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Premier Christy Clark receives Lions Club Award, Recognized For Provincial Government’s Apology to the Chinese Community

Premier Christy Clark was recognized by Vancouver’s Lions Clubs with the Medal of Merit Award because of the province’s initiatives to formally apologize to early Chinese Canadians who were discriminated against through government policies. An Endowment Fund was established to protect Chinatown’s heritage buildings and to assist in revitalizing the neighborhood.

The Vancouver Evergreen Lions Club and Vancouver Campus Lions Club hosted the Medal of Merit award presentation ceremony and dinner. Also present was philanthropist and former UBC Chancellor Robert H. Lee, who was one of the sponsors of the evening. The ceremony was held last night at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown; Chinese community leaders had a chance to congregate in elegant attire.

Additionally, Dr. Wally Chung introduced the medal’s origins, and pointed out that although Premier Christy Clark’s apology to those Chinese Canadians who were treated unfairly can be seen as merely symbolic, it is also immensely meaningful. It is the foundation upon which harmony and forgiveness will be built. Chinese people can be proud of their ancestors and no longer look to the past with sadness and regret.

After receiving the award, Premier Clark stated that early Chinese Canadians might find all the accomplishments and public recognition of today’s Chinese Canadians in British Columbia hard to believe. And China will soon become our province’s greatest trade partner. This Lions Club medal is the highest award bestowed upon a non-member.

She also noted that today’s voices opposing immigration are similar to those many years ago who were against immigrants from China, stripping away their rights and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to speak out against these people. Premier Clark believes that Canada is only such a strong country because of its ability to welcome immigrants from all parts of the world.

Apart from the award presentation of Premier Clark yesterday evening, the event was also a fundraiser for the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to recognize and revive the significant historical background of Chinatown, at the same time promoting culturally sensitive economic development, so as to preserve our cultural heritage. A portion of proceeds also benefit the various charitable causes of the Lions Clubs.

After introducing the Foundation to event attendees, Carol Lee, Chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, announced the establishment of the Chinatown Revitalization Endowment Fund, which received generous support from philanthropists such as Robert H. Lee. She believed that it would be near impossible to protect Chinatown without an initiative such as this.

According to the City’s estimates, $36 million is required to repair Chinatown’s society buildings alone.

Source in Chinese

Mayor Gregor Robertson Urges Chinese Community to Fight for Funds; Visits Mingpao Office; Wishes to Preserve Chinatown’s Heritage Buildings

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson visited Ming Pao’s office yesterday for an interview. He said that the City’s goal is strike a balance between development in Chinatown and preservation of the neighbourhood’s valuable cultural heritage, stressing that the buildings in particular need to be conserved. What is needed is funding support from the provincial and federal governments, and Mayor Robertson stated that City Hall will work with Chinese community groups to fight for funding. He asks the community to speak up with City Hall.

Last year, City Hall passed the Chinese Society Legacy Program, a program valued at $36 million to rehabilitate the 12 society buildings and association buildings in Chinatown. Out of the $36 million budget required for the repairs, the City has committed $3.6 million, and intends for the remainder to be contributed by the provincial and federal levels of government. Robertson states that although he has not yet heard anything from the two levels of government, he is confident that Ottawa will be willing to contribute funds to this cause. He is less optimistic about the provincial government’s stance, but hopes that with next year’s provincial election creeping closer, the BC Liberal Party will have a more enthusiastic response.

Robertson also stated that Trudeau’s government has emphasized economic development and job creation. He believes that these goals can be met with Chinatown development, as rehabilitating the heritage buildings will not only provide job opportunities, but promote local economic growth. Robertson stressed that preserving Chinatown’s heritage buildings can no longer be delayed, and promised that he would work with various Chinatown community groups to lobby the two levels of government for support.

Robertson believes that the Chinese community should be more proactive and be loud and clear about its desires, and place more pressure on the two levels of government.

In July, City Hall passed an amendment to the Single Room Accommodation Bylaw so that any property owner who wanted to convert or renovate an SRO unit to a market rental unit would have to pay a fee of $125,000 per unit to the City. This fee is 8 times of the penalty previously written in the by-law (at $15,000). City Hall stated that amendment of the by-law was to prevent property owners from redeveloping buildings with SRO units, threatening the city’s supply of SROs, especially in the Downtown Eastside.

However, many Chinese association building property owners have expressed disappointment that the by-law is negatively impacting their ability to maintain their heritage buildings. This penalty prevents them from ever converting the association building’s SRO units to market rental units. Some had planned to convert the units so that they could use the increased rental income to repair their buildings, but those plans will not be viable under the new by-law. In response to this, Robertson stated that a number of Chinese seniors also reside in the SROs, and emphasized that ensuring the steady inventory of these SROs is very important. There has already been a huge loss of SRO units since the previous penalty fee was set too low. Robertson also mentioned that the provincial government is the one who distributes welfare payments, which have not been adjusted since 2007, thus restricting the SRO rental level and the association building’s income stream.

On the other hand, a development proposal located beside the Chinese Workers’ Memorial has been the subject of ongoing debate. Under a large amount of public opposition, the developer has retracted their proposal, and is working on making revisions to the plan. Robertson states that the proposal is in a sensitive area, and believes that it will be a very difficult dilemma for the City.

However, most of Chinatown will look the same as it always has, while some other areas need to be developed so that more people will be attracted to move into Chinatown and create a more vibrant neighbourhood, says Robertson. He hopes that the City can strike a balance here, develop with respect to the neighbourhood’s cultural heritage.

On another note, the Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association Chairman Mr. Chan has noted to Ming Pao that he hopes that after the Georgia Viaduct is removed, a Chinatown “entrance” gate like the one by S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and International Village can be erected on that end of Chinatown, to add another landmark to the area. Robertson agrees with this proposal, and has stated that the new land will be developed into a new community, only one street away from Chinatown, and believes that erecting a new landmark there will attract citizens into Chinatown.

Source in Chinese

Premier Christy Clark Praises Vancouver’s Chinatown For Being “The Jewel of Vancouver”, Wishes For It To Become A Hub Between B.C. and Asia

Yesterday Premier Christy Clark enjoyed a lunch in Chinatown with various community representatives. She finds the development of Chinatown to be very important, and believes that it is “the Jewel of Vancouver”. While the provincial government works to establish more trade partnerships with China, it will also push Vancouver’s Chinatown as Asia’s cultural hub in our province. She expressed support for a Chinese Canadian historical museum in Chinatown.

Premier Christy Clark had lunch with members of various Chinatown organizations, such as the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, Mah’s Association, Ing Association, Lee Association of Canada, the Chinese Canadian Military Museum, and the VCRC. Gavin Dew, the BC Liberal party candidate for the upcoming Vancouver-Mount Pleasant by-election, was also present.

Clark stated that the heart of discussions about Mount Pleasant should be Chinatown and not solely the Downtown Eastside and its issues of poverty. She understands that Chinatown has struggled in the past, with Chinese residents moving out to suburbs such as Richmond, and issues of poverty from surrounding areas, but she believes that Chinatown’s revitalization has already begun. The provincial government will make efforts to encourage and support this activity. She described Chinatown as the “Jewel of Vancouver”, it is one of Vancouver’s most diverse and historically significant neighbourhoods.

Premier Clark also stated that the provincial government has been working to establish more trade partnerships with China to promote economic activity and job creation in the province. She will ensure that within these efforts, Vancouver’s Chinatown is promoted as a cultural hub in B.C. for Asia. She supports the creation of a Chinese Canadian historical museum in Chinatown.

Gavin Dew noted that Chinatown is not only symbolic for early Chinese immigrants to B.C., but represents the “the Canadian dream”. If Chinatown disappears, so will the Canadian dream, a story shared by immigrants of many ethnicities. Therefore, the preservation of Chinatown’s unique qualities and character is critical.

Some individuals brought up the fact that there have been rampant developments occurring in Chinatown, and the architecture is not very compatible with what exists currently in Chinatown. The situation has become worrisome for many. Premier Clark stated that the approval of development applications and setting guidelines for architectural style and character are the municipal government’s responsibility. She understands the concern of Chinatown’s stakeholders, though. Gavin Dew agrees and notes that architecture is an important part of a neighbourhood’s identity, and it can affect future development too.

Source in Chinese

One Hundred People Gather to Discuss Ways to Preserve Chinatown Heritage; Oppose High Rises; Wants More Seniors Housing

Nearly a hundred people gathered yesterday in Chinatown to discuss ways to preserve the quickly-disappearing built and intangible heritage of Chinatown.

A panel discussion was held at Centre A in Chinatown, with a crowd from all ethnicities and cultures. Although the event was packed, many people gave up their seats for the elderly and stood near the back. Architect Joe Wai was under the weather, so his brother Hayne Wai represented him, speaking about the history of Chinatown and efforts made in the past to preserve the area, including the freeway protests so that Chinatown would not be torn apart by highway ramps. Joe believes that today’s protests against 105 Keefer Street and other high rises are successors to those movements in the past.

Former City planner Nathan Edelson reflects upon the battles that Chinatown has endured throughout planning history, he even brings up the fact that the Workers’ Memorial in the triangular corner of Keefer Street was almost never built. The original idea was to place a public art piece in that location. Because of the work of community activists, the monument was placed there to commemorate Chinese labourers and veterans for their contribution to Canada. Today’s opposition against the a condominium tower beside the monument is inexplicably linked to this piece of history.

Edelson also supports prioritizing low-income Chinese seniors housing in Chinatown, and dismisses the idea of “racial profiling”. He believes that providing seniors housing will build a foundation in the community. Seniors’ children and grandchildren will visit Chinatown and be able to support local businesses and participate in cultural activities together. This is how Chinatown’s cultural heritage and history can be passed down to the younger generation and be revived.

Edelson suggests that the community enter into broad discussions to find a common ground, working towards protecting unique local Chinese retail shops, whether it is a wonton noodle or a BBQ meats shop. These are important elements to educate people on protecting Chinatown’s culture.

Doris Chow, who has organized many activities surrounding opposition against the 105 Keefer proposal, believes that density does not equal revitalization. Developments should be appropriate. She points out that Chinatown offers Chinese food and space for cultural activities. Being born and raised in Vancouver, this neighbourhood has not only has allowed her to appreciate her own Chinese Canadian history, but promotes Chinese culture to people of other ethnicities too. Many people have fond memories of tasting roasted pork during a visit in Chinatown, and supports Chinese heritage and education.

Another young woman spoke about the forced eviction of her parents’ Chinese herbal store, which they have operated for over ten years. She tells the audience that although she believes in western medicine, she also frequently witnesses first-hand the health benefits of Chinese medicine. She introduced her parents as people who cared first and foremost about the customers and their health, and would never use any greedy business tactics. They will take care to save even low-margin products for old-time customers who only visit once every few months.

The young woman hopes that these Chinatown stories can be collected and shared here like a library, and can continue for generations.

Source is in Chinese

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