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Montreal’s Chinatown recognized as heritage site (CityNews)

“Whatever is left, it has to be protected,” says Jimmy Chan, a Chinese community leader after Quebec and Montreal announced that the city’s Chinatown will be designated a heritage site, protected from vanishing further. Felisha Adam reports.

By Felisha Adam

Montreal’s Chinatown, which was established in 1902, is now being deemed a heritage site, something many advocates have been calling for, for years.

In the past decade, Montreal’s Chinatown has slowly reduced in size, now only just a few blocks on St-Laurent boulevard, bustling parts of the area are empty – making way for new condos and developments. On Monday, Quebec and the City of Montreal announced that the core of the Chinatown sector will be protected from vanishing further.

“Protection for how things will be built in that area is very relevant,” said Mayor Valerie Plante. “It will be a way to keep the soul of Chinatown, making sure in terms of architecture, keeping it at a human scale and that’s one of the characteristics of Chinatown.”

Montreal Chinatown
Montreal Chinatown, established in 1902 is now being recognized as heritage site. (Photo CityNews Staff).

“It is a place for community members to bond over, it is a designated place to celebrate immigrants the beauty of it is the culture that people come together,” explained Jimmy Chan, Chinese community leader and president of Chan Association of Chinatown.

“I appreciate them to now come and say that we recognize Chinatown as a designated site, this is the first step,” he added.

Chan has been fighting for years to save the small portion of what is left of Chinatown. Creating a documentary titled “Saving Chinatown” and creating a nightly patrol to ensure the safety of those within the community – amid a rise in hate towards the Asian community during the pandemic.

 “My father is one of the persons who have the passion of the culture, to make sure that we have our roots. So, I would say this is great news to the community and the next generation.”

To ensure that the heritage and architecture of Chinatown is preserved – the city says they’ll be working with developers so that the area continues to grow, but to ensure Chinatown’s historic buildings will also be preserved – like Wings Noodles which has been there since 1897 and was bought by developers last year.

“We’re putting together the condition that if there is something that is going to be built, it’s going to be good for them as developers and also good for the community,” said Plante.

For Chan, he believes keeping the memory and culture of Chinatown alive is one of the ways to keep the memories of his father and those before him who fought for Chinatown.

“Our ancestor was the one that made Chinatown what it is today for us, to remember them to say thank you it is what we have to do to protect whatever is left in our little Chinatown in Montreal.”