By Mitali Pradhan, May 7 2021—
A recent project assigned by Dr. Dawn Rault as part of the Law and Society 335 class provided students an opportunity to be advocates of social justice.
The project consisted of an advocacy letter and an annotated bibliography addressed to an important community leader and centered on a social justice issue of the students’ choosing. Alicia Revington, a third year undergraduate student, wrote her letter about the increase in racism and disrimination directed at Asian Canadians as a result of COVID-19.
“It was a really powerful assignment and I am very grateful to Dr. Rault for providing us with that opportunity,” said Revington.
In her letter addressed to City of Calgary Councillor Druh Farrell, Revington focused on education of the general public and deterring acts of discrimination towards vulnerable Asian Canadians during the pandemic. As a person of colour with mixed heritage, Revington’s personal experience with racism as well as her observations of the impact of COVID-19 on Asian Canadians motivated her to write the letter. In particular, Revington stated violation of Section 15 (1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, equality rights, which protects individuals from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin and colour.
“I think that we have a long way to go as a society in terms of recognizing equity, diversity and inclusion,” said Revington. “All institutions have a responsibility to address these issues.”
At the time Revington was writing her letter, the pandemic was in its early stages with limited research and literature regarding its impacts on specific groups. To combat this, Revington drew from HIV/AIDS work and literature focusing on stigma and the impact of public education initiatives in dispelling it. The work done regarding HIV/AIDS inspired Revington’s approach for utilizing a public education initiative to address racism in the pandemic.
Revington also outlined aspects of a strategic anti-racism plan to educate individuals and deter acts of racism. One of the initiatives suggested included mental health interventions to assist Asian Canadians impacted by discrimination and racial discrimination during the pandemic. Literature indicates a rise in Asian Canadians self-reports of mental health struggles stemming from stigma surrounding COVID-19. Revington stated that a public education approach, focusing on educating the lack of relation between COVID-19 and race, providing a space for Asian Canadians to speak out regarding the racism they have experienced and informing the public of racism and microaggressions, would work to dispel racist sentiments in the community.
“A lot of us may think that racism is wrong and something needs to be done to combat it,” said Revington. “But it is really important that we don’t just think but we also act on it and we try and invoke change rather than just hope for change.”
Following submission, Revington was contacted by Farrell who confirmed receipt of her letter and assured it would be passed on to Calgary’s Anti-Racism Action Committee. Revington plans on continuing advocating and hopes that her letter is considered and her suggested initiatives are incorporated.
“I hope my work has inspired at least one person to learn more about anti-Asian discrimination and maybe even use it as an inspiration for their own advocacy. I hope anyone reading my work can feel like they are a part of the solution,” she concluded.
Editor’s Note: Alicia Revington currently sits on the Gauntlet‘s Board of Directors as a Student at Large. While interviewed, she was not directly consulted during the writing process.