UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Culturally appropriate community engagement in Vancouver's Chinatown Mark, Tyler Tadao Taiming


Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest of its kind in Canada but is also, arguably, part of the economically poorest large urban postal code area. Despite its rising incomes and real estate prices, as indicators of growth, Chinatown has become increasingly polarized economically, as well as socially, by contesting ideals as to what actions should be taken to attempt revitalization. Therefore, I argue that Chinatown can be understood by two rationales. The first being through the concept of Space, where we understand a location as a physical built environment in geographic relation to its surroundings or quantitatively by valuations such as real estate. Processes such as redevelopment applications use space as the primary justification for understanding what to build and where. I argue, however, that there needs to be a greater effort in acknowledging pre-existing contexts of the space in question and this can only be done through culturally appropriate community engagement. By this I mean through understanding a location as Place, which recognizes the ways in which space is shaped by human experience and ascribed affective meaning by the community through nostalgia and a shared history. The following work will provide a historical chronology of Chinatown’s formation to provide context; a case study of the development application for the site at 105 Keefer to demonstrate Chinatown as an example of space; and a proactive look at future projects like the City’s application for a UNESCO designation to propose how Chinatown additionally needs to be recognized as place. The goal of this research is to suggest that there has been a lack of culturally appropriate community engagement because development is understood primarily through space and that has led to uneven restructuring in Chinatown’s past. If Vancouver’s Chinatown hopes to become a more equitable environment, one that moves beyond the confines of multiculturalism, it will need to approach community collaboration more holistically. To ensure that processes do not further marginalize groups disproportionately, I argue and propose the idea of ‘culturally appropriate community engagement’ as a process to be built into planning practices.

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