A neighbourhood in South Surrey with a significant Chinese-Canadian population, has now seen two back-to-back incidents of graffiti with anti-Chinese racial slurs, leaving the community feeling “shocked” and “scared” for their safety.
A neighbourhood walkway near 142 Street and 18A Avenue had an anti-Chinese racial slur painted on it, which was noticed by the owners of the adjacent house on Saturday (Oct. 1) morning. The vandalism also had an arrow in it pointing in the direction of the nearby Bayridge Elementary school, where a similar incident occurred the same weekend.
A portable at Bayridge Elementary school was vandalized with a spray-painted anti-Chinese slur, which is now covered.
This area of South Surrey has a significant Chinese population now, where a decade prior, there were only one or two families, Bo Long, a resident since 2009 told Peace Arch News.
“Right now, we’re scared,” Long said, adding that because two incidents have already occurred, families are scared that something bigger, more aggressive could be coming.
Since she moved to South Surrey, Long has never seen or experienced racism, until now.
Many children take the walkway that was vandalized to get to Bayridge, including the children of Chinese decent who live in the home adjacent to the path. The owners of the home cleaned it, but reported the incident to Surrey RCMP the same morning.
Another resident of the neighbourhood, Wenjie Zhang wants to see work done to heal the “deeper issue.”
Zhang feels like the intention of the person who committed the hate crime may be that the individual(s) had a bad experience with a Chinese person and has now chosen to group all East-Asian people together in their hatred.
“They can’t represent all Chinese people… just like (these individuals) don’t represent all Canadians,” Zhang said.
Having conversations with people who are different is the key in stopping hate, Zhang believes. He feels that the “forced power” of police to punish these people is not the ultimate solution because there is no learning involved in this route.
“Even this guy who wrote this bad word, if he fully understood me and what I have to say, from his heart, he would stop.”
A local mother, Grace Ren, is planning on writing a letter to the school to demand some action be taken to educate students about the racist act that occurred right on their school building.
“We need to do something… our kids live here,” Ren said.
Surrey Schools’ district Facilities team was enlisted to promptly clean the graffiti, the district’s communication representative Ritinder Matthew confirmed to PAN. Additionally, a letter was sent home Monday morning (Oct. 3) informing parents of what had happened.
“We will continue to have discussions with students about racism and the impact that words and actions can have on others,” Matthew said.
“Staff at the school will engage students productively and thoughtfully in response to this incident, and we encourage families to continue these discussions at home. The school will also work with its PAC and our district’s Safe Schools department to better understand the situation and explore increased security measures at the site.”
Longtime local politician Gordie Hogg, now running for mayor of Surrey, received a phone call from Long and made his way down to the neighbourhood to speak to the Chinese-Canadian community.
Hogg feels that these incidents have curious timing, considering Surrey Schools just released the findings of an internal report done that found that racism is common within schools around the city.
“When these things happen, it just tears your heart,” Hogg told PAN.
Hate crimes are among the most under-reported offences in B.C., with Anti-Asian hate crimes seeing a rise since the pandemic started.
“It’s ever-so important that if something does happen or someone experiences something like that, that they report it. That means more resources will go into (investigating) it,” Hogg said.
Both sites of the racist vandalism are under ongoing investigation, with police urging anyone with information or CCTV footage to contact Surrey RCMP.