Montreal's Chinatown becomes the first area ever to be designated a historic site

17 Jan 2024


Go back to NewsMontreal's Chinatown becomes the first area ever to be designated a historic site© Tourisme Montréal - Marie Deschene

The Ville de Montréal is proud to designate Montreal's Chinatown as a historic site. This area steeped in history bears witness to the Faubourg Saint-Laurent, the first neighbourhood to welcome diverse communities, to Chinese immigration to Canada and to Montreal, and to the settlement of Asian communities in this area of downtown. It is the only significant historic Chinatown preserved in Quebec and Eastern Canada, and the only French-speaking Chinatown in North America.

Reminder that in spring 2021, a committee was formed at the request of Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and the Minister of Culture and Communications in response to concerns from the community and heritage organizations about the impact of real estate pressure on the area's heritage character. Following a rigorous analysis, the committee made five recommendations, including the adoption of an identification by-law under section 121 of the Cultural Heritage Act (C.H.A.) to recognize Chinatown as a historic site.

"The identification by-law is in itself a historic gesture, testifying to the importance that our administration attaches to an element of cultural heritage at a specific time. The identification of Montreal's Chinatown Historic Site is also a first gesture of recognition for the implementation of a global strategy to recognize and showcase the history of Montreal's Chinatown and the contribution of Asian communities to this area of the city," said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

"This long-term project, carried out in collaboration with the citizen's committee, demonstrates the heritage importance of this symbolic district. In doing so, we are concretely highlighting our history and underlining the contribution of the Chinese and Asian community to the historical and cultural richness of the metropolis. It is with these families in mind, the local merchants and the part of our collective history that the Chinese community has helped to write, that we proudly proceed with this first official identification of a historic site," said Ericka Alneus, the executive committee member responsible for culture and heritage.

"I'm proud of this historic recognition, the result of a long process of consultation and mobilization with local partners and residents. This measure joins other initiatives in the area and is the result of a concerted effort and willingness on the part of our administration to work in collaboration with the community to preserve this unique heritage in the heart of Montreal, following a diagnosis and action plan drawn up in the spring of 2021. As the only French-speaking Chinatown in North America, our Chinatown fully deserves this recognition," said Robert Beaudry, Executive Committee member responsible for urban planning, citizen participation and democracy.

The benefits of identification

By using the Cultural Heritage Act to define this historic site, the Ville de Montréal has ensured that these elements will be listed in the Registre du patrimoine culturel and published in the Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec. In addition, this listing creates a lever for cultural and tourism development, for example, by encouraging the development of interpretation activities for citizens and tourists alike.