COVID-19 and Interethnic Relations
Project Description

When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) a global health emergency on January 30, 2020, it triggered fear throughout the world. In Canada, some of this fear has been misplaced onto Chinese Canadians. The media has reported multiple examples of discrimination toward Asian Canadians, who are perceived as responsible for the spread of the disease and/or themselves viewed as being contagious (e.g., Jones 2020). A February 11, 2020 National Post headline reiterated federal and Ontario health ministers’ “urge against spreading coronavirus stigma in Toronto’s Chinatown” (Jeffords 2020), for instance.

This study is directly relevant to the Chinese Canadian community and to the health care practices of Canadians generally.The proposed study is broadly concerned with Chinese Canadians’ experiences of discrimination and stigmatization in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study suggests that central to these experiences is non-Chinese Canadians' understanding of risk and the cultural dimensions of preventative health practices. The study has three interrelated components that, together, will provide a comprehensive understanding of how Chinese and non-Chinese Canadians understand, experience, and react to COVID-19, which will offer implications for developing strategies to combat stigma and fear associated with Chinese people and COVID-19.

The first component (Study 1: Chinese Canadians’ Experiences of COVID-19-Related Discrimination) explores Chinese Canadians’ experiences of discrimination since the appearance of the virus. The longitudinal study of Chinese Canadians’ experiences of discrimination during the COVID-19 epidemic will help determine what kinds of support Chinese Canadians would like to receive now and in the near future. The second component (Study 2a: Risk Perception, and Fear and Prejudice Reduction) focuses on non-Chinese Canadians’ perceptions of risk associated with virus transmission. Research (Pracejus and Brown 2003) suggests that one way to allay fears aroused by viral outbreaks is to provide people with accurate numerical information about the mortality rate produced by the virus. This study will test this idea and its main implication that reducing fear may decrease discrimination against Chinese Canadians. Risk perceptions also predict preventative behavior. Thus, the third component (Study 2b: Cultural Dimensions of Preventative Health Practices) focuses on wearing a face mask in public as a preventative health practice that is particularly enmeshed in cultural beliefs. In the current context, the face mask embodies a “culture clash” between Chinese and non-Chinese Canadians; understanding different cultural attitudes toward its use and effectiveness will go some way toward reducing stigmatization of Chinese Canadians. Together, these three interrelated components represent significant social countermeasure research to combat the intergroup threat driven by misinformation, stigma, and cultural misunderstanding associated with COVID-19.

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Lab Coordinator
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University of Alberta
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iclab [at]

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada