Canada is nice and welcomes newcomers, so Sophia Chen was surprised to see Chinese realtors’ bus benches vandalized, including her own.
Eight bus bench advertisements were spray painted with ethnic slurs in June. One had a swastika.
The damage to her sign wasn’t the worst, she said, adding there was ink on her face and the Chinese characters.
There is also only a small portion of racism, but Chen has experienced a little of it. In July, on Canada Day, her clients wanted to view a property and she contacted the real estate agent. He said, ‘you Chinese don’t celebrate Canada’s birthday,’ or something like that, she said.
“I was not happy with that. I am Canadian,” she said, adding he would never have said that to a realtor from Canada.
The issue of racism was sparked earlier this year as racial slurs were scrawled across bus benches and again as pamphlets by the group Putting Canada First circulated, one with the headline, ‘How will short-term profiteering, short-sighted politics and a growing cultural/linguistic division affect your life.’
It carried a picture of a real estate agent’s bus bench that has Chinese language displayed on it.
Hilde Schlosar, executive director of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, said the pamphlets and vandalism don’t make immigrants feel welcome.
“Have you ever heard that, I’m all right Jack, pull the ladder up?” she said. “This whole country is immigrants. Unless you’re First Nations you’re an immigrant or your family was, your ancestors were. So it’s like, it’s OK for some to be here … but don’t let anybody after me come ’cause now I want to protect it.”
What people don’t realize is that without immigrants buying businesses, those places would close. They are contributing to the economy, “get used to it,” she said.
“Hate mail” nearly made Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO, ill, and when bus benches were vandalized he took to the Internet to rant.
“I couldn’t believe people I actually know wrote back and didn’t agree – were like, oh no, [stuff] happens when you get all these foreigns in. I’m like, what?” he said, adding it sounds like racism to him.
He believes it’s the responsibility of organizations like the chamber to involve themselves with the Asian business and cultural community to reassure them they are safe and welcome.
Angela Fang, owner of Integrity Impact Management Group, calls bus bench vandalism and pamphlets “very unusual” in Canada, but warns it could affect investment by making people feel they aren’t welcome.
“The realtor, they do their best to make a living, at the same time to introduce the opportunity to foreign investors and to see that happen was very uncomfortable,” she said.
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