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Montreal, April 22, 2020 — One of Quebec’s largest university student unions, the Concordia Student Union (CSU), has officially joined CRARR’s campaign against COVID-19 discrimination with the view to better inform and support the University’s undergraduate population, and to protect their well-being, safety, and civil rights.

According to the General Coordinator-Elect of the CSU, Isaiah Joyner, ”the COVID-19 crisis has created unprecedented disastrous consequences on the social, financial, academic, and health conditions of Concordia’s 37,200 undergraduate students and their families.”

“The fear, stress and uncertainty faced by our students, like millions of Canadians, have also given rise to disturbing situations that involve abuse, discrimination, and other civil rights violations, which we have to be very vigilant about”, he said. “This is why the CSU has decided to support CRARR’s campaign.

As the academic year comes to an end, Concordia students are currently dealing with a multiplicity of hardships. In addition to the difficult academic transition, loss of part-time jobs, loss of summer job opportunities, and delays in graduation, many Concordia students also face housing hardships such as being asked to leave their student dorms, losing their rental housing, or being unable to leave poor housing situations. International students are particularly affected by facing difficulties in returning home, as well as potentially facing discrimination in the rental market.

“Considering the already critical housing situation in Montreal, these students need reliable information and support now more than ever. We have received hundreds of emails concerning housing and income issues,” Joyner said.

There is also racism faced by Asian students, particularly international students from China who comprise 17.5% of Concordia’s 9,700 international students (the other top two groups are students from India and Iran, comprising 22% and 11.5% of the international student body).

Due to the stigmatization of COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”, there has been, since March, a rise in anti-Asian incidents in Montreal that involve racist insults, jeers, harassment, and violence. These acts of hate also affect other Asian groups such as Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese Montrealers.

This is one of the reasons leading the CSU to support CRARR’s campaign, which the latter and the Institute for Research and Education on Race Relations (IRERR), launched on April 1st under the slogan, “COVID-19 Does Not Discriminate. Neither Should You!”

The CRARR campaign consists of disseminating basic safety tips to Montrealers who face racism and hate, first in English and French, and as of last week, in Chinese and Vietnamese; these tips will eventually be available in Farsi and Hindi. Along with the CSU Legal Information Clinic and the CSU Off-campus Housing & Job Resource Centre Manager, the CSU will also work with CRARR to develop fast-track support for students who face COVID-19 related discrimination based on race and other grounds, and hate crimes.

One issue that is of major concern to the CSU and CRARR is the abusive application of the physical and social distancing order by the police and the draconian $1,550 fine that can disproportionately affect students.

In the coming weeks, the multiracial, multigenerational, and multilingual campaign will also produce short video messages to encourage Montrealers to work together for equality, safety and solidarity.

“We are very fortunate to earn the support of the CSU, which will reach over 37,000 undergraduate students and at least 100,000 people in this city”, said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi. “We invite other student unions to join us because while we may not able to defeat the coronavirus at the present time, we can, with strength in numbers, defeat the division, discrimination and hate that it creates.”