Canadian actor subjected to COVID-19 racism in North Bay
Photo by Eric Taschner
NORTH BAY -- While walking along the Lake Nipissing waterfront last week, Russell Yuen says a man and a woman were enjoying the view beside him.
"The gentleman said 'Oh it's nice out here,' and I said 'yeah.' and he said 'It's nice to be away from Toronto and the Chinese virus'," Yuen told CTV News via skype from Montreal.
Yuen was in the city for the filming of Swan.
When the man said "Chinese virus," Yuen reacted immediately, taking off his sunglasses. The man didn't realise he was Asian.
From there, the verbal attacks began.
Yuen says the man launched into a racist tirade while his wife cowered behind him.
"He said 'Why are you not wearing a f*****g mask?' and 'get the f*** away from me' and 'what are you doing here,'" Yuen recounts.
From there, the man told Yuen to go back to where he came from and take the coronavirus with him.
Yuen lives in Montreal and was born in Canada. He's a fourth generation Canadian, and says he doesn't even speak Chinese.
The term has sparked controversy ever since U.S. President Donald Trump referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus.".
"This is not the time for pointing fingers or blaming people. We have to unite," said Yuen.
Yuen has since been flooded with online apologies from North Bay citizens and Mayor Al McDonald, who is condemning the racist attack.
Deputy mayor Tanya Vrebosch doesn't believe the couple are from the city and that one act does not represent the city's views.
"We're a very welcoming, inclusive community," said Vrebosch. "If anything, we're trying to attract more newcomers whether that's the film industry or business or residents."
As for Yuen, he says he loves coming to North Bay and can't wait to come back in the future for more film projects when the pandemic dies down.
"Just because we look different, doesn't mean we're different inside," said Yuen.