September 6th, 2007

Clean Up Montreal’s Chinatown

Posted in Canada, Environment by Christopher DeWolf

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This Saturday is the annual Chinatown Clean-Up festival, organized by the Chinese Family Service of Greater Montreal, a non-profit community organization. It might sound kind of odd — a cleaning festival? — but it promises to be a lot of fun. Participants will spend a couple of hours sweeping up different sections of the neighbourhood while variety show presents music, sketches and other entertainment. Politicians will make speeches and do the photo-op thing. Best of all, volunteers will be rewarded with an organic cotton American Apparel t-shirt and a free lunch at the Man Sau Centre.

This year’s event is green-themed and co-sponsored, among others, by Éco-quartier and Green Life, a group dedicated to raising environmental awareness in the Chinese community and promoting a more city- and community-focused kind of environmentalism. While volunteers clean, a variety show in Sun Yat Sen Park will present sketches on recycling in Cantonese, Mandarin and French, and information booths will tell you how to reduce your environmental impact.

Perhaps the most important thing about Chinatown Clean-Up, though, is that it’s a a symbolic event designed to promote Chinatown and the Chinese community as an indispensable part of Montreal. “It’s meant to get the Chinese community together, but it’s also an intercultural exchange between everyone in Montreal,” says the event’s organizer, Laine Tam (who also happens to be a contributor for Urbanphoto). “I think it’s a great way to showcase what Montreal is all about, that it’s a multicultural and multilingual city, despite recent controversies.”

I’ve spent a lot of time in Chinatown over the past several months. It’s a bigger neighbourhood than most people realize, extending beyond the short commercial district between St. Urbain and St. Laurent, and a lot more diverse. Thousands of people live there, most of them elderly immigrants, and thousands more go there every day to shop. Most are Chinese, certainly, but they are Chinese from very different places: Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and a host of other countries. Shopowners and shoppers alike are a ployglot bunch, speaking Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, English and French.

For the community, that diversity means that events like the Chinatown Clean-Up are necessary to bring disparate elements of the community together. For other Montrealers, the Clean-Up is a great way to reacquaint themselves with their own city’s small but venerable Chinatown.

The 2007 Chinatown Clean-Up will take place on Saturday, September 8th from 11am–2pm, at the corner of Clark and La Gauchetière. Contact Laine Tam at lainecfs@gmail.com or (514) 861 5244, ext. 231, for more details.


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