Sunday, June 18, 2006

Quebec City's Chinatown - gone but not forgotten

From the Globe and Mail ('Chinatown is gone, gone to heaven' by Ingrid Peritz, June 17):

The Chinese laundries have vanished, along with the fragrant smells wafting from the kitchens of restaurants like the Canton and Yangtze. Gone too are the dragon dancers and firecrackers that lit up the city streets on Chinese New Year.

The sounds and sights of a thriving Chinatown, and the hundreds of Chinese-Canadians who called it home, have vanished from Quebec City. Only the memories live on -- in a dwindling number of people.

"It was like New York: not as large, but almost as busy," recalls Benoit Woo, 53. He and his brother Napoleon are the only survivors of Quebec City's original Chinatown still to live in the district.

"Chinatown is gone, gone to heaven."

Now, steps are being taken to commemorate the neighbourhood and the people who created it. Decades after urban renewal destroyed the Chinatown in Quebec's provincial capital and scattered its residents to the suburbs and beyond, local officials say they want to mark the site of the old neighbourhood with a Chinese garden.

[. . .]

Quebec City isn't the only place in Canada to lose its Chinatown.

In the 1930s and 1940s, when Chinatowns served as enclaves for a persecuted minority, about 25 Chinese districts sprung up across Canada, in places such as Sudbury, Hamilton, Moose Jaw and Regina.

Today, fewer than a dozen survive, all in Canada's biggest cities, said David Lai, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Victoria. Chinatowns came under merciless pressure from urban development, and Chinese-Canadians became upwardly mobile and moved on.

[. . .]

Read all of the Globe article