Canadian government gives funding to help Vancouver’s Chinatown revitalization

VANCOUVER — The federal government is spending $1.8 million to help make Vancouver’s historic Chinatown lighter and brighter.

Harjit Sajjan, minister responsible for the Pacific economic development agency of Canada, says the COVID-19 pandemic hit Chinatown particularly hard but the investment provides a first step toward a “renewed and reinvigorated” community.

The Vancouver Chinatown Foundation says more than $1.3 million of the funding will be used modernize buildings, including the Chinese Cultural Centre, Chinatown Storytelling Centre and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Gardens, with new lighting, signage and awnings.

It says the rest of the money will go toward creating 50 new jobs for the annual Light Up Chinatown festival in September.

In a separate effort, Vancouver council unanimously approved a plan last month for Chinatown that focuses on enhanced cleaning and sanitation, graffiti removal, a safety program and other community supports at a cost of $2.1 million in the first year.

Carol Lee, chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, says the federal funding marks a “turning point for the neighbourhood,” but notes that though it is a step in the right direction, it is “not the solution.”

“There has been a significant increase in graffiti and vandalism, a steep rise in anti-Asian racism, random attacks on our seniors, (and) a rise in property crime, which has made Chinatown a place that people no longer feel safe to come to,” Lee told a news conference at the Chinatown Storytelling Centre on Monday.

But, despite the neighbourhood’s decline, “people still love Chinatown and want to see it revitalized,” she says.

Lee says the improvements will help make the neighbourhood more beautiful, safe and welcome, while also providing the basis for “renewed economic vitality.”

“After years of neglect, Chinatown will finally begin to get back a bit of the sparkle it had in its heyday,” Lee says. “(But) we still have a long way to go and so many things we need to achieve to make Chinatown the jewel that it can be.”

The foundation applied for and was granted the funding through the federal government’s PacifiCan Tourism Relief Fund, which was launched in the summer of 2021 and provides $500 million over two years to help tourism businesses and organizations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2023.

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