Statement in Response to Conservative Leader O’Toole’s December 15 Twitter Comments
Canada is a multicultural country. We as Chinese Canadians hail from all parts of the world and live together peacefully in this great country alongside people from around the world with different backgrounds and different political opinions. As Chinese Canadians, we believe and trust in the Canadian values of freedom of speech and equality before the law. We also believe that political leaders should be held to a high standard when protecting and upholding these values, as well as upholding our rights and freedoms. Today we must regretfully express our disappointment at the response of Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole for his response to recent matters relating to a restaurant in Toronto.
The matter has its origins at a restaurant in Toronto that recently posted a sign with the words “Wuhan Virus” on its wall, an equivalent to someone saying “Chinese Virus”. After seeing this offensive wording, some patrons of the restaurant decided to express their disappointment by giving negative ratings online. Subsequently, a heated debate occurred online that caught national attention. On December 15, Mr. O’Toole retweeted a National Post article dated Dec 14th, labeling those protesting against the wording “Wuhan Virus” as “Beijing loyalists”. Mr. O’Toole expressed his support for the restaurant, and described the protestors against the restaurant as “a real threat” to Canadian values. He said that he and the restaurant owners share the same Canadian values. He also expressed disappointment about vandalism and graffiti that the restaurant was subjected to.
There is globally recognized terminology for the current virus, including the terms “COVID19” and “Corona Virus”. These terms avoid geographic or ethnic references that can lead to discrimination against individuals or groups. The pandemic racism against Asians in Canada has grown exponentially since the outbreak of the virus. Many Canadians has realized the importance of fighting against such racism. Unfortunately Mr. O’Toole has done the opposite. By labelling a certain group of immigrants as foreign agencies with no substantial evidences to back it up, Mr. O’Toole demonized immigrants with Chinese origins, and stigmatized these people’s opinions, even their concerns are legitimate and reasonable. This is a dangerous path Mr. O’Toole is taking.
We condemn Mr. O’Toole’s loose talk of “foreign influence” that resulted from his failure to understand the nature of the conflict. The conflict is racial and linguistic in nature, not political. With his tweet, Mr. O’Toole has unnecessarily turned the conflict into a political issue.
We also condemn the vandalism and graffiti that occurred to the restaurant storefront. Such actions are not acceptable. However, our agreement with O’Toole ends there. We condemn O’Toole’s lack of inclusion of the voice of a significant portion of the Chinese Canadian community. Without evidence, and simply because he disagrees, he dismisses the views of fellow Canadians as being subject to “foreign influence”. We condemn Mr. O’Toole’s failure to protect the rights of a significant portion of the Chinese Canadian community who have been deliberately discriminated on the basis of their place of origin and language spoken. It is a sad reality that when O’Toole maligns fellow Canadians of Chinese descent as “Beijing loyalists”, he is encouraging racist and ethnically biased sentiment toward a population with a history of being discriminated against in Canada. This bias goes all the way back to the “Head Tax” and the building of the railroads in Canada. O’Toole’s words continue the normalization of discriminatory words and actions against the Chinese community, which is a minority group, setting otherwise proud and caring Canadians against each other, and harming the very basis upon which Canada’s multicultural, open, and fair democracy operates. His comment has a significant similarity with Mr. Sam Cooper’s article published by Global News on April 30 this year. They both labelled immigrants from China as CCP loyalists, CCP’s Fifth Column. Their intents were to silent those immigrants, take away their freedom of speech. This act of Sinophobia has no place in Canada. We call on Mr. O’Toole to issue a public apology for his comment and for his misalignment of the portion of the Chinese Canadian community that disagrees with the use of the term “Wuhan Virus”.
Finally, we sincerely wish all Canadians a happy new year, and let’s look ahead to a better 2021.
Maple Leaf Anti-Racism Action Association (MLARA)
December 27, 2020