Last week’s Driftwood story about a racist assault on a Ganges store owner shocked many members of the community.
The owner of Harbour Food Market is a Canadian citizen of South Korean descent. On the evening of Nov. 4, a reportedly drunk person pressed him to disclose information about his “Chinese” origins and would not leave the store. Salt Spring RCMP were called and dealt with the individual, with charges recommended to the Crown. The incident was obviously extremely disturbing to the victim, his family and witnesses.
People have expressed surprise that this event could have happened on Salt Spring Island, a supposedly enlightened beacon of sanity in a world where expressions of hate have skyrocketed in recent years. The public response was similar earlier in the fall when some Gulf Islands Secondary School students wore T-shirts with offensive words and statements on them. And while RCMP say the breaking of windows of two shops in Ganges Alley owned by residents of Asian descent was not racially motivated, that event was also upsetting.
Harbour Food Market owner Charlie Chung himself stressed that he felt it was an isolated incident and that his experience is that people on Salt Spring and in B.C. where he has lived for many years have been overwhelmingly supportive.
But people of colour living on Salt Spring have reported to the Driftwood in the past that racist comments and attitudes have been directed towards them, so it’s not like the issue has never been flagged before. As islanders with lived experience, they are the ones who can best help others to understand that it does exist and what must be done to address it.
Nov. 15-21 is International Restorative Justice Week, which aims to educate people about an alternate method of resolving conflicts between parties or dealing with individuals who have committed crimes. People can learn more at a Nov. 21 Zoom session led by Salt Spring’s active RJ group.
The Restorative Justice format is one that could help address both the Harbour Food Market attack and broader issues of racism in our community, because it can and does exist even on “idyllic” Salt Spring Island.