Mind the Gap

Chinese bearing the brunt of Canada’s hypocrisy

Canadian media fears being called racist if they blurt it out

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 February, 2016, 10:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 February, 2016, 10:00am

Most Canadians are obstinately oblivious and wilfully ignorant of their country’s absolute decline over the last 40 years. As the world, especially China has rapidly evolved around them it has inflicted upon Canadians irreversible changes that few in Vancouver can understand or accept.

Vancouver is one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets. Statistics from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver show the benchmark for a detached house in Metro Vancouver was C$1.2 million, up 22 per cent from the year before. The average price of a condominium was up 14 per cent to C$435,000. And the market continues to boom.

Its citizens are learning a cruel lesson about being on the losing end of globalisation and economic development. For years the lack of affordable housing has been a problem. People are only now beginning to realise its magnitude and permanence. Foreign investors are supposed to be the cause. What they really mean is investors from China. The Canadian media fears being called racist if they blurt it out.

You can feel an almost implacable atmosphere of racism as the town has become balkanised among different ethnic groups. Vancouver used to feature one or two Chinatowns. Now the entire city is one sprawling Chinatown.

Restrictive ownership laws will be a veiled form of racism to levy an indirect head tax on Chinese investors

Richmond, a neighbouring suburb, is so Chinese that few white people consider living there. Successively wealthier waves of Chinese since 1986 rejected the original Chinatown experience as being too much of a ghetto experience that failed to reflect China’s current influence.

Today’s Chinese immigrants want the same bright and shiny luxury malls they visit across Asia. And they seek the best homes that Vancouver to add to their residences in London and New York. Now a popular backlash is demanding that the government control or penalise offshore ownership. It’s not the first time Chinese have had to bear the brunt of a unique Canadian hypocrisy.

I am a fourth generation Canadian raised in Vancouver whose great grandfather emigrated from southern China via Hong Kong in 1868 to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. He paid a discriminatory head tax and I still have the paperwork.

Calls for studies to identify foreign investors will ultimately be used to confirm anecdotal stories that Vancouver’s woes are caused by rapacious, money laundering Chinese investors- the 21st century version of the yellow peril. Notice that no one is complaining about the European money that owns downtown office towers or shopping malls.

Restrictive ownership laws will be a veiled form of racism to levy an indirect head tax on Chinese investors. There is simply no way this witchhunt can verify which apartments or homes are empty or how to define vacancies.

Any blame should be cast upon municipal leaders and bureaucrats whose land use and zoning policies have been so developer friendly that it is too late to reverse the city’s blighted landscape.

I sorely miss the Vancouver I knew in my youth- a charming, friendly and sleepy town whose prosperity was largely blessed by forestry and mining. It was just the right sized town to grow up in. But, as John Steinbeck said, “You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”