Stats show reports of racism up dramatically in Kelowna | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Stats show reports of racism up dramatically in Kelowna

Kelowna protestor Bruce Orydzuk was seen yelling at this security guard Tuesday, July 13.

With highly visible racist incidents making the headlines in recent weeks, it’s not surprising that statistics are showing the number of incidents are on the rise.

So far this year, there have been 22 incidents reported to the RCMP.

From March to October, 57 racist incidents were reported to the United Against Discrimination project launched last year through Kelowna Community Resources.

While the numbers are small and may partially reflect the fact that the reporting portal is new, that’s almost six times the nine cases reported in the previous year.

“While our community is improving, I think there are still individuals that have that point of view and that continues,” Katelin Mitchell, director of services with Kelowna Community Resources, told iNFOnews.ca. “They come to the surface more at some times than other times, like we saw with the outbreak of COVID when we saw anti-Asian sentiments arising.”

That sentiment seems to be continuing after anti-Chinese words were painted on a Glenmore restaurant late last month.

READ MORE: Neighbourhood rallies to support Kelowna business vandalized with racist graffiti

Twenty per cent of the incidents are directly related to COVID, Mitchell said. A glaring example of that is the racist rant outside the vaccination clinic at the Trinity Baptist Church in July.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Protestor unleashes racist tirade at Kelowna vaccination clinic security guard

An incident on a Kelowna bus was captured on video when a man accused women passengers of being terrorists for not speaking English.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Man calls passengers on Kelowna bus ‘terrorists’ before fight breaks out

In October, a Kelowna resident was ordered to remove a Confederate flag from their window and posters were put up in Rutland showing needles forming swastikas. One person who posted on Facebook about the swastika posters suggested there was nothing racist about it.

Such attacks are not confined to Kelowna. Two of the 22 reported to Kelowna RCMP were in West Kelowna and, last summer, there were racist incidents in Summerland.

READ MORE: Racist vandalism in Okanagan town is the tip of the iceberg: Summerland Mayor

“While our community is working hard to make some changes, there are, unfortunately, some who still don’t understand the gravity of things they display or the actions that they take,” Mitchell said.

The United Against Discrimination project is being done in conjunction with UBC.

“We’re trying to encourage all people in the community to be active in anti-racism and not to just leave it up to those who are discriminated against and to actually report so that we can gather information and statistics so that, when we look at different educational or awareness activities, we can actually focus them to where and to whom they need to be focused to,” Mitchell said.

The agency offers support to victims of racism if they want it.

She can’t say if the anti-mask, anti-vaccine contingent that seems particularly strong in Kelowna is behind the growing number of incidents. In July, iNFOnews reporter Carli Berry captured a racist tirade by one vocal member of this group. 

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Protestor unleashes racist tirade at Kelowna vaccination clinic security guard

Mitchell does not have direct evidence that they are linked but has seen in the media and on social media suggestions that they are.

“Often, when people are in a situation of fear or they don’t believe in something or believe another person’s perspective, often they grasp at things to attach that to,” she said. “In general, COVID decreases people’s tolerance levels for any group of people. They’re more isolated. People are relying on things like social media more, which isn’t always the best.”

Incidents in the Central Okanagan can be reported to United Against Discrimination, here.

There are also links on the web pages for partnership organizations including South Okanagan Immigrant Community Services here, Kamloops Immigrant Services, and Shuswap Immigrant Services here.

Kelowna RCMP are investigating many of these incidents and charges may yet be filed.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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