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Montreal’s Chinese community continues to push for ‘heritage’ declaration of Chinatown

Click to play video: 'Montreal one step closer to making Chinatown a heritage site: community leaders' Montreal one step closer to making Chinatown a heritage site: community leaders
WATCH: There are ongoing calls to designate Montreal's Chinatown a heritage site. Montreal mayor Valérie Plante isn't ready to go that far yet, but she is setting up a working committee to move in that direction. While community leaders consider it a good first step, they say the issue is urgent. Global’s Tim Sargeant reports. – May 26, 2021

Members of Montreal’s Chinese community are pleased a working group between the City of Montreal and the Quebec government has been created to consider declaring Chinatown a “heritage site.”

It’s a declaration that Chinese leaders have been seeking for years.

They fear recent commercial development in the area is threatening the cultural heritage of the district.

“The governments have already reduced our space so much with the Guy Favreau, the Hydro, with the autoroute — so we don’t have anywhere else to grow,” May Chiu, a member of the Chinatown Working Group, told Global News.

Mayor Valérie Plante says efforts are being made to award Chinatown the distinction as a heritage site but it won’t happen immediately.

“It takes a little bit of time but we’re doing this process because it is important,” she said during a Wednesday press conference.

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READ MORE: Montreal’s Chinatown faces second wave of vandalism, break-ins

Chinatown is considered one of the oldest Asian communities in North America according to Tourisme Montreal’s website.

Click to play video: 'Chinatown merchants welcome new police crime-prevention efforts' Chinatown merchants welcome new police crime-prevention efforts
Chinatown merchants welcome new police crime-prevention efforts – Nov 3, 2020

It became a tourist destination in the 1960s leading up to Expo 67, but in recent years the district has been showing its age with vacant buildings and storefronts that need a facelift, according to some members of the Chinese community.

Now, they say an infusion of investments is needed to improve the area and increase the number of visitors.

“A lot of these buildings are getting older and older and they’re harder to maintain and there needs to be more funds for upkeep,” Charles Xu, the Chinatown Working Group operations manager, told Global News.

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READ MORE: Montreal police meet with Chinatown business owners after rash of break-ins, vandalism

Montreal’s Chinese community says a declaration would go a long way to preserve the rich culture of the district and help it prosper in the future.

“Our Chinese people have been wishing our little Chinatown [would] become a heritage site,” Jimmy Chan, the Montreal Chinese community leader, told Global News.

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