British Columbia

Vancouver Chinatown advocates aim to keep future of 'unique neighbourhood' in campaign spotlight

Advocates for Vancouver’s Chinatown are pushing for the fight to preserve the community to not be given up and want to see candidates focus on the issue more in the upcoming municipal elections.

Bid for UNESCO World Heritage status spurring preservation policies

Vancouver's Chinatown dates back to the late 1800s and is the largest in the country. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Advocates for Vancouver's Chinatown are aiming to keep up momentum in the push to preserve the neighbourhood, and hope two debates this week will keep the issue in the spotlight.

Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver issued a formal apology to the Chinese community for past discrimination. Since then, the city has partnered with interest groups and the province in a bid to make the area a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

"Chinatown as a neighbourhood has overcome significant challenges [of discrimination] and has been shaped not only by that struggle but also the resilience to overcome those barriers," said Sarah Ling, president of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C.

"It's a really unique neighbourhood."

The Chinatown Millennium Gate on West Pender Street. (Google Maps)

Discussions and debates

Ling was part of a panel discussion last week looking at how to transform the community following the city's official apology.

"We see a huge investment from the city and the province in supporting community efforts to revitalize the area and really people are doing this full force rather than on the side of their desk," she said.

That includes protecting heritage businesses, ensuring there is housing for Chinese seniors, and addressing development pressures, she told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Ling wants to make sure the issue isn't lost in the current municipal election campaign.

An all-councillor candidates debate is taking place Oct. 8 at the Chinese Cultural Centre, while the society is inviting all mayoral candidates to discuss Chinatown on Oct. 13.

"Everyone coming together across the city is really what's exciting about this," Ling said.

"Chinatown really is for everyone and we need to find way to individually, but also collectively, invest to make it what we want it to become."

With files from The Early Edition

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