Chinatown businesses suffering amid pandemic call for gov’t help to relaunch area

By CityNews Staff

MONTREAL – Chinatown businesses and groups in Montreal are calling for a $1-million relief fund from the federal and provincial governments to help relaunch the area following the pandemic.

“From a district that was vibrant and filled with visitors during weekday luncheon periods and weekends, we now see mostly owners of half-open businesses, seniors who live in the area, and homeless people,” said Sherry Ao, President of the Montreal Chinatown Development Council (MCDC).

The Chinese Association of Montreal and the MCDC presented several measures to boost the economic, social, cultural, and environmental prospects of the city’s historic district in a news conference on Tuesday.

While many downtown businesses have suffered financially as a result of measures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Montreal’s Chinatown has been hit particularly hard, largely due to the nature of Chinese small businesses, its downtown location, and unfounded biases and fears that link the Chinese with COVID-19.

A drastic decline in tourists and visitors, problems accessing government relief measures, and other systemic barriers have left Chinatown businesses in a particularly vulnerable position.

Chinatown’s 160 businesses employ approximately 400 people.

“The lack of recognition of Chinatown’s economic and cultural importance for downtown needs to change, and we need to be at these planning and decision-making tables,” said Bill Wong, a businessman active in Chinatown’s development.

“Our lines are open, but no one calls,” he added.

Without government financial support, many local businesses say they may go under permanently, putting the future of Montreal’s Chinatown in jeopardy.

“Chinatown’s future definitely relies on the economic vitality of its small businesses and the vibrancy of its social and cultural life. All key actors in this city need to help make Chinatown become that much-loved Pearl of Montreal once again,” CRAAR Executive Director Fo Niemi said.

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