cgy-chinatown

Calgary's Chinatown prepares to celebrate its 100th year. ((Calgary Downtown Association))

As a city committee agrees to chip in half a million dollars to celebrate Chinatown's centennial, some younger Chinese Calgarians wonder if the neighbourhood is still relevant.

The community and protective services committee voted Wednesday to contribute $500,000 to help the inner-city area mark its 100th birthday this summer with a street festival, legacy projects and possibly a documentary.

But over the last century a lot has changed in Chinatown and some young Chinese Calgarians don't feel it reflects their culture anymore.

"When I first moved here, you know you want to go visit Chinatown, right? And go down there and like, why it look like this? Like, all the buildings are old, it's not so modern," said Cathy Chen, a third-year university student who grew up in China.

"I don't even want people to see that as a representative of Chinese Canadian. For me, I go to the northwest supermarkets where it has a lot of Chinese service. It just feels more modern and easier to connect." 

However, Chen says she recognizes the historical significance of Chinatown and that she would like to be a part of bringing it up to date.

Lloyd Sciban, who teaches East Asian studies at the University of Calgary, says Chinatown is still hugely important to Chinese Calgarians.

"It's in being able to see your grandchildren or your children go to school so they can get language lessons down there. It's the celebration of Chinese holidays and all the values that go along with that, the care of the elderly, that you can see those kinds of things preserved in Chinatown," he said.

Chinese community leaders told aldermen on the committee they will be looking to other levels of government, and the private sector, to help pay for the celebrations. The city's contribution still needs the approval of council.