MONTREAL, September 28-30, 2023

A free three-day event that aims to Re-imagine a future for our Chinatowns

The Chinatown Reimagined Forum 2023 was a FREE three-day event that took place in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, Québec (and online) from September 28 to 30, 2023. The conference aims to ‘Re-imagine a future for Chinatowns across North America’ and bring together community stakeholders, residents, urban planners, social housing professionals, policymakers, and community organizers from across North America/ Turtle Island to share innovation, best practices, and expertise.

Action-oriented and aimed at providing tools and creative solutions for tackling some of Chinatowns’ major struggles, the conference will also be deeply grassroots and community-oriented allowing for meaningful relationship building and inclusive participation. Chinatown Reimagined was delivered both online and in-person in three languages (English, French & Chinese). A series of online forums spoke to overarching national and North American concerns, while in-person activities, viewing parties, and workshops served to engage Montréal’s Chinatown communities in conversation around what kind of development model we want for the neighbourhood’s future.


2023 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act in Canada, an acknowledgment of the history of anti-Asian racism that Chinatowns were born from. Today, Chinatowns across North America/Turtle Island still face ongoing and imminent threats to their growth and vitality.

The colonial legacy of urban planning and city bureaucracies have contributed to decades of over-development, land expropriation, economic displacement, and lack of sustained government investment resulting in the gradual erosion, decline, and in some cases total erasure, of Chinatowns everywhere.

But Chinatown is also a place steeped in community resistance and resilience. Today’s Chinatowns are coming together to share resources and knowledge on how to better preserve and protect these living communities, to challenge the common narrative that displacement and erasure is inevitable, and to map out a new and equitable future for Chinatowns all over.

Forum Objectives

  1. Bring together Chinatown communities from across Canada and North America to share key research, innovation and best practices;
  2. Provide new ideas, strategies, and current knowledge to advance local protection efforts, and share models for revitalization and community-based efforts for Chinatown’s future;
  3. Provide participants with skills, tools and approaches to develop sustainable Chinatowns; and
  4. Gain a better understanding of the Montréal community efforts to save, protect and sustain its Chinatown.

Join us to innovate around the common challenges of Chinatowns Across North America/Turtle Island and to re-imagine Chinatown’s future. 

Arbre de Souhaits, Karen Tam, 2021

Chinatown Reimagined Montreal Forum Final Report

Today’s Chinatown movement intersects with broader social justice and environmental issues, moving the fight beyond saving the old to focusing more on saving a future that brings with it new possibilities. For us, this is a future framed by anti-colonial practices and anchored by fundamental Chinatown values that see Chinatown as a place of sanctuary and site of belonging for many marginalized groups.

The Forum, in many ways, was a snapshot of the movement that has been unfolding through community activism and mobilization in many of our Chinatowns. It was critical for us that the Forum be organized with strong values of community collaboration and a commitment to democratic participation. We wanted the Forum to be a welcoming and inclusive entry point for people to connect with Chinatown and the broader Chinatown Movement.

This report summarizes the activities and key learnings from the three-day event and hopes to capture the overwhelming community spirit we all felt by coming together around a space that holds such important memories and meaning for us all. The strength of Chinatowns is the People. This unique gathering of Chinatowns has built meaningful relationships with inclusive participation and nurtured genuine partnerships across North American Chinatowns that will continue far beyond the Forum’s three-day gathering.

We sincerely thank all the participants, collaborators, contributors, funders, and volunteers for making this event an unforgettable success and providing the JIA Foundation with much-needed knowledge in moving forward with our work in Montréal’s Chinatown.

Eyesteel Film and Karen Cho have developed this Do-It-Yourself Screening Kit as part of our efforts to make the film as accessible as possible to audiences so that it can continue to have impact within communities far and wide.

This kit includes an Activation Guide with resources and ideas for planning, promoting and organizing your screening, an Education Guide that provides historical background, present-day context and deeper learning opportunities around the film themes, and lastly, a Discussion Guide tailored towards different audiences.

Contact Monica at Eyesteel Film If you are interested in organizing a screening. 

In Numbers


In-person attendees


Online participants across 5 panels

100 +

Volunteers, professionals and partners engaged


The forum was delivered both online and in-person in three languages (English, French & Chinese). While the five online forums spoke to overarching North American concerns, there were also be many in-person activities that focused on collaboration and advancement of Montréal Chinatown initiatives.

Online panels had French simultaneous translation and Cantonese summary translation. Whisper translation was available in French, Cantonese and Mandarin for all in-person activities.

The Chinatown Reimagined Forum acknowledges that Tiohtià:ke/Montréal and its Chinatown is located on unceded Indigenous lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka / Mohawk Nation who are recognized as custodians of the lands and waters on which the gathering is taking place.

Thursday 09.28

2:00pm – 4:00pm
Opening Ceremony & Indigenous Sharing Circle (in-person)

The sharing circle opening event of the forum is an opportunity for us to come together with our Indigenous partners to talk about the meaning of territory, land stewardship, and the convergence of our struggles. This event is the beginning of a dialogue and relationship building between our communities to help foster better understanding and ways of moving forward together. 

6:00pm – 9:00pm Screening: Big Fight in Little Chinatown Film Screening & Panel (in-person) @ Chinatown House, 1088 Clark St, 2nd floor

Big Fight in Little Chinatown is a story of community resistance and resilience. Set against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and an unprecedented rise in anti-Asian racism, the documentary takes us into the lives of residents, businesses and community organizers whose neighborhoods are facing active erasure.

​​Coast to Coast the film follows Chinatown communities resisting the pressures around them. From the construction of the world’s largest vertical jail in New York, Montréal’s fight against developers swallowing up the most historic block of Chinatown, big box chains and gentrification forces displacing Toronto’s community, to a Vancouver Chinatown business holding steadfast, the film reveals how Chinatown is both a stand-in for other communities who’ve been wiped off the city map, and the blueprint for inclusive and resilient neighbourhoods of the future.

Join us for a post-film discussion where, for the first time ever,  main subjects of the film from Chinatowns across North America/Turtle Island will come together in person to talk about the challenges their communities are facing and draw links between local struggles and the evolution of the North-American wide “Save Chinatown” movement. This event will help to frame-up the issues and themes to be covered during the overall Chinatown Reimagined Forum.  

Friday 09.29

10:00am – 11:30am
Panel 1: Chinatown Is Not a Museum!  
Issues of Housing, Services and Quality of Life (online)

Chinatown is not a museum, it is a living community! The common perception of urban Chinatowns as historic tourist attractions impacts the priorities and choices that cities and governments make for revitalization and development. Who gets to have a future in the neighbourhood and whose needs are ignored? A traditional place of sanctuary for many marginalized groups, Chinatowns are home to seniors, low-income residents and several others facing linguistic, cultural and other social barriers. The neighbourhood is also facing a challenge of increased populations that have issues with substance abuse and mental health.  How can we center the needs of Chinatown’s housed residents in the future of these neighbourhoods and find ways to foster and grow the intangible cultural heritage of Chinatown that is built on the interactions and relationships of its residents and living communities? This panel reimagines a future for Chinatown centered around quality of life, access to services, needs of residents, both housed and unhoused, equitable development that grows culture & community, and approaches to land ownership and housing that look to retain and grow the residential base of Chinatown.  


Moderated by Jessica Chen, Montréal,  JIA Foundation

12:00pm – 1:30pm
Panel 2: Strengthening Social Fabric and Coalition Building Beyond Chinatowns (online)

In many cities, Chinatown is amongst the last-surviving ethnic enclaves and is often a stand-in for other marginalized communities that have been wiped off the city map. The challenges and displacement happening  inside the Chinatown gates doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Unlike “Save Chinatown” movements of the past, today’s movement is looking beyond Chinatown’s borders to work in solidarity with other neighbourhoods and groups facing similar challenges of economic displacement, expropriation and cultural erasure. How can we combine the Chinatown struggle with other communities and social justice movements to amplify our collective voices? How do we acknowledge that Chinatowns sit on unceded Indigenous land and work from anti-colonial perspectives in our organizing? How can we evolve the traditional power structures of our community to incorporate new perspectives, new voices and new means of organizing?  In this panel, we look towards meaningful coalition building, bringing an anti-colonial lens to the Chinatown struggle and building holistic solutions for Chinatown that could also be a blueprint for other communities facing similar challenges.


Moderated by Henry Yu, Vancouver, UBC ACRE 

Founded on what was once “undesirable land,” today many urban Chinatowns sit on some of the most expensive real estate in the downtown core becoming targets of land grabbing and speculation. While capital investment firms and big developers are increasingly moving into the neighbourhood, sometimes it’s our own community and small property owners who are playing the speculation game, allowing their own buildings to go derelict, reno-evicting residents, or leaving swaths of land empty waiting for the right moment to “cash-in.” Chinatown is more than an investment portfolio and owning property in the neighbourhood could also be a powerful means of retaining residents, legacy businesses and the intangible cultural heritage of the Chinatown. How can we engage small property owners to think beyond investment and move from ownership to stewardship of the neighbourhood? This panel will look at tools and strategies for taking land off the speculative market, building civic commons, and fostering equitable development. What are the new development models that look at housing, commercial, and cultural strategies from an anti-gentrification and anti-displacement point of view while still fostering growth and revitalization in Chinatown?


Moderated by Kevin Huang, Vancouver, Hua Foundation

4:30pm – 6:30pm Chinatown Social Justice tour (in-person)

In the early 1900s, Québec was home to the second largest settlement of Chinese in Canada—after Vancouver. Montreal’s Chinatown is amongst the oldest Chinatowns in Canada and one of just a few to remain in its original geographic footprint. Many of our historic organizations and family associations are still operating in our Chinatown today.  With so many immigrant groups who have moved throughout the neighbourhood, the story of our Chinatown not only depicts the history of Chinese migration in Canada, but also tells the tale of the settlement of Montréal itself.

Join a tour to step inside the Chinese Association of Montreal building with Vice President Bryant Chang to get a rare glimpse inside one of the oldest buildings and associations of Montréal’s Chinatown. Here you’ll visit the site of what was the first-ever Chinese hospital a century ago and what today houses a Buddhist temple, Chinese art studio, the Chinese Association of Montreal including one of North America’s only traditional Chinese libraries that was inaugurated by Sun Yat Sen’s own grandson!   

7:30pm Chinatown Reimagined Pop-up Exhibition Walkthrough // Community Archiving Activity (in-person) @ Chinatown House, 1088 Clark St, 2nd floor

Saturday 09.30

10:00am – 11:30am
Panel 4: Evolutive futures: alternative modes of cultural and economic revitalization (online)

Chinatowns are amongst the most vibrant and well-loved neighbourhoods in many cities. What makes these neighbourhoods so special are the small businesses that have forged the backbone of Chinatown, helped shape its social economy and become anchors for the neighbourhood.  Small businesses are often community-serving retail keeping food and goods affordable and culturally appropriate for residents, they are small spaces where new immigrants and small entrepreneurs can set up shop with little capital, and they are places of gathering, meaning and memory for community members and tourists alike. It is the small businesses of Chinatown that give the neighbourhood flavour and authenticity. But in today’s world of big chains and strip malls, small businesses are finding it increasingly hard to survive. This panel will look at how we can support alternative modes of cultural and economic revitalization by taking a new approach to policy. What are the programs and tools that can help retain, protect and grow small businesses? How can we remove barriers for businesses and help them grow, adapt and succession plan as key aspects of Chinatown’s future?


Moderated by Leslie Cheung, Montréal, Chinatown Roundtable

12:00pm – 1:30pm
Panel 5: Storytelling and Place-keeping in Chinatown: owning the story to change the narrative and challenge heritage policies (online)

As Chinatown spaces are demolished and razed to make way for luxury condos, hotels, art galleries, and big box chains, developers and often our own cities seek to rename Chinatown and actively rewrite and erase the history of the community that has resided in the neighbourhood for decades and centuries. This phenomenon is nothing new. It’s rooted in the colonial history of the settlement of North America/Turtle Island where even we, as settlers of colour, subscribed to the idea of “terra nullius”— that we were arriving to settle an unoccupied space. What role does storytelling and community archiving have in the place-keeping and placemaking of Chinatown? This panel looks at how we can take ownership of our narrative and ensure it becomes a part of the “official story,” how we can work to tell a fuller picture of the North American colonization story to change heritage policies and priorities, and how we can use our past as a guide for incorporating anti-colonial perspectives into our reimagining of Chinatown to inform the ways in which we build inclusive neighbourhoods of the future


Moderated by Karen Cho, Montréal, JIA Foundation

2:00pm – 6:00pm
Super Saturday! presented with the Chinatown Roundtable (in-person) @ Chinatown House, 1088 Clark St, 2nd floor

“Super Saturday” will be an opportunity for Montréal’s Chinatown community to apply the discussions, learnings, and skill sharing from the first two days of the forum down to the local level. Hosted by Montreal’s Chinatown Roundtable (Roundtable) whose membership has laid out the priorities for the neighbourhood, these hands-on, in-person workshops will be an opportunity for Montréal’s Chinatown residents and stakeholders to engage in local initiatives and concerns.

The Roundtable, along with partner organisations, will host two thematic workshops: 

  • The first interactive workshop is about improving the quality of life in Chinatown through community gardening, and includes a mini-session on growing, harvesting, and eating lesser known Asian greens. (Partner: Green Chinatown Montreal)
  • The second workshop will provide hand-on learning for both novice and seasoned community organizers to advocate for change in their neighbourhood, that includes a case study in Montreal’s Chinatown on housing and security. (Partner: Comité logement Ville-Marie). 

Mr. Robert Beaudry, councillor of the Ville-Marie borough, will make the closing statements for the Super Saturday workshops.

6:30pm Mid-Autumn Festival // Forum Closing event and social (in-person) @ Sun Yat-Sen Place (Clark & de la Gauchetière

Celebrate Autumn Moon Festival and the closing of the Chinatown Reimagined Forum with us at Sun Yat Sen Square.


Chris Tse
Komodo & Friends
Transpacific Express
Rhythm & Hues
+ A community Mahjong event hosted by MyChinatownMTL!

Chinatown Pretty dresscode encouraged!

The Chinatown Reimagined Forum in images

A series of pop-up exhibitions will take place in Chinatown House during the Chinatown Reimagined Forum. These exhibitions showcase the work of our collaborators who have been engaged in uncovering the community history of Montréal’s Chinatown and the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act on the neighbourhood, as well as those working to envision new futures and possibilities for Chinatown.   Celebrated Visual Artist Lan Yee has worked to bring these pop-ups under one roof allowing visitors to understand the past and envision the future of Montréal’s Chinatown through these unique pop-up exhibitions.

Early Chinese in Montreal
Explore Chinatown’s early history and community figures, like author-journalist Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far) and the Ho Sang Kee and Wing Sing families who shaped and impacted the neighbourhood, through an exhibition curated by Mary Chapman with University of British Columbia graduate students Delaney Anderson, Meghna Chatterjee, Ethan Xi Hao Eu, Amanda Law, Camille Lopez, and Thomas Playfair, with assistance from descendants. The exhibition is designed by Sydney Lines.
Phoenix Whispers – a tribute to the Women of Montréal’s Chinatown from the 19th and 20th Centuries
This pop-up version of Tiohtià:ke/Montréal-based artist and curator Karen Tam’s beloved McCord Museum exhibition will for the first time bring the community stories and forgotten histories of Montréal’s Chinatown and its women back to the neighbourhood to be shared with residents and visitors alike.
Re-imagining Montréal’s Chinatown into the future – two pop-ups with Concordia University
Re-Imagine Clark Street, Sun Yat Sen Square and its surroundings with the students of Professor Silvano De la Llata’s Urban Laboratory class who worked closely with the Chinatown community over the past 2 semesters to bring together a series of innovative ideas and visionings for the revitalization and equitable development of these spaces. Check out the designs, renderings and  innovations that were developed through community conversations and a charette of ideas.  
CityPlayer x Chinatown

Chinatown goes virtual with Concordia’s Next-Generation Cities Institute, veteran videogame developer Chris Gibbs and a group of student interns who’ve developed “CityPlayer”, a video game platform that allows audiences to envision and build a more livable and sustainable city. Players can visualize infrastructure changes to building heights, adding more bike or car lanes, planting greenery and more.   Described as “Sim City with real science,” this urban simulation platform is a great tool for re-imagining the future for Chinatown.
Traces of the Chinese Exclusion Act
2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act – a dark period of Canadian history where all immigration from China was banned for a period of 24 years. This law decimated Chinese Canadian communities, who could not reunite with their families, and emptied Chinatowns across Canada. The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act is the inaugural exhibition of the newly-opened Chinese Canadian Museum in British Columbia. We will bring satellite programming exploring the impact this racist law had on Montréal’s Chinatown community, in addition to actively collecting and scanning community Head Tax, Exclusion Act and other Chinese immigration certificates to be added to the community archive collection at the University of British Columbia Library.

Things + Time x JIA Foundation

Things + Time is a new community initiative that aims to democratize the archival process by providing education and resources. T + T developed a web platform that facilitate the 3D scanning, tagging, and digital storage of artefacts for archival purposes. JIA Foundation will have a scanning station on-site to enable this community archiving within Chinatown.

Launch of the Chinatown Youth Committee
The committee representing the youth of the Chinatown Roundtable is collaborating with JIA to renovate the youth space at Chinatown House. This is an opportunity for you to discover the committee’s mission and its vision for the future of the neighbourhood. Explore the room designed to foster intergenerational connections, with a dedicated area for children (under parental supervision), and admire the beautiful posters produced by the committee.

Our Vision for Chinatown House Montréal

The JIA Foundation and community partners have been working to develop a pilot project called “Chinatown House Mtl”.  Conceived as a community-run incubation hub and gathering space, Chinatown House Mtl will offer cultural programming and exhibitions, as well as operating as a co-working and collaboration space for numerous non-profit organizations in Montréal’s Chinatown. This pop-up will lay out our vision for Chinatown House Mtl as a  pathway for occupying the under-utilized spaces in Montréal’s Chinatown and as a model for an equitable development vision of Chinatown as a whole.


The JIA Foundation thanks the Ville de Montréal // Ville-Marie Borough for their financial support for the Chinatown Reimagined Forum, as well as:
Community Housing Transformation Centre
Canadian Race Relations Foundation
SHIFT Concordia – Centre for Social Transformation
University of British Columbia INSTRCC
Concordia University Next Gen Cities Institute