Vancouver’s Chinatown isn’t waiting for a new civic government to be sworn in to take action against crime and street disorder that has worsened during the pandemic.
Community members are instead coming up with new ways to battle the random attacks and graffiti vandalism plaguing the heritage neighbourhood.
For the first time in three years, Ryan Diaz will be offering a free women’s self-defence seminar at his gym on Oct. 22.
“It’s just the reality of things that are happening right now,” Diaz told Global News in an interview Saturday.
“There (are) attacks all the time right now.”
The martial arts instructor and Diaz Combat Sports owner doesn’t pull any punches about what’s happening outside his Chinatown storefront.
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On July 9, Diaz’s surveillance video captured a man knocking down a mother and toddler. Shakwan Kelly, 27, was charged with assault and remains in custody pending a court appearance on Oct. 19.
On Sept. 11, a delivery driver who recently came to Canada from Afghanistan was stabbed by a stranger metres away on Gore Avenue at East Pender Street. Dennis Prasad, 43, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. Prasad, who is also accused of aggravated assault in another random stabbing near Oppenheimer Park on Sept. 10, remains in custody ahead of a bail hearing on Oct. 18.
On Oct. 11, a 93-year-old man who has lived in Chinatown for 30 years, was pushed to the ground by a stranger while walking to his bakery along Main Street near Pender. Police said the elderly victim suffered a broken hip. The suspect, who was caught on surveillance, has yet to be identified.
“I’m really sad that that’s happening,” said Diaz.
I’m sad for everyone, I’m sad for the victims obviously number one, I’m sad for the people doing it because you know maybe they have mental problems or you know, they need some help.”
Diaz remembers having Dim Sum every Sunday at New Town Bakery as a six-year-old but said Chinatown is a lot different now than the community he knew growing up.
“Even me, walking down the street, I check my back,” said Diaz.
“I’m careful now like I’m not scared, but I’m aware.”
Along with unprovoked violence, Chinatown is experiencing vandalism, including racist graffiti.
For the first time Saturday, the TD Bank Group sponsored the Chinese Community Policing Centre’s graffiti cleanup with a $10,000 donation to help the removal project expand.
“We understand that Chinatown is also a very important cultural history for our Chinese-Canadians and that’s why we want to actually lend a hand to help revive Chinatown,” said Kenneth Yuen of TD Bank Group.
For Yuen, who immigrated from Hong Kong as a child, it’s personal.
“Chinatown is actually part of, like it played a really big role while growing up in Canada.”
Meantime, Diaz is seeing huge interest in his free women’s training event and is now taking a waitlist.
He said he’s looking forward to empowering women to believe in themselves, and know they’re a lot stronger than they may think.
“This is my way that I feel I can give back to the community,” said Diaz.
“We want to do our part to help our neighbourhood and our city.”