Markham resident Chris Cui says he had a verbal and physical altercation with a man in a Richmond Hill department store parking lot after the man told him: ‘You don’t belong here.’June 27, 2022 – Steve Somerville/Metroland

Original Published on Jul 08, 2022 at 15:44

By Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Markham resident Chris Cui says he was confronted with racial slurs and got into a fight with a man on June 20. 

On that date, after he and his mother finished shopping at Walmart in Richmond Hill, they started arguing in the parking lot about the bill and were approached by a man they didn’t know. 

“The man said we were talking too loudly, but it was in a public and outdoor place. My mother and I just had a bit of a dispute over the numbers on the receipt, it wasn’t a fight,” Cui explains.

Cui admitted that he and his mother were talking loudly and immediately apologized. But he said the man was not satisfied and told him: “You don’t belong here.”

Although the remark made Cui very uncomfortable, he says he tried to calm the man to avoid escalating the conflict. However, Cui said the man “just ignored what I said,” took off his jacket and “asked – do you want to fight me?” 

This time, Cui, who has practised kickboxing and mixed martial arts for many years, did not hold back. The two men scuffled together.

Cui said he suffered minor injuries, which required medical attention, because a ring on the man’s finger cut his lips. At the same time, Cui believes he injured the man’s left eye. Cui called 911 after the incident. By the time police arrived on the scene, the other man in the altercation had already left.  

York Regional Police confirmed that they are investigating the incident as a possible hate-motivated crime.

“We do not tolerate hate crime in any form,” Cst. Amy Boudreau, media relations officer of YRP, said in an email. “Those who victimize others based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Cui immigrated to Canada in 1996 and believes, based on his own experiences, that the number of racial discrimination incidents in the community increased during the pandemic. Following the incident in the parking lot in which a verbal altercation became physical, Cui said he feels more insecure.

York Regional Police say they recognize the community-wide impact of hate crimes and vigorously investigates all occurrences of hate crime and hate bias incidents, urging members of the community to report hate-related incidents. In addition, they have a dedicated investigative unit and specially trained hate crime investigators at each district to assist in investigations where hate may have been a contributing factor. 

“By sharing my experience, I do not to encourage everyone to rely on force to solve problems, but I hope that people can understands the deep-rooted Confucianism of the Chinese people, like ‘a loss is a blessing’ does not work. Respect is earned by being strong, not by tolerance,” Cui says.

He also believes it’s significant for people to speak up about their dissatisfaction through demonstrations, complaints and other different channels, to not be afraid of losing face.

Alfred Lam from the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services in Newmarket agrees that incidents of hate have become much more frequent with perpetrators becoming emboldened during the pandemic, particularly lashing out against the Asian community. This is according to the centre’s own data, gathered from the community.

“The first thing we say to our clients who encounter such incidents is they need to understand their rights which are protected by law in Canada,” says the executive director, “No one should suffer silently as victims of racism and we advise everyone to report such crimes to the police as early as they can safely do so.” 

Meanwhile, Lam reiterates the importance of putting people’s own physical safety first when encountering such incidents, gauging the situation carefully before deciding on a response.

This item reprinted with permission from Economist & Sun, Markham, Ontario