Edmontonians join national effort to rebuild Chinatowns across Canada

·2 min read
The Harbin Gate, a gift from Edmonton's sister city in China, was moved in 2017 for the LRT expansion. Advocates are hoping that Chinatowns across the country can get some support from government on revitalization. (Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit)
The Harbin Gate, a gift from Edmonton's sister city in China, was moved in 2017 for the LRT expansion. Advocates are hoping that Chinatowns across the country can get some support from government on revitalization. (Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit)

Edmonton's Chinatown, unable to keep up with the city's growth, was struggling long before the pandemic and the LRT construction that cuts right through it.

Now, Chinese community leaders representing Chinatowns in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto are advocating for government help with a strategy to revitalize and rebuild Chinatowns across the country.

The call for action comes after an increase in anti-Asian hate. A report earlier this year from the Toronto chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council found there were 1,150 incidents of anti-Asian racism in Canada since the start of the pandemic.

LISTEN | Hon Leong talks about the importance of rebuilding Chinatown in Edmonton:

"The Chinese have had a difficult time," said Hon Leong, chair of the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative Society of Edmonton.

"We've lost 30 per cent of our businesses alone this year in Chinatown."

Chinese leaders had originally planned to request members of Parliament to endorse the national plan to rebuild Chinatown during the federal election campaign.

Those requests were not well received, Leong said. He added that community leaders are thinking big in terms of asking for support from all levels of government because he said they'll need it.

"If we look at this from the municipal point of view, you're just shortsighted," Leong said.

Revitalizing Chinatown

The Chinatown Transformation Collaborative Society of Edmonton came together in 2018, with the goal to rejuvenate Edmonton's Chinatown. But the pandemic has slowed down their efforts.

"We want to be able to, you know, fix up our streets, have safe streets, have a place where people are doing business," Leong told CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

The organization is in its third year of the revitalization plan. Leong said it's difficult to have action plans when they get uprooted or changed without consultation with the community, like the Harbin Gate.

"It is supposed to increase the tourism aspect of Chinatown and then Harbin Gate gets moved without consultation," he said.

The gate is currently in a storage yard.

CBC
CBC

Leong said this wasn't the first time there was a lack of communication between the city and the Chinese community.

He said the 12 zodiac statues installed in Edmonton in 2008 scared a few members of the community because of their size and beast-like heads.

"It was an art installation but without consultation with the local community, it was a complete disaster," said Leong.

Leong hopes that increasing awareness about Chinatown will invite more communication with government officials.

"We're hoping that these members of Parliament can endorse our national plan to build back Canada's Chinatowns and to spread the survey that we have and help us collect some more information."

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