Noor Fadel is pictured in an undated handout photo. Fadel was attacked by a racist man on a train in 2017 but says the hateful social-media messages she received afterwards were even more traumatic. A new survey finds that one in two Canadians who identify as visible minorities have experienced online hate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Noor Fadel, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Noor Fadel is pictured in an undated handout photo. Fadel was attacked by a racist man on a train in 2017 but says the hateful social-media messages she received afterwards were even more traumatic. A new survey finds that one in two Canadians who identify as visible minorities have experienced online hate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Noor Fadel, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Survey suggests one in two people of colour have experienced online racism in Canada

Survey found that seven in 10 respondents are worried about the degree of racism in the country

Noor Fadel says most people assume that the night she was attacked by a racist man on a SkyTrain in Vancouver in 2017 was the worst night of her life.

In fact, the nights that followed were even more harrowing, as her social-media post about the assault went viral and she received a torrent of hateful and threatening messages.

“People think that hiding behind a screen and saying something won’t have an impact. It does. It has a huge impact on people,” she said.

“That one message that you may think could not hurt someone, it’s just a simple message, it can actually be the message to ruin someone’s entire day, if not someone’s life.”

Fadel, 22, is sharing her story in support of a campaign launched by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and YWCA Canada to highlight the consequences of social-media hate.

The #BlockHate campaign coincides with a separate, unrelated survey by the Association for Canadian Studies, which sheds new light on racism in Canada both online and offline.

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Sunday, the association commissioned Leger Marketing to ask Canadians about their views on racism.

The survey found that seven in 10 respondents are worried about the degree of racism in the country, a concern held by three in four participating women and people between 18 and 34.

One in two survey participants who identify as visible minorities have felt attacked by hateful comments on social media, and nearly six in 10 said they have witnessed hatred online.

Those who were exposed to hateful internet comments were more likely to be worried about racism, said association president Jack Jedwab.

“It’s not so much the violent incidents that we’ve seen over the past year, which have attracted considerable media attention, that are fuelling people’s concerns about racism,” he said.

“It’s also the extent to which people are witnessing this phenomenon expand in social media.”

The survey also suggested that one in three Canadians admit to holding a negative view of Muslims, one in five have a negative view of Indigenous people and one in seven state a negative view of Chinese people, Jews or immigrants.

People who have never met any members of those groups are more likely to think negatively of them, suggesting that social media is playing a role once again, said Jedwab.

“They get information from social media about these groups … and the outcome, unfortunately, is that they hold negative or prejudicial views.”

The survey of 1,514 Canadians was conducted online between March 12 and 14 using web panels. The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

It also suggested Atlantic Canadians and Ontarians are most worried about the degree of racism in Canada, and that Canadians are more concerned about racism in the country and province than in their neighbourhoods.

The findings ring true for Fadel, who said she encountered racism many times in Vancouver before the incident on the SkyTrain in December 2017, when she was 18.

She said a man approached her and yelled that he was going to kill her and all Muslims before grabbing her head and forcing it toward his crotch.

He then struck her across the face, prompting another transit rider to push him off her.

Pierre Belzan, 46, received a suspended sentence and two years probation in 2018 after pleading guilty to assault and threatening to cause death or bodily harm.

Fadel said she took to social media after the incident because she was sick of hearing that racism in Canada doesn’t exist. While her Facebook post received thousands of supportive comments, the hateful ones stood out to her the most.

The messages included comments telling the Canadian-born woman to “go back to her country,” calling her sexist and racist slurs, accusing her of lying and threatening to kill her.

She said she only realized while isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic that she is still traumatized by the messages, years later, and she is still working on healing.

The #BlockHate campaign launches Monday and aims to encourage regulation to minimize the volume and frequency at which online hate speech and racism is spread.

Online hate is often a precursor to violent, in-person attacks against marginalized people, noted Mohammed Hashim, director of the Canadian Foundation for Race Relations.

People with hateful views will likely always exist, but social media has handed them the biggest microphone they’ve ever had, Hashim said.

“What we’re looking to do is to constrict that. We understand that it’s going to exist, but let it remain in the fringes of society,” he said.

Regulations must ensure that hateful posts can be taken down quickly to decelerate their spread, and include deterrents so posters experience consequences, he said.

Hashim also pointed out that logging off is not an option for victims of online attacks now that everyone’s personal and professional lives are increasingly virtual, especially during COVID-19.

“If we don’t deal with this now, this is only going to get worse,” he said.

“If we leave it the way it is, I want people to think about: what is the world that we’re creating for the next generation?”

READ MORE: Anti-Semitic posters in Kelowna prompts RCMP investigation

Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

racism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police are looking for the driver of this truck after it nearly hit a group of kids in Esquimalt on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Police)
Victoria police looking for driver of truck that nearly missed kids before crashing in Esquimalt

The truck’s driver, a man, fled the scene after the truck crashed into a house’s fence

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Driver stopped on Pat Bay Highway after road rage reports fails breathalyzer test: police

Several witnesses reported driver to Saanich police, school officer intercepted

Police escorts for Victoria bylaw workers entering encampments in parks will continue for this month, after council approved a $25,000 budget request from VicPD. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria bylaw staff encampment work to include police escort through April

Taxpayers to see modest increase in property taxes for 2021

Victoria’s bylaw restricting businesses from providing most plastic checkout bags came into effect on April 15. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Victoria’s bylaw banning plastic bags back in effect

The bylaw restricts businesses from providing most plastic checkout bags, charges for alternatives

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Bulldogs forward Stephen Castagna flips the puck into the Clippers zone during a game on Oct. 24. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Island BCHL game postponed due to ‘potential positive’ COVID-19 test

Nanaimo Clippers team suspends activities, players isolating pending further test results

Most Read