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Canada: students and unis call out discrimination in London, Ontario

Post-secondary institutions in London, Ontario have pledged to “stand up together against racism” after a local restaurant blamed the city’s lockdown restrictions on the “China virus”.

RacismThe restaurant's signs are "rants' about oppressive governments, according to the owner.Photo: Jing YG/ Change.org

London police said the sign was not a criminal offence, but that it was disappointing and offensive

The sign on the front of the London Ale House restaurant drew widespread condemnation, with students suggesting to local media that the language used put them at risk of being targeted.

“We have an obligation to call out racism when we become aware of it”

“Mr Ford history will show lockdowns caused more damage 2 the public then the China virus [sic],” a sign at the Ale House in the city read.

A petition aiming to “make more people aware of these racial backed hate crimes from happening in our own communities” has seen more than 8,000 signatures since being launched six days ago.

A fourth-year student at Western University originally from China, Ansel Yu told CBC that the bar “is putting the entire Asian community in a really bad situation”.

Another Chinese student, Ben Cai, said the sign “makes Asian people feel uncomfortable and worried and concerned about our own safety”.

In a joint statement, leaders from King’s University College, Western University, Brescia University College, Huron University College and Fanshawe College said it is “unacceptable for our students to be subjected to acts of racism in the city where they choose to make a home”.

“As leaders of London’s post-secondary institutions, we have an obligation to call out racism when we become aware of it. The multiculturalism of our students contributes so much to the cultural fabric of our society,” they said.

“As a country made up of Indigenous people and settlers how can we do anything but embrace our diversity as it enriches every aspect of the Canadian mosaic?

“Our collective mandate as post-secondary institutions is to foster understanding and acceptance through our teaching and research endeavours in peace and with respect. Racism has no place in this city, this province, this country.”

The country’s peak body for the international education sector Canadian Bureau for International Education places anti-racism as a central tenet of its mission.

President and chief executive officer Larissa Bezo noted that CBIE and the country’s education institutions will continue to ensure that “Canada remains a safe and welcoming country for all”.

“At its core, international education is centred on fostering empathy and respect for diverse lived experiences and perspectives, values that are needed now more than ever,” she said.

“The human-to-human experience that occurs through the exchange of talent and ideas plays a vital role in achieving global-level civic engagement and social responsibility.

“CBIE and education institutions across the country will continue to demonstrate a commitment to these principles and to ensuring that Canada remains a safe and welcoming country for all.”

The University Students’ Council of Western also urged its students to combat anti-Asian racism by raising awareness, amplifying Asian voices, staying educated and taking action via donating to organisations that fight xenophobia, supporting Asian-owned businesses and signing and sharing petitions to stop racism.

London police said the sign was not a criminal offence, but that it was disappointing and offensive. The sign has since been changed to read a range of messages including, “We love Chinese people we hate the genocide and China virus your commie govt has inflicted on us”.

Owner of the establishment Alex Petro explained that the signs are “rants about oppressive governments including our own”.

They are in no way an indictment of the people of said governments. We do, and will continue, to welcome all guests,” he said.

Australia has also seen “Covid-19 racism”, with a report noting that Asians and Asian Australians are facing racism in mainstream social commentary during the pandemic.

“Governments and related stakeholders in international education need to take urgent action to combat Covid-19 racism and xenophobia” in the country, one academic told The PIE in 2020.

In the US, former president Donald Trump often referred to the “China virus” before he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

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