Canada’s West Coast hub, Vancouver, is home to a Chinese immigrant population so large that the city has earned the nickname “Hongcouver” and the title of “most Asian city" outside of Asia. The city's Chinese have enriched the culture and created employment opportunities, but recently the growing number of Chinese-language signs and advertisements has sparked protests from some non-Chinese residents.
Brad Saltzberg, a North Vancouver resident, told the Vancouver Sun he takes issue with targeted Chinese advertising for real estate agents, financial planning and other products because it undermines “traditional English and French Canadian identity.”
Saltzberg is also the spokesperson and regional director for Putting Canada First, a nonprofit “dedicated to the maintenance and advancement of traditional Canadian identity, history and language.” It appears that Saltzberg isn’t the only one who has a problem with the increasing use of Chinese in public. Last week, stickers that said “Please Respect Canada’s Official Languages” covered Chinese-language advertisements in West Vancouver's bus stations.
But West Vancouver’s mayor, Michael Smith, says the Chinese-language advertisements are perfectly acceptable. “If you pay your money, you should be able to advertise your sign in any language you want,” he said, adding that he didn’t personally see the problem with the foreign-language advertisements.
Saltzberg, however, says the use of Chinese language threatens the city's traditional.
“If it goes unchecked it will continue to the degree we’re seeing in other business districts and other municipalities whereby No. 3 Road in Richmond, it looks like Hong Kong. It doesn’t look like Canada. Our whole city will appear to be Asian,” he said.
Putting Canada First’s Facebook page expresses deep concern for what is perceived as the eroding culture of Canada, caused “by the divisive policies of multiculturalism and massive, unnecessary immigration.”
The anti-Chinese xenophobia has been an issue since the days when China's takeover of Hong Kong spurred emigration to Vancouver. Over the past few years, local newspaper headlines and even politicians warned residents of an “Asian invasion.”
However, the increased use of Chinese language is an indicator of the city’s already robust Chinese population, which is only expected to grow. Daniel Hiebert, a geographer at the University of British Columbia, released a study that projects Vancouver's and Toronto’s Chinese populations to double by 2031. Vancouver’s Chinese population is expected to soar from 396,000 to 809,000, which would be about 23 percent of the city’s population. John Douglas Belshaw, a professor and historian at the University of Victoria, told the BBC that ”the wealth of the newcomers was an irritation to some in the local community.”
Separately, China’s increasingly wealthy middle class, many of whom who have found a home in Canada, are being blamed for disrupting Vancouver’s housing market. Over the past eight years, almost two-thirds of the nearly 37,000 "investor-class migrants" who've settled in British Columbia have come from mainland China. Indeed, Vancouver boasts the highest real estate prices in North America, according to a study by Demographia International Housing Survey, and a high percentage of the buyers are deep-pocketed Chinese immigrants.
“We do see a lot of foreign activity in the very high end of the market as the uber-rich buy into Vancouver as a recreation destination,” Cameron Muir, the British Columbia Real Estate Association’s chief economist, said to CTV.
Muir says that the influx of Chinese investment has certainly caused the province's luxury market to skyrocket, but implications that foreign investment has priced out the condo market in Vancouver are not accurate.
“The idea that foreign investors are coming into Vancouver and buying up all the housing and driving up prices so people can’t afford it, I think that is a bit of a myth.”