Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, August 27, 2020 — As schools re-open for in-person classes in the coming weeks, a group of concerned Asian parents, alongside CRARR, is calling on the Quebec Education Ministry and other school authorities to take action in order to prevent anti-Asian bullying related to COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, and due to the stigmatization of the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus”, anti-Asian racism has been on the rise in cities across the country.

Across Quebec, schools have been closed for regular instruction since mid-March, and as elementary and secondary schools are re-opening, many Asian parents are not only concerned about their children’s safe return to school, but also about the fact that they might fall victim to the “shadow pandemic” of anti-Asian racism that has risen across the country since the pandemic began.

In a study conducted last June by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of Alberta on anti-Asian racism in the wake of COVID-19, over 50% of respondents indicated that they were worried that Asian children were going to be bullied when they returned to school due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“All parents are already concerned about the safety of their kids going back to school during a global pandemic. For us as Asian parents, we also have to worry about whether they will be targets of racist bullying,” said Walter Tom, father of two school-age children returning to in person classes at two seperate English schools this month.

“There is a lot of misinformation circulating that links the coronavirus with the Chinese, and I worry that my children will be blamed and bullied by other children, or wrongly viewed as carriers of the virus. Schools need to take it seriously by being proactive in their response,” added Karen Cho, whose son is starting the first grade in a French school.

These concerns are well-founded, as many incidents of racist bullying have been documented in schools as early as January across Canada and the U.S. While the vast majority of racist incidents occur between students, there have been instances where teachers and even parents have been the perpetrators.

In Ontario, for instance, a petition was circulated by parents last January asking that York District School Board track students whose family had visited any part of China, and inform parents about these students.

“When children say racist things or behave in racist ways, that is something that is learned in the home and at school,” said Amy Ma, whose children attend French schools. “It’s vital that school authorities understand this fact, and that their response to COVID-related bullying targets not just the children, but their teachers and parents as well,” she added.

For Child Rights Education Consultant and PhD Candidate Hala Mreiwed, protecting Asian and other children from racist bullying in the present context is a basic human rights issue.

“The Quebec Government has formally committed itself to the objectives and commitments of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada has signed and ratified. It is thus essential that in planning a safe reopening of the schools, a child rights approach to all aspects of reopening that include measures of dealing with bullying, racism and discrimination in schools are established,” Mreiwed said.

“English-speaking school boards take the Charter rights of children very seriously,” said Julien Feldman, a parent and long-time child rights advocate. “Children’s rights, particularly in case of racialized children, are taken seriously in all cases, and that's the main message we want to send to parents” he added.

Facing these concerns, CRARR is calling on school authorities in Montreal and elsewhere to adopt proactive, comprehensive and effective COVID-19 anti-racism measures to keep Asian children and youth safe.

“Last June, we worked with members of the City Council of Montreal to adopt a motion against anti-Asian hate, racism and violence in the city, and now we must work together to protect students, parents, teachers and other school staff from the coronavirus and the virus of hate”, CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi said.