Calgary’s Chinese community may be bigger than Red Deer’s, but the southern city also has racism concerns around the coronavirus outbreak, which the central city does not.
The Calgary Chinese Community Service Association says the agency is concerned about racism and xenohobia that may be creeping into the dialogue around the epidemic centred in Wuhan province in China.
“We urge Calgarians to remain calm and not direct misplaced concern towards Chinese-Canadian Calgarians,” said Thomas Cheuk and Norman Poon, the association’s co-chairs.
“We must avoid demonizing the entire Calgary Chinese community, while remaining vigilant and careful.”
In Red Deer, there are no such concerns, probably because the Chinese community is much smaller – about 700 to 900 people, said Lawrence Lee, president of the Red Deer and District Chinese Community Society.
“We don’t have a huge, significant presence of Chinese population like we used to in past years, so that’s tapered down the impact,” said Lee, who is also a city councillor.
Lee said he has heard concerns about the virus, and the supports around it, and what can be done to help those in China.
During the SARS outbreak in 2002, similar sentiment was felt in Calgary, and to some extent, in Red Deer, he said.
“It definitely was more of an issue in Red Deer in 2002, than it is now with coronavirus, for sure,” Lee said.
Back then, Red Deer had a Chinese population of between 1,000 and 1,100 people.
Lee said people are more educated today, thanks to traditional media channels and social media.
“A lot of people now don’t jump to conclusions or reactions. We’re now more informed. People understand transmission isn’t through standing next to somebody, and that people have to show signs or symptoms,” Lee said.
Sammy Beng, manager at Red Star Chinese Restaurant in Red Deer, said his business, which consists mostly of non-Chinese customers, is doing “normal.”
He explained, post-new year, business does slow down a bit, because people may not have as much spending money, and that’s considered typical at this time of year.
He said there are some Chinese people who are afraid of the spread of the virus; perhaps from someone who has just returned from China. That means they visit one another less often than normal.
“Usually, they see each other often. Right now, it’s a little bit less,” he said.
“Because every day, they see the news and they know what’s happening in China. That’s why they are probably scared a little bit.”
The decrease in the Chinese community numbers in the city, compared to around 2002, is due to the lack of post-secondary education in central Alberta, Lee said.
“Our culture puts a huge value on education, so without Red Deer having a university, it’s really impacted the growth of the Chinese community,” Lee said, adding the change in Red Deer College to a university is welcomed.