8:47 AM PDT, August 23, 2021
A white man was caught on camera lecturing waitresses about learning English after watching her speak Mandarin while serving a Mandarin-speaking table. He had been having breakfast at the Cannery Café in Vancouver, Canada when the exchange took place.
“It’s two official languages, English and French. If you want to learn another one, you may, but you start with English first or else there’s no incentive to learn English, right?” the unidentified man could be heard saying in the video. “You can stay here in Richmond and pretend you’re still in China – that’s unfair.”
Bystander Janice Yeung said she and her brother had been having breakfast at the restaurant, which serves both brunch staples and Chinese food, when they witnessed the man’s apparent rant.
“I personally feel if that person was speaking French or German or anything but Chinese, I don’t think he would have been irked,” Yeung told Inside Edition Digital. “if I go to Italian restaurant … and waiter at the table next to you is speaking Italian, it doesn’t really bother me.”
She said it all began when Asian servers had been attempting to help a Mandarin-speaking table in their native language. “There was a couple behind him who were Chinese and they were speaking Mandarin to the waitresses,” Yeung said. “The waitress was not speaking to him in Mandarin.”
Yeung explained that she and her brother spoke up and attempted to intervene when they heard him first begin his speech, she said. The man only seemed to double down on his statements, continuing to insist “you immigrate here, you should be speaking English,” she recalled him staying.
The man began his rant a second time when the servers brought him the bill, she said. That’s when she started recording the video.
“He’s bullying two girls who were literally just doing their jobs,” Yeung said. “She’s just trying to get his order in and do her job.”
Yeung said it seemed like the waitresses were young, and potentially new on the job. “I know that they weren’t really going to confront because you know, maybe first day on the job, you don’t want to lose your job,” she said. “They’re just kind of nodding awkwardly because he’s making a scene, everybody’s looking at them.”
She added that from what she and her brother heard, the servers spoke English perfectly well.
Yeung said she felt it was important to share the video in light of a rising trend of anti-Asian hate incidents in Vancouver.
Last March, a Chinese woman in her 60s was walking down the street when she was slapped across the face, CBC News reported. “They say, ‘Go back China … You don’t live in Canada!’ That’s why I’m too afraid to go grocery shopping in Chinatown now. I don’t dare go,” she told CBC News through a translator.
In April of last year, a 92-year-old man hit his head after he was shoved out of a convenience store in East Vancouver, the CBC News reported. The white man who shoved the elderly Asian man had been yelling racist remarks and comments about COVID-19 before assaulting the man, according to CBC News.
Vancouver police said anti-Asian hate crimes increased 717% in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After the start of COVID, you’re just nervous because people spread the whole ‘Chinese virus’ thing, saying ‘oh it came from you people,’” Yeung said. “[It’s] uncomfortable walking into a mall because you’re Asian. You just feel like all eyes are on you.”
The mounting anti-Asian hate incidents is even more concerning considering Vancouver’s huge Asian population.
Earlier this summer, Bloomberg called Vancouver “the most Asian city outside Asia” in a story that went on to call the city “the anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.”
According to a 2016 census, 17.7% of Vancouver’s population calls Cantonese their mother tongue and 16.5% call Mandarin their mother tongue. Additionally, 15% of Vancouver’s population calls Punjabi their mother tongue, 7.2% call Tagalog their mother tongue and 4.4% call Korean their mother tongue.
In contrast, only 58% of the Vancouver population call either French or English their mother tongue, the census reported.
In Richmond, where Yeung’s video was taken, 54% of the total population is Chinese, the 2016 census reported. The suburb is also home to significant Indian, Filipino and Japanese communities.