Montreal's Chinese community responds to racism with fortune cookies of acceptance

As Montreal battles the COVID-19 pandemic's second wave, the city's Chinese community is once again facing rising racism.

Among the incidents of xenophobia that have been reported by the community was the targeting of a Chinatown mall by vandals last week.

“There were six stores that were vandalized inside a small shopping mall. The windows were broken into, nothing was really stolen, it was just vandalized,” said Chinese Association of Montreal vice-president Bryant Chang. “You know, that goes to show it's pure hatred.”

Chang said Chinese Montrealers have faced more mundane examples of racism as case numbers mount.

“People that doe come, the elderly Chinese people, they face not only racial slurs but some of them have actually been physically attacked when they're coming off the buses or metro,” he said.

The police presence in Chinatown has been ramped up and businesses in the area say they've noticed customers avoiding the neighbourhood.

“It only got worse and now it's completely dead,” said Montreal Chinatown Development Council president Sherry Ao.

“Even our western clients who come to our salon, they get criticized by their friends. 'Why are you going to Chinatown, are you crazy?'” said Sasa Salon owner Kate Lau.

In a bid to combat the intolerance, Chinese restaurants are handing out thousands of fortune cookies loaded with messages of love and acceptance with takeout orders. One example of a fortune is “The wise practice social distancing, not racial discrimination.”

Chang said the messages double as an effort to encourage the neighbourhood's businesses.

“We encourage those who get the fortune cookies to hold on to their little fortunes, because that's going to entitle them to a 10 per cent discount the next time they order,” said Chang.  

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