MONTREAL (CityNews) – A Montrealer of Korean origin says he was the victim of a racist attack last summer because of anti-Asian sentiment related to COVID-19.
In a video that went viral on TikTok, Jaeyong Kim claims a man physically assaulted him and his roommate, then blamed them for the pandemic.
“My roommate and I were attacked during broad daylight, on the main street in the city of Montreal,” said Kim in the video. “A man approached us from behind and started to strangle my roommate.
“The man was saying something like, ‘it’s your fault.’”
The alleged attack was not caught on video, nor was police called to the scene. Kim told CityNews there simply was not enough time to react.
“Especially when you know the attack can be lethal, and it’s targeted against you specifically, it’s really hard to stay focused, stay rational, and start filming him,” he said.
Members of Montreal’s Asian community have been victims of racist slurs and hate crimes since the start of the pandemic, according to Montreal police (SPVM).
The SPVM says there were 22 anti-Asian hate crimes and eight incidents reported between March and December 2020. Forty per cent of those were crimes related to property damage or mischief.
Police estimate nearly half of those crimes were directly related to the coronavirus.
While the SPVM says it has increased patrol in Chinatown, the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) says not enough is being done.
In June, CRARR introduced a motion asking the city to take concrete action to combat anti-Asian racism in the city. But the group says it has yet to see tangible measures.
“We call on Montreal police, we call on the human rights commission to take proactive measures, at least to reach out to these communities to inform them of their rights and recourses,” said Fo Niemi, the executive director of CRARR.
“(We need to) pressure the city and the Montreal police department to have a really functional and proactive hate crimes unit.”
Kim says he decided to speak up and share his story on social media after noticing a rise in incidents similar to his own story. He also plans to create a documentary on the topic.
“I really thought it was important for me to bring awareness to the situation and thankfully a lot of people resonated with the problem or were aware of the problem,” said Kim.
Niemi believes speaking out against such incidents is the first step in dealing with the problem.
“We must encourage and we must praise this young man for coming forward,” said Niemi. “And we encourage more people to be like him.”