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Montreal’s Chinatown registered as city's first heritage site

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Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante this week announced that the city’s historic Chinatown became its first area designated as a heritage site, making it part of Quebec province's Directory of Cultural Heritage.

What it means: The city broke the news in a press release on Wednesday, declaring its Chinatown as the only “significant historic Chinatown preserved in Quebec and Eastern Canada” and the only French-speaking Chinatown in North America. Officials say its registration into Quebec's Directory of Cultural Heritage creates “a lever for cultural and tourism development."

Origins: Established by Chinese immigrants from West Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886, Montreal’s Chinatown was unofficially recognized by Montreal newspaper La Press in 1902. Several Chinese immigrants who moved into the city opened up businesses, including restaurants and laundromats like Troy Steam Laundry and Montreal Steam Laundry.

How it happened: Plante and the Minister of Culture and Communications reportedly requested for the creation of a committee in 2021 to address concerns among community members and heritage organizations about the impact of real estate pressure on Chinatown’s heritage character. The committee reached a decision after going through a stringent analysis that sprung several recommendations, including the recognition of Chinatown as a historic site under the Cultural Heritage Act.

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What officials are saying: In a statement, Plante said the legal recognition is a testament to the “importance that our administration attaches to an element of cultural heritage at a specific time.” Robert Beaudry, a committee member tasked with urban planning and citizen participation, said the recognition came as a “result of a long process of consultation and mobilization with local partners and residents.”

 

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