Edmonton parent draws attention to racist underpinning of coronavirus fear
EDMONTON -- A woman who just returned to Edmonton from Europe was stunned when her children's school called her, assuming she had returned from a trip to China.
Marti Chen and her husband returned to Alberta's capital city on Sunday.
The mother says she received a call on Wednesday from the St. Mary Catholic School principal, who said the two needed to talk because she had just returned from China.
"Obviously I look more like a person who would be going back to China during Chinese New Year than a person who would go to Amsterdam to celebrate her birthday with my husband," she commented. The pair are originally from Taiwan.
Chen says she clarified she had been in Europe – not China, as the principal had said – and the principal immediately apologized, citing a misunderstanding.
Edmonton Catholic Schools told CTV News Edmonton the division has been taking preventative measures related to coronavirus.
"We are contacting families and students who travelled internationally over the Christmas break and have not yet returned. We are asking them to follow up with 811 Health Link if they travelled to an area where Coronavirus cases have been confirmed," a statement read.
But Chen believes the assumption was made because of her race, and told CTV News Edmonton the exchange highlights a racist undercurrent of the coronavirus outbreak.
"They have to say something like that or otherwise they would look bad," she replied.
"Don't just assume a person who looks Oriental-looking are from China or took a trip and must be going back to China."
Chen said she's not angry and appreciates there is concern for students – but doesn't want the assumption to be made again.
The Catholic school board said a letter about coronavirus would be sent to parents on Friday.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Matt Woodman