Vancouver’s Chinatown in a generational divide over Ken Sim’s election as mayor


In Vancouver’s Chinatown, baker Denny Wong is so keen about mayor-elect Ken Sim that he is already fascinated by 2026.

He says Sim visited his Hong-Kong-style bakery earlier than final week’s election and listened as Wong talked about law-and-order challenges going through the world. Then Sim described his plan to enhance security with 100 extra police.

“It stays as a query mark whether or not he can obtain it or not — I consider he can. I instructed him, ‘If you reside as much as our expectations, I’ll vote for you once more in 4 years,” stated Wong, in an interview performed in Mandarin.

Sim launched his mayoral bid a yr in the past in Chinatown’s Floata restaurant, then ended his marketing campaign with a victory speech on Saturday night time that included a full-throated embrace of his Chinese heritage.

He would be the first Chinese Canadian mayor of Vancouver, the place greater than 28 per cent of the inhabitants has Chinese ethnic origins, in line with the 2016 census.

“The historical past of this moment is just not misplaced on me,” he stated in his speech. “But the honour actually goes to these whose shoulders I stand on.”

Just as a result of any individual appears to be like such as you does not imply that they’re really going to care for you– Rachel Lau, program supervisor of the Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice

Sim paid tribute to Chinese Canadian trailblazers who preceded him, as nicely as his mother and father, who he stated immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1967 with solely $3,200, in the hope of offering their youngsters a higher schooling and future. Sim was born and raised in Vancouver.

Wong, who has run his bakery on Keefer Street for over 20 years, stated he was elated on election night time on the prospect that Sim would deliver change to Chinatown, which is struggling towards crime, dysfunction and a lack of security.

But for others in the neighbourhood, Sim’s victory is being seen very in a different way, from the opposite aspect of a generational and political divide.

In Vancouver’s historic Chinatown there are combined reactions to Sim’s pledge to rent extra cops. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

While some enterprise and group figures applaud his victory as an aspirational and historic moment, a youthful era of progressive-minded Chinatown activists views Sim and his law-and-order pledges with suspicion.

Rachel Lau, program supervisor of the Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice, a non-profit that helps lower-income seniors in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside, stated they had been “devastated and upset” by Sim’s large victory over incumbent Kennedy Stewart.

“I do know that the Chinese Canadian group is actually excited concerning the first Chinese Canadian mayor. I simply wish to level out that simply because any individual appears to be like such as you does not imply that they’re really going to care for you. That’s the unlucky reality,” stated Lau.

Hopes for public security

On a stroll by Chinatown after Sim’s win, most enterprise homeowners who had been approached to speak about him stated they had been completely happy along with his election, although they didn’t wish to touch upon the document.

Some merely gave a thumbs up sign. “If you ask me about my response. This is my perspective,” stated one middle-aged lady.

Fred Kwok, chairman of The Chinese Cultural Centre, says Vancouver’s Chinatown has been affected by a rise in crime and vandalism. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Fred Kwok, chair of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Chinatown, stated Sim’s background made immigrants really feel he was consultant of the group. But what was extra essential was how his election platform resonated in the neighbourhood, along with his guarantees of extra police and a metropolis corridor workplace in Chinatown.

“I’ve seen what Chinatown has been by over the previous a long time with enterprise homeowners waking up seeing graffiti or their home windows getting smashed and other people feeling unsafe to stroll on streets. I’ve additionally personally skilled assaults,” stated Kwok in an interview performed in Mandarin.

“These insurance policies can enhance the neighourhood’s security and enhance many enterprise homeowners’ confidence,” stated Kwok. “I consider Sim will probably be a good mayor.”

Chinese-language newspapers and different media in Vancouver described Sim as the “delight of individuals of Chinese descent” and the “glory of Hong Kong.”

But Lau of the Yarrow society stated they feared the subsequent 4 years below Sim could be “difficult.”

“I feel we want individuals who have comparable values, and who’ve a strong understanding of what folks must be supported. It would not matter if this new mayor appears to be like like us,” Lau stated.

Concerns over extra policing

Lau stated Sim’s concept of hiring 100 extra police and one other 100 psychological well being nurses would take away funding from different group organizations. Instead, the neighbourhood’s priorities must be housing, entry to public washrooms and secure drug provides and meals safety.

Lau stated a generational rift existed with Chinatown elders, significantly when it got here to understanding methods about secure drug provide and hurt discount.

“I feel, culturally, there’s this concept that police are good and police will assist, the police are right here to serve the folks,” stated Lau.

“There is an inflated quantity of belief that’s positioned on the police to have the ability to deal with social points. But in actuality, I feel what occurs is that police arrest or punish or intimidate susceptible individuals who want help.”

Vince Tao with VANDU is skeptical that extra policing will enhance public security in Vancouver’s Chinatown and Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Vince Tao, a group organizer on the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, stated he anxious concerning the election outcomes due to Sim’s help for the police and actual property improvement.

“He is simply the man who obtained fortunate and obtained the developer’s cash this time … and that is how he swept in,” stated Tao.

“And I really do not see that Ken Sim’s metropolis will change dramatically. But we’re on the course to break down (as) lengthy as we enable metropolis builders, actual property pursuits, and police to find out the course of each metropolis coverage.”

More police usually are not the reply, stated Tao.

“These days, each communication I see between the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown is mediated by police and it is as a result of the federal government and all these varied non-profits and individuals who declare to help Chinatown usually are not making an attempt to construct bridges,” he stated.

“In reality, we try to construct partitions between these neighbourhoods … the borders drawn between Chinatown and Downtown Eastside are at all times political. And so, my concern is that as lengthy as we proceed to burn bridges, it is going to solely create extra pressure in the streets. Meanwhile, it is distracting from the actual points folks want — cash, welfare and housing.”

Tao stated many Chinatown seniors had been “beautiful, compassionate folks” who wanted schooling about how hurt discount works and the way secure provide might save lives.

“I do not low cost the seniors … When you speak to the seniors, lots of them are linguistically secluded and they’re additionally secluded in their dwelling conditions and the Chinese-language media are fairly conservative,” he stated.

“We should be constructing these bridges. And once more, I feel schooling is vital and ensuring that Chinese seniors have a voice collectively,” stated Tao.

Watch | Ken Sim outlines his plans as mayor-elect of Vancouver

‘It’s been a whirlwind’: Ken Sim discusses his win and what comes subsequent

Vancouver’s mayor-elect spoke to our municipal affairs reporter, Justin McElroy, about his historic win and his plans for town.

This story was produced with the monetary help of the Meta-Canadian Press News Fellowship, which isn’t concerned in the editorial course of.


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