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Vancouver police's anti-Asian crime reporting system flawed, says lawyer

Last Updated Apr 16, 2021 at 10:30 pm PDT

A sign denouncing Asian hate is held up at a #StopAsianHate in Vancouver. (CityNews)

Lawyer Steven Ngo says two white men shouted slurs and threw garbage at him at an intersection before driving off

Ngo says when he went online to report the crime to VPD, they only had the form in traditional and simplified Chinese

Ngo says adding more languages to VPD reports is crucial so victims can have an easier time reporting anti-Asian crime

Editor’s note: This article contains a post which uses a racial slur. Discretion is advised. 

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An Asian-Canadian lawyer who says he was the target of a racist attack this week says Vancouver police aren’t making it easy for some people to report such incidents.

Steven Ngo says he was called racial slurs by two white men at Fraser St. near 41st Ave. on Thursday, and alleges they pulled up next to him and threw garbage at his car before speeding off.

“They sped off laughing and what really infuriates me is how hard it must be for people who go through this on a day to day basis and have a difficult time reporting,” he said.

Ngo tried reporting the incident to Vancouver Police but says he faced difficulties.

“To actually report any kind of hate crime you have to call in, which I did, and I was on hold for over 30 minutes,” he explained.

Ngo tried to make a report online, thinking it it might be faster. However, he noticed a problem.

“The form to report online is only in traditional Chinese or simplified Chinese. If you don’t understand these languages, there’s no way you’d be able to report this online. I had to do a reverse Google translation just to get the actual English translation, and fill out the form in English,” he said.

Ngo says bystanders may also wish to report crimes online and could also face barriers since English isn’t an option on the website.

Public Service Announcement: Have you been a victim of anti-Asian Hate Crime?

I have. Two hours ago, I was called a “…

Posted by Steven Ngo on Thursday, April 15, 2021

He points out Asian doesn’t mean Chinese-only and wonders why the VPD doesn’t have the form in other Asian languages.

“Think about all those who suffer anti-Asian hate crimes: Those who speak Vietnamese, Tagalog, and South Asian People as well. You’re essentially limiting reporting to a small segment of the population,” he said.

He wants police to do better, but doesn’t necessarily blame them for what he calls a gap in reporting.

“Vancouver is a diverse city and I’m glad we have a police force with some reporting tools. But I can only imagine if I were in Nanaimo or Comox. Imagine how difficult it is for people who don’t have the resources. I’m not trying to disparage the VPD but there is systemic gap,” he said.

Ngo stresses many people who go through a similar experience aren’t always as engaged. He says if he had difficulties reporting this crime, it is likely much worse for others.

“I’m on the board of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers. We represent over 400 lawyers from judges to partners to students. So, if I’m engaged in the issue and even I have difficulties, I think there’s a clear issue and mismatch here,” he said.

Ngo says how if no one says anything, nothing will change. He feels simple, clear, accessible reporting tools will make it easier for people to speak up, especially if they haven’t been encouraged to do so.

“I’ve worked in Asia and we have a tendency to not say anything — to keep things quiet, not rock the boat — because we think that reporting is not going to do anything,” he explained.

He recounts another recent incident in his family which highlights the importance of calling out these crimes.

“My cousin last week got spat at while he was walking around Deer Lake Park, he didn’t bother to say anything. I told him he had to say something or else the police and the media doesn’t know. I think this is an opportunity to take a deep breath and understand how we can support others and I think it starts from making reporting easy and accessible for all.”

When we asked Const. Tania Visintin with VPD about the lack of reporting options she told NEWS 1130 in a statement: “There is no form in English to report anti-Asian hate crime. For those who speak English, they can make the report if it happened after the fact on the non-emergency line or through our online reporting.”