Many members of Montreal’s Chinese community are scared and looking for more police presence following a recent rise in vandalism and break-ins.
Earlier this year, Chinatown’s iconic gates and other landmarks were damaged after the community was unjustly blamed for the coronavirus pandemic.
A second wave of violence has pushed some community leaders and business owners to speak out.
“We had a couple of break-ins in the month of August,” said JC Spa owner Eileen Hu. Her second-floor spa on De La Gauchetière Street has been the target of three robberies and one attempted break-in.
While the break-ins only resulted in petty theft, the spa owner insists her staff is still scared.
“We felt very targeted; the employees were extremely frightened,” said Hu.
According to leaders in Montreal’s Asian community, vandalism and break-ins are on the rise ever since restaurants and bars were forced to close earlier this month.
Earlier this year, Chinatown’s gates, statues and religious monuments were vandalized, leading many members of the community to speak out against anti-Asian racism.
“Since the pandemic we are facing lots of racism against the Chinese community,” said director of Chinese Family Services of Greater Montreal Xixi Li, adding that just recently six stores at Place du Quartier, a Chinatown shopping mall, sustained broken windows and minor damage despite having a security staff and video cameras on site.
“It’s already very hard because there’s a lot less people in Chinatown recently, there’s no more tourists,” said Li. “People are afraid.”
According to the SPVM, only three police reports have been filed with local station 21 regarding incidents in Chinatown since March, the most recent being just last week.
Community leaders suspect many incidents have gone unreported and are calling for more police presence and video camera surveillance on the city streets.
“Right now Chinatown is having a difficult time to survive and on top of the vandalism that’s going on people are scared,” said Chan Association of Montreal president Jimmy Chan.
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“We already have to deal with difficulties with the pandemic, all the restaurants close down people are losing their job, and we do not need extra stress,” said Chan who is also part of the ACT2endracism – speak up campaign.
Without more police officers patrolling Chinatown, the biggest concern for many is that empty streets will continue to make businesses easy targets.
“I think definitely it will help if there’s more police show up in Chinatown,” Li told Global news.
Montreal mayor Valerie Plante’s cabinet issued the following statement late Monday afternoon, condemning the recent acts of violence.
“The acts of vandalism that have taken place in Chinatown are unacceptable. Now more than ever, we need to stand and work together fight racism and support local businesses,” the statement read.
“The Chinese community contributes to Montreal’s resilience, its culture and is integral to the richness of our metropolis. We are in communication with the SPVM, who work with the Ville-Marie borough to implement appropriate measures and ensure public safety.”