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Newmarket tea shop owners welcome York Region's anti-Asian racism resolution

As a result of increased anti-Asian racism in the region, council passed a resolution this month affirming its commitment to the Inclusion Charter and condemning hate-related incidents.
Joe Zhang owner of The Fresh Tea Shop on Main Street.

Janice Jiang, owner of The Fresh Tea Shop on Main Street, has always felt accepted in Newmarket and the anti-Asian resolution passed by York Region council this month just reinforces it and gives her a sense of safety, she said.

As a result of increased anti-Asian racism in the region, the region passed a resolution at the Committee of the Whole meeting affirming its commitment to the Inclusion Charter for York Region and condemning hate-related incidents against all residents of Asian descent.

"The Regional Municipality of York is committed to taking action to achieve the vision as espoused in the Inclusion Charter for York Region . . . where everyone can live with respect, dignity and freedom from discrimination . . . condemn the increasing hate-related incidents, including those against residents of Asian descent, and declare zero-tolerance for any form of hate-related behaviour and conduct against its residents," the resolution stated.

In April, York Regional Police (YRP) reported a 137.5 per cent increase in hate crime occurrences against East and South East Asian communities in 2020.

Jiang and her husband Joe Zhang, who have owned the tea shop since 2014, moved to Canada in 2000 and except for one ongoing incident they haven't experienced discrimination, they said.

Though everyone on Main has always been friendly, said Jiang, when someone in the community who had been leaving malicious notes on their shop door left a particularly disturbing one the couple finally informed the police.

The note, which referred to Jiang and Zhang as "greedy pigs" and "filthy law breakers," accused them of "taking advantage of this community."

It doesn't bother him, said Zhang. He feels welcome in Newmarket and believes the majority of the community is friendly; He feels free to talk with all different kinds of people.

During the council meeting mayor John Taylor seconded the motion to condemn hate-related incidents against residents of Asian descent.

It's important sometimes, he said, not just to oppose hate crimes, but to "name it" by calling out the groups being affected.

"We're going through a period of time right now where we're realizing we need to do more work to combat anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism and support inclusion and to ensure that we're doing everything we can to be a welcoming region and a welcoming town."

"If it's that disturbing to me how does it feel for that community to watch that?" Taylor said in regards to the alarming news footage of racist attacks throughout North America in recent years.

"How do you not look over your shoulder and look in your own community and go 'I wonder how welcome I really am.' As leaders we need to speak up and say 'you are welcome, we want you here and we think you bring great value to our community .'"

Newmarket has become so much more diverse since he arrived 20 years ago, said Zhang and he believes the community enjoys the growing multiculturalism but the council's resolution is still meaningful.

"It's wonderful. This is a message sent to all the people to remember to do the right thing. It's great and I appreciate it," he said.