Hundreds of people drove past the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in a rally against anti-Asian racism on Saturday.
While most people circled Israel Asper Way and Waterfront Drive in vehicles, some lined the sidewalks with signs.
"Stop Asian hate," read dozens of people’s placards. "Stop hate and start love," read another.
In the wake of a shooting rampage in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, Jennifer Chen and her organization Women of Colour Community Leadership Initiative Manitoba joined forces with the Manitoba Chinese Family Centre to speak out against a rise in reported hate crimes against Asian people across North America.
"Last week’s Atlanta shooting made people here concerned that this type of violence would come to Winnipeg and target the Asian community here," she said.
She and her community members face racism and gender discrimination regularly, Chen said.
"Asian women are seen as sexual objects," said Chen. "They are seen as invisible and quiet and silent."
But Chen said she refuses to be quiet about that stereotype.
"I have to fight back on a daily basis," she said. "Sometimes the racism or gender discrimination are subtle. It’s microaggressions. And sometimes it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. But sometimes when I express it, people don’t believe."
A group of Chinese-Canadian and south east Asian-Canadian organizations banded together to track reports of anti-Asian hate crimes when the COVID-19 pandemic began. As of Saturday, there were 976 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in Canada since the group began tracking them.
In a July 2020 report, Statistics Canada said the proportion of visible minorities who experienced an increase in harassment or attacks based on their race, ethnicity, or skin colour tripled since COVID-19 spread to Canada. The biggest increase was seen among Chinese, Korean and Southeast Asian people.
Chen said Saturday’s rally is an important step toward overcoming hate and discrimination.
"I was very touched by today’s rally," she said. "I see communities coming together to support each other, support those who are vulnerable, support Asian women. And I see Asian women showing to the community that we’re not silent, that we’re strong, and that we will be heard."
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.