Members of the Calgary Chinese community have called for a public apology from Prime Minister Jason Kenney for what they termed racist statements in a recent media interview.
More than 60 people gathered outside the McDougall Center on a cold New Years morning to condemn Kenney’s comments referring to columnist Rick Bell. of Calgary Sun said in the year-end meeting , “What’s the next bat soup from Wuhan? I do not know.”
Participants held signs reading “Racism is a shame on Alberta” and “Zero tolerance for anti-Asian hatred” as a number of speakers took the microphone, fearing the Prime Minister’s comments would exacerbate discrimination against Chinese Canadians. a group dealing with an increase in vitriol levels after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We gather here to express concern about the irresponsible and poisonous comments made by Jason Kenney,” Jiannong Wu said during the rally. “(That type of language) has resulted in a significant increase in hate crimes against Asians in general and Chinese people in particular.”
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was first identified in Wuhan, China in late 2019. A viral video circulating shortly thereafter claimed bat soup in a wet market in Wuhan was the origin of the virus. but this claim was quickly refuted .
Kenney’s press secretary Justin Brattinga said Kenney apologized for the comments in a Dec. 24 interview with Life Calgary, a local Chinese-language publication.
“By the way, I would like to say that I apologize to you, if someone has offended themselves, if you have taken offense, it was certainly not intended,” said Kenney in the interview quoted by Brattinga.
“I am sorry if what I said offended people, it was not my intention. And I definitely want to thank the Sino-Canadian community in Alberta for the tremendous care they have shown in their responsibilities during COVID. “
In a previous statement to CTV, the Prime Minister’s Office defended Kenney’s comments, saying it was “obviously ridiculous” to label his words as racist.
Wu works at the Foothills Medical Center as a medical technician. He said he has faced racism as a frontline worker since the pandemic began, including from a patient who asked him to speak English when he already spoke the language and another who refused to provide care altogether.
He said he feared Kenney’s comments would provoke further hatred and said a broad public apology was needed.
“I think it’s intentional because (Kenney) is trying to cover up his failure to deal with the pandemic,” Wu said. “I want him to come out on TV and face the mainstream media to apologize to us and the province because his job is to unite us rather than divide us.”
Among those attending the rally was Irfan Sabir, NDP MLA for Calgary-Bhullar-McCall, who described Kenney’s comments as a racist dog whistle.
“(Kenney) divides people and creates fear and hatred in our communities. This is unacceptable. That is irresponsible, ”said Sabir.
Also on Saturday morning, members of the Edmonton Chinese population gathered for a similar rally outside the Alberta Legislature.