Way back in 2010, the Chinese community of Calgary celebrated a century of the founding of Calgary’s Chinatown, which marked a hundred years on which the first Chinese settlers had first arrived since they first set foot here in the mid-19th century. The first settlers were mostly men, who worked in the United States on it’s railway project in the late 1800′s, who were contracted by the Canadian government who were at that time, were starting their own railway system. Brought to Canada by the Canadian government through the completion of the rail line leading to Canada’s west coast which was finished in 1885. After finishing the said railway project, the Canadian government turned their backs upon these Chinese workers on it’s promise to repatriate them back home to their own country. It seemed that it would eventually cost the Canadian government a lofty $500 dollars for each worker which eventually resulted in curtailing the entry of other Chinese workers into the country, forcing the Canadian government from further accepting Chinese immigrant workers.
Stranded in a strange land, halfway around the world with no more chance of ever seeing the families they left behind, the displaced Chinese migrant workers found themselves jobless, without any means to go back to their home country. Having no one else to rely on except for themselves, they were compelled to huddle amongst themselves, eventually resulting in forming a protective cultural demographic enclave with their fellow countrymen. This is a very good example of some of the best traits of what the Chinese culture stands for as it display their strength in unity.
The very first Chinese community in Calgary, was established in the late 1880′s, near the area of Calgary’s eastern end. During the time of it’s development, the early Chinese community in Calgary underwent a tragic event that would force the Chinese settlers to relocate to another area. In 1886, a fire broke out that gutted down most of the original dwellings and businesses that were established by the Chinese community, forcing them to move their business establishments to 10th avenue and 1st street, which is now as the “Beltline”. After a decade or so, the Canadian Pacific Railway opted to lay down their tracks right in the middle of the Beltline area, again forcing the Chinese community to relocate elsewhere, but this time, they took advantage of the rising value of the land that the Canadian Pacific Railway was willing to buy from them.
Some of these Chinese merchants took advantage of this offer and sold off their property, which enabled them to make a profit from it. In 1910, a group of wealthy Chinese merchants bought a parcel of land, which is presently known today as the heart of Calgary’s Chinatown, situated near Center street South and Second Avenue. Unfortunately, the city Council during that time intervened and rejected a segregation of the Chinese community from the rest of Calgary’s township and designated a permissible bylaw that will only allow the use of such establishments as living quarters and nothing more than that. Over the next ten years, institutions such as a Chinese Public School, a Chinese Mission and the very first Chinese YMCA was established, enabling the Chinese community in Calgary a commendable presence and eventually a sense belonging as it finally plants a foothold within the community that it has long established.
The lifting of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1947, paved the way for other Chinese immigrants to freely come in and settle in Calgary, since it was enforced by the Canadian government way back in the late 1800′s. This doubled the Chinese population in ten years time between the years of 1951 to 1961. It should had been said that this should have been the final struggle in the history of the Chinese immigrants that were the founders of this fostering community until at one such time in 1970, that the Chinese community was once again threatened with another possible issue of relocating their homes and business, again. But this time, the Chinese community has worked so much to find their place within the community, that they are not going to give it up without even just standing up to what they had work so hard to establish.
The Bow Trail incident was repealed in 1973, as it would devastate the whole Chinese community that was again under threat of relocation. The Chinese community took a stand against this and eventually winning over with the support of the Legislative Assembly headed by the first Chinese-Canadian Alderman named George Holem. Since then, the Chinese community of Calgary prospered to it’s full potential, earning the respect and admiration of the city of Calgary, in which it has become an essential part of the city’s thriving development. Today, Chinatown in Calgary has a thriving momentum in regards to the diverse business establishments that are located there, mostly from the descendants of the original Chinese immigrants that first came to Calgary way back in the later part of the 1880′s. A vast community of shops that cater not only to Chinese-Canadians, but for native Canadians as well, as they all enjoy the the rich mixture of cultural diversities that has made Chinatown Calgary a model of business success.
Chinese Calgary has restaurants such as Just Eat Calgary, which features the rich heritage of Chinese cuisines that remind people of their ancestral origin and at the same time in honor of their ancestors that have left their country, and have found their new home right in the heart of a city that they were always a part of in building it’s rich historical identity. Calgary has always been proud of the Chinese community’s unwavering effort to make their lives a little bit better and find hope amidst the tragedies that has befallen them all throughout their struggle in the past century. The rich traditions of the Chinese community in Calgary has given the city it’s identity as one that fosters friendships across the world and welcomes everyone with a sense of belonging.