Saskatoon's face has changed with the rise in city's Chinese population

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 March, 2014, 5:33am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 March, 2014, 5:33am

Named after a violet-coloured berry, hometown of legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell and current home of Life of Pi author Yann Martel, Saskatoon is hoping to add a new string to its bow as the next hot spot for Chinese immigrants to Canada.

Saskatoon is the biggest city in a province some outsiders will know thanks to Scottish musical duo The Proclaimers, who boasted they could sing its hard-to-pronounce name - Saskatchewan - without stuttering. (For the record, it is pronounced Sass-CATCH-who-won, and it means "swift-flowing river".) Saskatchewan is the world's largest producer of potash fertiliser.

Tim LeClair, head of the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority, said that a few decades ago, you would have struggled to find a Chinese face in Saskatoon, let alone a restaurant serving dim sum. But nowadays, the city of 300,000 people - with 8 per cent of them immigrants from mainland China - is flush with Chinese eateries and grocery stores stocked with ingredients used in Chinese cooking

"That wasn't there 20 years ago," said the 46-year-old Saskatoon native.

LeClair grew up in the city and its neighbouring towns as his father worked in the mining industry and the family moved around the commodities-rich province.

LeClair said Hong Kong was a stark contrast to Saskatoon - except for the shared trait of convenience: "You can get anywhere in Saskatoon in 15 minutes."

Saskatoon markets itself as Canada's youngest city, with a median age of 35 years.

The capital of Hebei province, Shijiazhuang, is one of Saskatoon's sister cities.