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Vancouver’s Chinatown getting $1.8M from Ottawa to try to fix the neighbourhood’s long-standing issues

The federal government has approved $1.8 million in new funding to revitalize Vancouver’s historic Chinatown neighbourhood.

“The pandemic has hit Chinatown especially hard. Offices and storefronts were emptied,” said International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.

“But this community is strong and focused on its future.”

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim also attended Monday’s announcement and stressed how important and timely the funding was.

“Many of us have incredibly deep roots here. This community needs to come to life once again.” 

Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city and has historically seen challenges with crime which were exacerbated during the pandemic.

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.

A red brick building is covered with various types of graffiti.
Graffiti is pictured on businesses in the Chinatown neighbourhood in Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The federal money will come from Canada’s Tourism Relief Fund and will go toward modernizing local building infrastructure, upgrading street lighting to reduce crime at cultural institutions and upgrading storefront windows and doors.

“After years of neglect, Chinatown will finally begin to get back a bit of the sparkle it had in its heyday,” Lee said.

The Vancouver Police Department has said Chinatown’s proximity to the Downtown Eastside means there have historically been challenges with crime in the area, which have been exacerbated during the pandemic.

Police said they have seen a number of increasing and concerning incidents that have involved aggression toward racialized people or hate crimes.

In an effort to address those concerns, Vancouver city council approved nearly $1 million to improve safety and reduce vandalism and graffiti in Chinatown in January.

The planned upgrades include $390,000 for cleanup programs, $210,000 for graffiti removal and prevention, and $110,000 to staff a city office in the neighbourhood for six months.

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