Canada

Virtual ‘melting pot’ helps Asian Quebecers vent about racist attacks

SASKATOON —
In the face of ongoing anti-Asian attacks, nearly 6,000 Asian Quebecers are heading online to vent, comfort and even hold regular online classes tackling microaggressions and racism.

The booming Facebook community “Groupe d’Entraide contre le racisme envers les asiatiques au Québec” is a public, large-scale version of the countless private chat groups many Asians across the country have turned to over the past year.

“We are all volunteers trying to do our best to help our communities in our own way, and the best way is online,” Vietnamese Montrealer Laura Luu, who created the group last March, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday. Her group’s name is translated to: “Mutual Aid Group Against Racism Against Asians in Quebec.”

It began a place where those in Quebec and Ontario with Asian roots could vent about anti-Asian attacks and landmarks being defaced. In 2020, reported attacks have spiked across the country, including in Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Julie Tran, one of the group administrators, likens it to a grassroots “melting pot of different Asian people,” where they celebrate difference but also tackle common challenges in an informal way.

The platform doesn’t track anti-Asian attacks in Canada, like Montreal-based Center for Research-Action on Race Relations; the Chinese Canadian National Council — For Social Justice (CCNC-SJ) or Project 1907.

Although Luu supports those efforts, her group functions more as an outlet for people to give testimonials on how they’re feeling; anonymously describe racism they’ve experienced, and find formal places where those with racism-related mental trauma could go.

“We try to raise awareness with mental health because it’s very taboo in the Asian community,” Luu said, noting that younger generations though are more likely to want to face racism head-on rather than ignore it.

REDUCING MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA ‘QUITE VALUABLE’

They’ve held Facebook Live videos hosted by trained psychotherapists who hold bilingual sessions stressing that it’s “normal to feel anxious or scared” and that racism shouldn’t be downplayed.

Tran hosts Zoom meetings to educate and familiarize people with terms such as microaggressions and gaslighting, so that they can better articulate what they’ve experienced.

“In the media or regular conversation, there can be a hot pot of words that people don’t really understand,” the social work graduate student told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “Yes, we talk about feelings, but we’re also giving them tools so they can apply them on a daily basis.”

“It’s really empowering for them to put [specific] words to their realities,” Tran said, adding that speaking about anti-Asian racism can be challenging with friends who are white or who come from a non-Asian community of colour.

University of Victoria counselling psychology assistant Prof. Fred Chou, who isn’t affiliated with the online support group, applauded their efforts to reduce mental health stigma, calling it “quite valuable.”

“The community response of people coming together to support one another is inherently good,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “It’s like acknowledging that ‘I’m not going through this alone.’”

“It’s really quite profound. I feel inspired to know that this is happening,” he said, adding that the group could allow people to regain some level of control.

No stranger to similar efforts himself, early last year, Chou helped create an online resource for Asian youth to help them navigate through the complexities of systemic oppression in Canada and their own racial identities.

Chou felt the group’s informal nature could be a great gateway to greater acceptance of formal mental health services, if necessary.

Luu and Tran agreed and called for more provincial funding of services for victims of racially motivated attacks; as well as mental health specialists in Quebec who are aware of cultural mental health stigmas.

PEOPLE FINDING SOLACE IN PRIVATE GROUP CHATS

The pandemic has exacerbated anti-Asian racism, an unfortunate mainstay in Canada for decades, in a similar way to that during the SARS crisis nearly 20 years ago, according to a Toronto-based historian.

But consultant and former journalist Bradley Lee told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview that when it comes to disparate Asian communities, extreme adversity “forces them to work together.” He felt this group was a clear example of that.

Lee, along with several Toronto-based advocacy groups, including the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, helped create the #FaceRace online resource, which allows Chinese people in Canada to similarly share experiences of their experiences during the pandemic.

He applauded “Groupe d’Entraide contre le racisme envers les asiatiques au Québec” and explains that there are likely countless private informal venting spaces for people. “Just by the very nature of being informal, it could be online or by a phone call,” the fourth-generation Chinese-Canadian said.

As for the future of Quebec-based group, Luu hopes that people in other provinces are able to find similar groups.

Luu said that although she’s grateful that her team has managed to combine seeming disparate demographics, diasporas and races under one umbrella. “Our realities are not the same at all” so they’ll keep endeavouring to “build bridges to connect us all.”

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Christy Somos


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