Montreal wants to relaunch its Chinatown

Restaurants closed, rare clientele, absent tourists, acts of racism linked to the origin of the pandemic, real estate pressure… Chinatown is going through difficult times and the City of Montreal, worried about its future, is preparing to unveil a plan of action to relaunch it.

Posted on May 31, 2021 at 6:16 p.m.

Isabel Attaliota

“Chinatown is crucial for the development and health of downtown,” said Mayor Valérie Plante, during a forum on Chinatown organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, Monday.

It is important to protect it, its identity, its culture, its soul, its workers, its businesses. We will be tabling our action plan in a few weeks, and it contains ideas on the social, cultural and language levels, or how to keep the commercial arteries dynamic.

Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal

The forum brought together elected officials from three levels of government, as well as several economic players in this sector of the city, of Chinese origin or not.

Several recalled how the neighborhood had been damaged by the consequences of COVID-19, in particular because businesses were victims of racist acts of vandalism, and because workers are absent from the city center, all like tourists.

“The Chinese community of Montreal has been the victim of events that cannot be tolerated,” lamented Chantal Rouleau, Minister responsible for the Metropolis in Quebec. “The absence of thousands of workers, students and tourists who frequented the downtown area obviously affected the vitality of our Chinatown, a district which had to cope with a huge drop in ridership, which was detrimental to his financial health. ”

Sales in free fall

In the absence of international tourists, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, hopes that Quebec tourists will want to discover Chinatown.

It’s a culinary and cultural experience, so I think that until we can receive people from everywhere, we will work to encourage people from here to discover it.

Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage

According to Eva Hu, owner of the restaurant chain Le Coq Frit, some restaurateurs have seen their sales fall by 95% since the start of the pandemic.

Mme Hu pointed out other issues that undermine the vitality of the neighborhood: many empty premises, overpriced rents and poorly maintained buildings. “The owners of these buildings do not always have the means to maintain them well. They would need encouragement to take better care of their buildings, ”suggests the young entrepreneur.

According to Jonathan Cha, urbanologist and heritage expert in Chinatown, heritage recognition for the sector could promote its development, while allowing to maintain what is of its interest.

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