Calgary

Call to curb Calgary's ethnic malls to be raised at city forum

Community organizers are calling on people to contest a recommendation against "Asian malls" in Calgary as the city hosts an open house on long-term land use.
A city-commissioned report recommends avoiding cultural-specific retail developments, like this northeast complex of stores. ((CBC))

Community organizers are calling on people to contest a recommendation against "Asian malls" in Calgary as the city hosts the first of five open houses on its long-term plan for land use and transportation.

A report commissioned by the city on commercial and retail policy recommends that Calgary should "avoid the development of 'Asian' malls that cater only to a specific ethnic group."

The 139-page report, authored by Tom Leung, president of Global Retail Strategies, suggests: "An effort must be made to avoid 'exclusive' cultural-specific retail developments, as they lead to marginalized ethnic enclaves which can diminish overall community cohesiveness."

But singling out the Asian communities in the report has angered some city residents who feel the recommendation is "misguided ethnic profiling."

Richard Gotfried, vice-president of corporate communications for Trico Homes, created a Facebook group asking people to attend the city's open houses this month to state their opinions about the recommendation.

"I am a born-and-raised Calgarian, and I am quite offended by the inference of this report," said Gotfried, whose Jewish father grew up in Shanghai and has worked with the Chinese community for decades. "Just replace 'Asian mall' with any other identifiable ethnic group and see how you feel about it."

"This is a call to action," said Minh Le of the Alberta Network of Immigrant Women. "We must let the city know that what's proposed is unacceptable and portrays our fabulous city in the worst possible way."

Plan It open houses

Central south, March 9 — Carriage House Inn 4 - 8 p.m. with presentations at 4:30 and 7 p.m.

Northwest, March 10 — Best Western - Village Park Inn 4 - 8 p.m. with presentations at 4:30 and 7 p.m.

Southeast, March 11 — Glenmore Inn S.E. 4 - 8 p.m. with presentations at 4:30 and 7 p.m.

Northeast, March 12 — Coast Plaza Hotel 4 - 8 p.m. with presentations at 4:30 and 7 p.m.

Inner city, March 14 — Telus Convention Centre 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. with presentations at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The commercial and retail report is part of Plan It, a long-term outlook for the city's land use and transportation networks. After three years and $6.3 million, the draft plan is being released for the first time at the first of five open houses on Monday afternoon.

"An apology is just the beginning," said Ken Lee, president of the Calgary Chinese Merchants Association, in a statement. "What's really needed is meaningful dialogue with the community. We don't need planners to tell us what's best for our community."

Ald. John Mar said the city should not dictate where certain businesses set up shop.

"To say that these things don't occur organically or shouldn't occur organically I think is absolutely incorrect and should they occur? We want to embrace that," he told CBC News.

But Leung, who is Chinese, stands by his recommendation because retailers must broaden their appeal to remain viable.

T & T is a supermarket that offers specialty Asian goods in a northeast mall. ((CBC))

"Not just cater to a specific ethnic orientation out there. In fact, they should be open to … population of all backgrounds," he said from Vancouver.

"I think the wording of the report … really is to me a little bit insulting," said Wayne Chiu, who immigrated to Calgary from Hong Kong in 1982.

"If [a] recommendation like this is implemented in Calgary, I kind of worry about what [has been] happening for the last so many years — we try to build the multiculturalism within this country."

Outrage over the proposal led the city to hastily delete the passages referring to Asian malls in the report posted on the city website last week.

About 67,000 people in Calgary identified themselves of Chinese descent in 2006, according to Statistics Canada.

With files from Canadian Press

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