COVID-related racism, lack of tourists combine to devastate Montreal's Chinatown
MONTREAL -- Anti-Asian racism and the loss of tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic have combined to devastate Montreal's Chinatown and leaders are asking all levels of government for help.
Paul Li, owner of Patisserie Coco, said he's scared for his bakery's future.
“We cut more than half of our staff here and we also lost somewhere from 70 to 80 per cent of our sales,” he said.
Community leaders said Li isn't alone, as foot traffic downtown has dropped more than 90 per cent since the pandemic began.
But Sherry Ao, president of the Montreal Chinatown Development Council, said merchants in Chinatown face additional challenges in the form of misinformation linking the Chinese community to COVID-19.
“This has meant our community has been disproportinately affected by the pandemic on all fronts,” she said.
Bryant Chang of the Chinese Association of Montreal said Chinatown has 160 businesses that employ around 400 people, but he expects half of Chinatown's restaurants and businesses to close if nothing is done.
Fo Niemi of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations said $1 million is needed from the governments in Quebec and Ottawa to prop up the struggling businesses.
“(They need to) help Chinatown set up its own commercial development corporation,” he said.
Chinatown currently isn't covered by any of the CDCs that exist in downtown.
“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, director of the MCDC. “Our lines are open, but no one calls.”
Community leaders also called for a reduction of commercial business taxes for one year, and for the city to adopt a social and environmental plan to promote accessibility and quality of life in Chinatown.
In a statement the city said it is listening to Chinatown and that consultations with businesses in the area are ongoing since last year. It also said it is doing everything it can to help.