Calgary man takes steps toward safety for the city’s Asian community

Calgary man wants to ensure a safe space for members of the city's Asian community

Calgary is taking steps to preserve Chinatown's unique cultural heritage as it moves forward with an area redevelopment plan. BRODIE THOMAS / For LiveWire Calgary

Calgary filmmaker Gabriel Yee is taking the lead to create a safe space for the city’s Asian community to gather and walk.

Asian communities have expressed fear due to hate-fuelled attacks on citizens in their community.

Calgary has been dealing with recent hate-motivated incidents, including an attack against a Muslim woman on Sunday. Abroad, the recent spa shooting in Atlanta, Georgia that killed six Asian women appears to be racially motivated.

There have also been reports from people of the Asian communities dealing with assaults: yelling, spitting or even being physically assaulted. The incidents are reported to have escalated during COVID-19, with the connection of the virus to China.

The US Centre for the study of hate and extremism showed a 146 per cent increase in hate crimes against the Asian community, but an overall drop in hate crimes of six per cent.

The rise locally has been acknowledged by Calgary Police. They don’t currently have statistics yet to show the increase.

The community that walks together

Yee is taking steps to help by organizing safe walks around Calgary’s Chinatown district.

He wants to promote safety and security among the city’s Asian communities.

“The goal is to give people an opportunity to go and walk and feel safe as a community,” said Yee.

Yee created a Facebook group called YYC Chinatown Walking Club.

The plan is for the group to take walks around the areas that surround Chinatown, such as Eau Claire Riverfront, Bow River Pathway and into East Village.

“I want to give people an opportunity to come and do something about what’s been happening lately,” Yee said.

“And I recognize that not everybody is a protest person or anything like that.”

It’s an alternative for people not looking to protest but still wish to show their support.

“It’s just to show up and be in the neighbourhood, and show that we do feel safe walking on the streets, and the community cares about what’s happening,” said Yee.

Asian hate is something Yee has experienced, recently. He’s also experienced it in the past, before COVID-19 was a thing.

“I hear lots of stories of people who have experienced Asian hate. I’ve heard stories of people’s kids experiencing Asian hate and racism,” said Yee.

“Kids being told to go back to China – so it’s there, it’s around. It’s not a unique experience for someone who is racialized in Calgary.”

Providing a safe space for people, regardless of whether they’re from Chinatown, is something Yee is looking to do with the group.

“We want to inspire other people to do the same in their own communities,” Yee said.

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