Future of Edmonton's Chinatown uncertain as COVID-19 continues to batter the community

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The future of Edmonton’s Chinatown is in peril as the effects of COVID-19 continue to batter the community already grappling with safety issues and a large homeless population before the pandemic even struck.

A report presented by the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative Society of Edmonton (CTCYEG) to city council on Monday highlighted some of the challenges the area is facing, including crime and cleanliness. The report says Chinatown’s future is uncertain as the area has not kept up with the city’s growth.

The CTCYEG was founded two years ago in order to lead a rejuvenating effort, however, the pandemic has stalled many of their plans.

CYCYEG executive director Antoni Fonny, who was appointed in July 2020, said the situation has been very difficult.

“The pandemic is restricting us from doing (events to rejuvenate the area),” he said. “During the Chinese New Year, we were hoping to open a Chinese New Year market, a pop-up market, for Edmontonian to enjoy the festival but because of the pandemic, we (couldn’t) make it.”


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Fonny said the organization is trying to find other ways to help Chinatown, including holding online workshops but for the area to succeed, it will take everyone pitching in including the city and the Edmonton Police Service.

“Almost everything falls onto our shoulders; security, safety, economic development…everything falls on our shoulders with a limited budget,” he said.

When the organization was formed, the city provided start-up funding for the next four years, which works out to be about $185,000 annually.

Fonny said Chinatown has a high concentration of vulnerable people as many social services agencies such as Boyle Street and George Spady operate in the area. He said having a designated police station may help the situation, although that seems unlikely given how close EPS headquarters is to Chinatown.

“If not an office, at least we have to increase the frequency of police patrol in the area,” Fonny said. “Otherwise, just like last year, we have no choice but to fund (and) hire a security team to patrol the area. The response time from EPS is too long.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said business areas including Chinatown have borne an unfair brunt of pressure from homeless serving agencies because of spillover effects. He said the most important intervention for the area would be to provide housing for the most vulnerable.

Iveson repeated his call for the Alberta government to provide “lights on” funding for housing units, noting the city has already secured funding from the federal government.


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“(Chinatown) has for too long borne the brunt of social disorder associated with an inadequate response at a societal level to homelessness,” he said. “We continue to believe the most proactive and strategic answer would be investments in supportive housing.”

Meanwhile, Iveson also provided an update on the Edmonton Convention Centre, which was acting as a temporary homeless shelter until April 30.

He said there have been some discussions around resuming events at some point in time, depending on advice from Alberta’s chief medical officer of heath Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“I think there was some discussion about the first big event back might be the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association conference in November,” Iveson said. “Much was made last week on the condition of the facility. Tours were arranged and people were able to see for themselves that other than some windows that need to be replaced, it was a very hardwearing facility.”



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