Vandals target Chinese-language street signs

Business owners in Ottawa's Chinatown are questioning why vandals defaced Chinese-language street signs in their neighbourhood.

At least 3 street signs on Somerset Street W. in Chinatown painted over

A city worker prepares to remove one of the vandalized signs on Somerset Street W. on Tuesday morning. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)


  • The city said Wednesday the three defaced signs had been removed, cleaned and reinstalled.

Business owners in Ottawa's Chinatown are questioning why vandals defaced Chinese-language street signs in their neighbourhood.

Sometime in the last 48 hours, someone defaced two red and yellow signs bearing the word "Chinatown" in Chinese letters at Somerset Street W. and Arthur Street. The City of Ottawa street signs above them were undamaged.

I just feel sad, very sad.- Linda Chen, restaurateur

Later, local business owners reported a third sign, at Somerset Street W. and Bell Street, had also been damaged.

"I feel a little bit upset," said Marilyn Ma, who works for the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre and has lived in the Ottawa area for 15 years. 

"This sign has been here for years. I know it's a symbol of Chinatown, and then [someone] just paint[ed] it out. I don't [know] their purpose, but for me, it's kind of strange," she said.

"I wish people had never done that."

Marilyn Ma of the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre called the vandalism 'upsetting.' (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Ma said she's never seen such vandalism before, and pointed out there were other, easier-to-reach signs in Chinese nearby that were untouched. 

Ma is worried the vandals could strike again.

"If it's just people did it for fun, maybe not ... but if [there's] something behind it, it may happen again," she said. "Hopefully it's safe here."

No police investigation

Ottawa police said they were not called about the vandalism, and are not investigating a hate crime. City workers had removed the signs by late Tuesday morning, after CBC contacted the city for more information.

"Traffic Services has been made aware of this matter and are in the process of replacing the signs. The replacement should be completed over the next few days," traffic operations manager Chris Brinkmann wrote in a statement to CBC Ottawa.

Two Ottawa Centre candidates took to social media to voice their concerns about the vandalism.

City crews worked removed the vandalized street signs late Tuesday morning. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

'Very sad'

Kay Ng, a pharmacist in Chinatown, first wondered if the vandalism was an act of discrimination, then suggested it might have simply been "a prank"

Linda Chen, owner of nearby Ben Ben restaurant, called the vandalism "very sad" because the writing is a source of comfort for those who are visiting the area from overseas.

"I just feel sad, very sad. You know? That's no good. I don't understand why the people do that. You know? We don't do any bad things for anybody. You know? But I don't know why the people do that. I don't know. I don't understand the people."

Chen said she hopes the city will replace the signs with larger ones, and will consider placing security cameras in the area.