A new cultural centre has opened in Vancouver's historic Chinatown and will provide a space to showcase and celebrate Chinese-Canadian heritage.
The Chinatown Storytelling Centre is the first permanent space of its kind in Canada and will feature over 150 stories from Chinese immigrants who played a significant role in the building of the country, as well as Chinatown's current living history.
"Above all else, this day and this place is about stories," said Carol Lee, chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, during the centre's opening event on Friday.
"This is the beginning of the most important part of our cultural revitalization efforts."
The 4,000 square foot centre is located in the heart of Vancouver's Chinatown at 168 East Pender Street and will contain permanent and special immersive exhibits displaying archival films that take visitors through the history and stories of early Chinese immigrants.
"It was a dream to build a place where we could tell the story of the 150-year history of Chinese-Canadians and their tremendous contribution to the building of the city, this province and this country. A place that would give us pride in that history," Lee said.
The opening of the first-of-its-kind cultural centre comes as anti-Asian racism has risen dramatically during the pandemic.
Vancouver police have said anti-Asian hate crimes increased 717 per cent during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey released in June by the Angus Reid Institute suggests more than half of Asian Canadians have suffered discrimination in the past year.
Mary Ng, the minister of international trade, export promotion, small business and economic development, attended the grand opening on Friday and says a centre like this is more important than ever.
"Such hatred and racism doesn't have a place in Canada. And I think that a place like this where we are bringing community together, deliberately ... Let's keep doing that work," Ng said.
Lee says she hopes this storytelling centre can be a catalyst for other Chinatowns across the country to consider building one of their own.
"These stories that we bring to life will provide a pathway for a more inclusive, respectful and caring society," she said.
The Chinatown Storytelling Centre officially opens to visitors on Nov. 6.