clear—maybe not to parliamentarians because we were already aware of Beijing's practices in the Asian community, but to ordinary people who are probably more aware of the situation now—that members of the Asian community face a double challenge, to say it politely. In addition to being occasionally ostracized by other Canadian citizens, by other people living on Canadian soil, they are also targeted by their country of origin.

The fact that we are resuming debate today, after all the information and the leaks that were reported in The Globe and Mail and by Global News, helps shed new light on the importance of this motion.

Basically, the motion became essential as a result of the growing stigma that people of Asian descent were experiencing in relation to COVID‑19. Since that was the basic principle, the original reason for which the motion was tabled, I will focus on that aspect.

The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the stigma experienced by people of Asian descent during COVID‑19. Hon. members may also recall the SARS crisis in 2003, when people of Asian descent were ostracized in the same way as they have been regarding COVID‑19. It may have been a little less obvious in the case of SARS, because it was much less widespread globally than COVID‑19, but unfortunately, it was a starting point. This clearly illustrated the problem of quick, easy and deplorable stigmatization towards people who had absolutely no reason to be targeted.

The COVID‑19 pandemic has magnified this problem to some extent. Analyses done with the benefit of hindsight have shown that there were indeed clear and concrete examples of much greater ostracization of the Asian population. A 2021 analysis showed that police-reported hate crimes increased between 2019 and 2020 from 3% to 100%, including hate crimes targeting people of East and Southeast Asian descent. That is huge.

Statistics Canada also conducted a public survey between August 4 and 24, 2020. It found that there was a marked perception of discrimination and loss of confidence in accessing health care services. Groups designated as visible minorities, most notably Chinese, Korean and southeast Asian participants, were more likely than other groups to have perceived an increase in the frequency of harassment or attacks based on race, ethnicity or skin colour since the beginning of the pandemic. This has been empirically documented. Chinese, Korean, southeast Asian and Black participants were also twice as likely as white participants to report that they had experienced discrimination. These results are consistent with the results of a previous crowdsourcing initiative, which noted an increase in the frequency of race-based harassment or outright attacks.

During the same period, Vancouver police reported a 700% increase in hate crimes against Asian communities between 2019, before the pandemic, and 2020, at the height of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Discrimination is nothing new, even if its target changes. It is not related to the pandemic. It even used to be state-sanctioned. I believe it is important to remember history.

My colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills talked about it. Canada was built by the railroad. People of Chinese descent were called on to work on the railroad, and discrimination already existed back then. After construction of the railroad, it continued.

For example, in 1885, Canada imposed a $50 head tax on Chinese immigrants. Imagine what $50 meant in those days. To make it even more difficult for people of Chinese origin to immigrate to Canada, the tax was raised to $500 in 1903. In 1907, Japanese immigration was limited to 400 people a year because of the growing hostility towards the Asian population. This was later limited to 150 people. In 1908, the federal government said that immigrants trying to reach Canada from Asian countries could not have stopovers on their way here. However, at the time, there was no such thing as direct, non-stop travel. That was therefore an indirect way of saying that they could never set foot in Canada. In 1923, the government stopped beating around the bush and simply banned Chinese immigration through legislation.

Discrimination was also woven into various laws unrelated to immigration. Election laws come to mind. Limits were placed on the ability of Chinese Canadians, among others, to participate. In 1872, for example, the government of British Columbia forbade Japanese Canadian citizens and indigenous peoples from voting in provincial elections. The goal was to keep political power exclusively in the hands of white people. In 1895, the previously established voting rights of Japanese Canadians were taken away outright. In 1907, the law was extended to include Canadians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. A short time earlier, citizens of Chinese descent had already been barred from voting in federal elections. More laws limiting their voting rights were passed. For example, if a population were targeted by a law passed by one of the provinces, it would lose its federal voting rights too.

There are many moments in history where the government demonstrated racism towards people of Asian origin. The motion is therefore welcome in that it seeks to remedy the current situation, which may stem not from the government but from the population. Educating people about what is happening may lead to change. The motion will also make it possible to conduct studies to see whether anything tangible can be done to resolve this problem.

The premise of the motion is to “condemn anti-Asian hate and all forms of racism and racial discrimination”. I would encourage the committee that examines the issue to ensure that the bill is not so specific that it addresses only one form of discrimination, because all forms of discrimination should also be considered in any future anti-racism bills, studies or initiatives. That is what my colleague from Drummond said when he spoke. We hope that, if there are a whole host of bills, studies or initiatives that target specific populations, then no one will fall through the cracks.

To return to what I was saying at the start about interference, I think that, aside from the racism issue, we also have to make sure that we give a voice to the public, which is currently calling for a public inquiry. Racism is not the only way to sideline people in the population. These people are asking for an inquiry. It is time we gave them a voice.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2023 / 1:50 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this crucial motion, which is really important to the NDP caucus. I want to congratulate and thank my colleague from Vancouver East, who has already spoken to this issue.

This motion is important because it talks about a phenomenon that sadly still exists in Canada and Quebec, anti-Asian racism. As other colleagues mentioned, it is important to remember that unfortunately, if we look at our history, anti-Asian racism is nothing new.

I will go over some of the things that have already been raised here by my colleagues from the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois. Anti-Asian racism has deep roots in our history and our country. Obviously, our country was largely built by Chinese workers. Think of the railroad that is the backbone of the transportation industry and the Canadian economy. Essentially, it was built by thousands of Chinese workers who worked in deplorable conditions, who were literally exploited, and who got injured and suffered almost to the point of dying. This did not bother the big railway owners at the time at all.

This racism continued afterwards. Many discriminatory laws against Asian communities were passed. In 1872, in British Columbia, a law took away the right to vote of Chinese Canadians and Canadians of Chinese origin. It is no small thing in a democracy to say to a community that it can no longer participate in democracy, in public and civic life, by taking away their right to vote.

In 1895, again in British Columbia, Canadians of Japanese origin lost their right to vote. Then, in 1895, Chinese Canadians lost their right to vote in federal elections, and it would be a long time before this situation was rectified. In 1897, a British Columbia law prohibited workers of Chinese or Japanese origin from getting a job in the mining industry. The economic sector excluded people because of their origins.

My colleague spoke about the head tax on Chinese immigrants. In 1885, Chinese immigrants had to pay $50 when they arrived in Canada, and, in 1903, this tax was increased to $500. In 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, outright told those people that they were not wanted. Today, we would call that systemic racism.

This racism continued with an unfortunate episode during the Second World War, when, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government sent 21,000 people of Japanese origin to detention camps. They were imprisoned in these camps for weeks and months, with 4,000 inmates being deported to Japan. Some of those people had never been to Japan in their lives.

While it may be less intense today, this discrimination still exists. Discriminatory, hurtful and sometimes violent behaviour against the Asian community remains a reality. It has even been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with people making completely inane and ridiculous associations because the virus first emerged in the Chinese province of Wuhan. This has given ammunition to conspiracy theorists and people who are simply racist or xenophobic to attack and insult Quebeckers and Canadians of Asian origin.

This is not just empty rhetoric. Studies and police reports have confirmed it. In 2021, in Vancouver, which is home to several Asian communities, hate crimes against people from these communities increased by 700%.

According to one study, 58% of Asian Canadians overall say they have experienced discrimination. That is the majority. That is what is happening these days.

Amy Go, president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, says it is a “common and shared experience”. It is a situation that people in the Asian community experience. Unfortunately, it is extremely common, perhaps even more common than the numbers suggest. In 2020, hate crimes in general against the Asian community across Canada increased by 300%. That is huge.

What is more, this may only be the tip of the iceberg, because a University of Victoria study found that incidents of racism are not always reported. People from Asian communities do not always report the assaults, violence or insults they experience. The University of Victoria says that these acts are under-reported. It is likely that the situation is even worse than we realize.

That is why this motion is important. That is also why the debate we are having and the study that will be done in committee afterwards are important. By working together, as elected representatives, but also as citizens, we are going to be able to tackle this issue and reduce all forms of racism and discrimination.

We even saw it here in the streets of Ottawa with the so-called “freedom convoy”. That is their name for it, not mine. Asian people in Ottawa also felt like these protesters were being extremely aggressive and even violent in their words and attitudes. Some people were spit on or shoved because they were Asian.

We heard testimony from a young woman who was intimidated for filing for an injunction to clear the city's streets. Someone drove at her in a truck while she was on the sidewalk. The driver stopped about a metre short, just to scare her. This young woman is Asian. This story was reported in the news at the time.

Unfortunately, these types of phenomena, statements, attitudes and behaviours were exacerbated by flawed comparisons that put the blame on people who, quite frankly, had nothing to do with a global pandemic that nobody saw coming.

While we are talking about anti-Asian racism, I want to talk about a phenomenon that affects many women in the Filipino community. I am referring to the widespread and perhaps even unhealthy reliance on temporary foreign workers.

Domestic workers are one of the categories in which the hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers fall into. Many of the workers who are hired by very rich families to do housework, look after children and cook meals are of Asian origin. Unfortunately, there is something call a closed work permit. These temporary foreign workers have a closed work permit and cannot change employer. This means that if they are hired by a very rich family and live in a house as a domestic worker, which is generally the case, and if they are ever the victim of abuse, assault, violence, harassment or sexual assault, they cannot change employer. Their only other option is to buy a plane ticket and go home. I think we should be aware of this phenomenon.

I would like to move an amendment to the motion, which I will read right now: That the motion be amended by adding the following after the words “issues of anti-Asian racism”: iv) work collaboratively with community groups and people with lived experience to establish and adequately fund units to prosecute hate crimes in every Canadian community to hold to account the perpetrators responsible and fight against the rise of anti-Asian racism and all forms of hate in Canada.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

It is my duty to inform hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion or to the motion for second reading of a private member's bill without the consent of the sponsor of the item.

Since the sponsor is not present to give his consent, the amendment cannot be moved at this time.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Richmond Hill.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Motion No. 63 pertaining to anti-Asian racism. I would like to start by applauding and congratulating my colleague, the member for Scarborough North, for bringing forward this motion and for his advocacy and hard work on this very important and crucial matter.

Over the past couple of years, especially since the pandemic, we have seen a disturbing rise in anti-Asian hate and racism around the world, something that unfortunately our country has not been immune to either. As of September 2021, 2,265 incidents of anti-Asian racism have been reported in Canada.

In Toronto only, the Toronto Police Service has reported a 51% increase in hate crimes against people of Asian descent. In Vancouver, the police board has reported that anti-Asian hate crime incidents have increased by 878% compared to 2019. The Ottawa Police Service reported a 600% increase in hate crimes against people of Asian descent, while Montreal's Service de police de la Ville de Montréal reported five times more. What is even more horrifying about these numbers is that most of the victims of these xenophobic attacks are women, making up 66% of the respondents.

The Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, CCNC-SJ, reports that both online and public instances of anti-Asian racism rose in 2021, with almost half of all incidents taking place in public spaces, at an increase of 48%, while online incidents have risen 132%. Verbal harassment makes up the majority of anti-Asian incident reports, but physical assaults, such as being coughed at or spat on, increased their share of the data, rising by 42°% from the previous year’s report published by the CCNC-SJ.

This increase in xenophobia is underpinned by the long history of exploitation and “othering” of people of Asian descent in Canada. Many of my colleagues before me went into great detail about how this exploitation has taken place over many years.

As hate-related attacks and racism continue to negatively impact the lives of our Chinese Canadian population, I strongly believe that acknowledgement of our history is essential to moving forward and addressing all forms of hate, racism and discrimination across Canada.

This year marks 100 years since the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, a shameful act that banned persons of Chinese origin from entering Canada. As a result, many Chinese Canadians were separated from their family members for 24 years.

On May 27 of this year, I attended the forum commemorating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. I would like to thank the Commission of Marking the 100th Anniversary of Chinese Exclusion Act for organizing this event and providing the opportunity to learn and reflect. One hundred years later, it is indeed important to reflect on the harm caused by this law and honour the significant contribution that the Chinese community has made and continues to make to Canada today.

It is in this context that the purpose of Motion No. 63 is highlighted. Motion No. 63 calls on the government to:

(i) condemn anti-Asian hate and all forms of racism and racial discrimination,

(ii) ensure all anti-racism policies and programs address the historical and present-day racism, discrimination, stereotyping and injustices faced by people of Asian descent,

(iii) highlight the lived realities of racism and barriers to inclusion experienced by people of Asian descent in national consultations on issues of anti-Asian racism....

Finally, in addition, the motion calls on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct a review of anti-Asian hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents across the country.

This motion not only addresses the issue I laid out earlier in my speech, but it is also aligned with previous actions in this House, including the March 22, 2021, motion that was adopted in this House by unanimous consent to condemn the rise of anti-Asian racism and racist attacks throughout North America.

This is in addition to the unanimous adoption of the March 24, 2021, motion urging the government to include anti-Asian racism in Canada's anti-racism strategy, 2019-22, and all anti-racism policies and programs.

Moreover, this motion is aligned with our government's strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. In short, Motion 63 is so widely supported because it is simply common sense. No one should feel unsafe or othered because of who they are, the colour of their skin or their place of origin, and hate and intolerance should not go unchecked.

I am thrilled to see the House unanimously stand up to anti-Asian racism on several occasions as racism cannot be addressed by one individual or one group alone. We need to confront this problem and stand up against rising hate together, as one strong and united front.

Asian Canadians have made invaluable and long-standing contributions to this country's culture and prosperity, and this will not be forgotten as we all collectively work toward building a more inclusive country, one in which all communities from various backgrounds and ethnicities can thrive and flourish.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Kevin Vuong Independent Spadina—Fort York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my Conservative colleagues for the opportunity to contribute to Motion 63. It is their slot that I am using.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to share my experience as a member of Asian heritage. Sometimes we do not hear enough voices who could speak for themselves on an issue that directly impacts them. I want to thank my Conservative colleagues for the opportunity. In my riding of Spadina—Fort York, we are home to Toronto's Chinatown. One in seven of my constituents are of Chinese heritage like me.

Unfortunately, what we have seen in Toronto, and frankly the country writ large, has been a surge in anti-Asian racism. According to the official statistics of the Toronto Police Service, the hate crime rates have surged since the pandemic by over 50% from 2019 to 2020, and a further 22.4% from 2020 to 2021.

The thing we need to bear in mind is that, culturally, as a community, we also do not have a tendency to report statistics. I can say, as a member of Chinese heritage myself, that we prefer to keep our head down, work, and hope that we will be respected and acknowledged. I think there is also a bit of historic lived experience where there is a distrust of the system, perhaps not in Canada, because of the experiences they may have had back home in Communist regimes, which are not necessarily places where people can trust that the system will take care of them or take their concerns seriously.

Therefore, while we have the official statistics of the Toronto Police Service, there are other avenues, such as Project 1907, which collected self-reported statistics from members of the Chinese community that were collected by members of the Chinese community. There was a level of trust, and they felt more comfortable. Those statistics are a lot more staggering, and I think more accurate, in truly capturing the immense number of hate crimes that have been committed. Those statistics report a very concerning quintupling, a 500% growth, in hate crimes. I worry a lot about that.

I can say that, during the pandemic, when my mother was still with us, would go to pick up groceries. She was living with a rare autoimmune disease that affected her lungs, so she coughed more, and she had trouble breathing when she was wearing a mask. I was worried that she would be a victim of some sort of targeted Asian hate crime just because of the way she looked and because she was coughing, not because she had COVID, but because of the condition she was living with. I worry a lot about people who look like me, such as the sponsor of Motion No. 63, and some other members, such as the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, as they think about the life they want to lead and the careers they aspire to when they see the vitriol some of us receive or that is targeted toward people who look like us on social media.

I cannot count the number of times I have been called a Chink. I do not want to put on the record the stuff I have been called, nor what people think is okay to say to my staff when they call in. I remember working late just a few weeks ago. The staff had gone home, and I was preparing for a late show. We had a call come into my Ottawa office, so I picked it up. I was there, so why not? There was a gentleman on the other end of the line who said that he was a constituent, which was obviously an indication that he was not. Thinking that I was a member of my staff working in my office, he then launched into how I should be ashamed of working for a Chink like me, and that he could not believe that the military would let someone like me serve in our Canadian Armed Forces.

In some respects, I signed up for this, but my staff did not. The members of my staff represent the diversity of my community and our country. They reflect the many faces of Toronto. One of my staff members is also of Chinese heritage. I am glad that I got that phone call and not her. She and other members of my staff also have to see the stuff that comes in to my office.

We have a dedicated folder where we gather this, and we use a euphemism for it of “negative feedback”, because it is so bad. I wonder sometimes if we should speak up and say something. When we do, our critics will say things like we are playing the victim or we are trying to get sympathy. On the other hand, if we do not speak up, we let this issue fester. We do not address it.

I am glad we are having this discussion today, but what I really want to see is truly some action. This matter relates to a broader issue that we have been debating extensively in this House, and that is the matter of foreign interference. Far too often, some regimes, and in this instance I am referring to the Chinese Communist Party, will use racism as a shield to try to defend themselves from very legitimate criticisms of the genocide being committed against the Uyghur peoples, the dismantling of Hong Kong's democratic institutions and the aggression in the South China Sea. They will try to wash it all away with a “How dare you? You must hate Chinese people. You are racist.”

I want to reiterate, as we heard from a number of different members, there is a key distinction between the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party. It is vitally important, with this cloud of foreign interference hanging over this place and our country and its democratic institutions, we shine a light into the shadows where foreign operatives hide. There is no better way to address these questions people have when they look at someone like me and wonder, “Where do his loyalties really lie? Is he really a Canadian?”

This is why we need to hold an independent non-partisan public inquiry into foreign interference. It is also why we need to add transparency with a foreign agent influence registry so we know who is working with who. If one is conducting legitimate advocacy, advancement for trade and different business, that is fine. Transparency is great. We cannot allow this cloud to continue to hang, because in the absence of transparency, these bad actors are able to take advantage of this to actually perpetuate racism themselves.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


Shaun Chen Liberal Scarborough North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is truly a privilege to speak on my private member's motion, Motion No. 63.

I rise today on the unceded and traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation on the eve of the 156th anniversary of Confederation. For most Canadians, July 1 is known as Canada Day, a time to celebrate our country with pride and joy in the company of family and friends. For Chinese Canadians, however, July 1 is also known as “humiliation day”, a day of shame on which Canada commenced the Chinese Immigration Act, 1923. More appropriately called the Chinese Exclusion Act, the legislation virtually prohibited all Chinese people from immigrating to Canada in an apparent and blatant act of racism. Unwanted and undesirable, the Chinese community was singled out and utterly humiliated. This brought an abrupt end to the hopes and dreams of family reunification for a generation of mostly Chinese men in Canada, despite their contributions to helping build the country.

The first documented Chinese immigrants arrived here in the late 1700s; between 1881 and 1884, over 17,000 Chinese workers came to construct the Canadian Pacific Railway. After the railroad was completed, however, Canada imposed a $50 head tax that steadily rose to $500 on every Chinese individual seeking to enter the country. In the ensuing decades, the Chinese in Canada were disenfranchised and systematically targeted through laws that prevented them from working certain jobs, owning property, voting and holding public office.

The tide turned after World War II, when Canada found its anti-Chinese legislation at odds with its support for a United Nations charter of human rights. On May 14, 1947, the Chinese Exclusion Act was finally repealed following the passing of the Canadian Citizenship Act, 1947. After an era of legislated anti-Chinese racism, Canada would open its doors and eventually embrace waves of Chinese immigrants.

Through influxes of immigrants from such places as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and mainland China, Canada is now home to 1.7 million Chinese Canadians, who comprise approximately 5% of the country's population. Among the Chinese diaspora are people from all walks of life, with diverse beliefs, cultures and languages; they have broken through barriers in all aspects of society. Since the latter half of the last century, Canadians of Chinese descent have continued to help build the nation they are proud to call home.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, however, brought with it what the United Nations Secretary-General called the virus of hate. Chinese people were blamed for the coronavirus the world over. As racist hashtags trended on social media, and public commentators perpetuated anti-Chinese sentiment with such terminology as “yellow alert”, one major world leader went as far as referring to COVID-19 as “kung flu”.

It is no laughing matter that, over the past three years, racialized communities have increasingly suffered at the hands of racism, from disrespectful treatment to outright harassment and physical acts of violence. One hundred years after the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act, following decades of progress, society has taken one giant step back as new generations of Chinese Canadians fall victim to a new-found hate.

Since introducing Motion No. 63, I have heard from Asian communities from coast to coast to coast. In Montreal, traumatized shopkeepers in Chinatown witnessed a storefront vandalized with racist graffiti, but, out of fear and hopelessness, did not report it. In Calgary, a Filipino community leader is concerned that Asian professionals are hitting the bamboo ceiling, which is now lower than ever, in addition to facing tokenism and the unspoken “one is enough” rule. In Vancouver, a proud Canadian woman of Chinese descent is feeling the subtle but stinging threat of her loyalty to Canada being called into question, she says, because she was born in China.

These are, indeed, the racist realities faced by Asian Canadians, not a hundred years ago but today. That is why I implore the House to be bold and to take a stand. Let us send a strong message that Canada is no place for racism, racial discrimination or any other form of hatred.

On this 100th anniversary of the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act, let us acknowledge past mistakes and vow to never repeat them. We cannot escape a history that is stained by injustice, but we can use it to envision a future that engenders fairness.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. member for Scarborough North.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


Shaun Chen Liberal Scarborough North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Anti-Asian RacismPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 14, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

It being 2:24 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:24 p.m.)