Healthcare

Canada’s chief public health officer condemns racist acts linked to coronavirus outbreak

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Theresa Tam is lashing out at the rise in racist acts targeting Chinese Canadians over the coronavirus outbreak. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam is calling out acts of racism and discrimination related to the coronavirus outbreak.

On Twitter, Tam said she’s troubled by the growing number of reports of racists acts and comments on social media directed at people of Chinese and Asian descent, calling them “unacceptable and very hurtful.”

“These actions create a divide of us versus them,” she tweeted. “Canada is a country built on the deep-rooted values of respect, diversity and inclusion.”

China’s National Health Commission said the country’s total number of deaths from the coronavirus had climbed to 170 by late Wednesday, as the number of those infected rose to 7,711.

Canada has confirmed three cases of the virus here, all of which originated in Wuhan, China. 

Chinese Canadians have been reporting racist incidents as fear-fuelled misinformation about the new coronavirus spreads.

Frank Ye, a student at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, has been monitoring online reaction to the coronavirus. He said he has seen posts calling Chinese people “dirty” or “disease-ridden.”

Lessons from SARS

“The spread of this virus, just like the spread of SARS, has been used to bring back a lot of anti-Chinese, anti-Asian tropes and racist stereotypes that really date back throughout centuries in Canada’s history,” Ye told The Current’s Matt Galloway this week.

In her Twitter thread, Tam called on Canadians to learn from the experience of the SARS outbreak — which also saw South East Asians subjected to racist behaviour and discrimination.

Toronto Mayor John Tory also has denounced the act of “shunning” Chinese Canadians or avoiding their businesses, calling it immoral and harmful.

“This type of thinking is wrong. It is entirely inconsistent with the advice of our health care professionals,” he said.

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