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Montreal Chinatown business owners, residents, raise neighbourhood safety concerns | CBC News


Eric Ku’s family has owned and operated the restaurant Dobe & Andy in Montreal’s Chinatown for decades. But lately, the current co-owner says he’s thinking of moving the business after what he says has been an increase in violence and unpleasant interactions with the city’s most vulnerable population.

Recently, someone smashed the restaurant’s front door window before stealing money. Another time, a drug user followed one of Ku’s employees back into the restaurant after he had taken a smoke break in the back alley.

“What am I supposed to do? Fight them?” said Ku. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

He’s especially concerned about senior residents in Chinatown facing some members of the homeless population who might be dangerous, Ku said Friday at a news conference held by the Chinese Association of Montreal.

Bryant Chang, the association’s vice-president, says the homeless population in the area has “exploded” in the last few weeks, turning the neighbourhood into a “ticking time bomb.” He says several businesses have been the target of vandalism and theft like Ku’s.

He partly attributes the change in demographics to an increase in police presence in the neighbouring Village — a part of mayor Valérie Plante’s plan to revitalize that area.

“Transferring the problem from one part of the city to the next is short-sighted and not the solution,” said Chang. 

A chef in apron and ball cap looks seriously at the camera. It's a portrait. He's inside his restaurant. Poster and art hang on the wall behind him.
Eric Ku is a co-owner of the Dobe & Andy restaurant in Montreal’s Chinatown. He says even though his family has run the business there for decades, he’s considering taking it elsewhere due to safety concerns. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Mélanie Fanny-Galant is currently homeless and says she’s seen women offering sex work on the streets of Chinatown. 

“When you smoke crack, it lasts 15 minutes and costs between five and 20 dollars and you have to restart every 15 minutes,” she said. 

The expensive nature of addiction is what pushes some people to engage in criminal activities, she said. 

She says the vulnerable population in Chinatown and in the Village is like one big family. She herself has made friends in the area and doesn’t plan on leaving that community for another in a different part of the city.

“I have brothers and sisters on the streets,” she said.

If she leaves, it will be to reconnect with her family and return to what she describes as a “normal” life, she added.

Association wants more resources in Chinatown

Chang says it’s ironic that Montreal’s Chinatown was just designated as a provincial heritage site a few days ago. He would like to see the neighbourhood live up to the new status. 

The association is asking the city to set up a task force and develop a safety and crime prevention plan. A few of the measures it says it would like to see implemented include adding a police foot patrol in Chinatown, setting up more surveillance cameras and dismantling places that could be used by drug dealers and users.

Duane Mansveld, the co-ordinator of the homeless prevention network at the Maison du Père — a shelter located between Chinatown and the Village — agrees that police officers are needed to deal with crime. 

However, he says they aren’t well trained when it comes to social issues and dealing with Montreal’s vulnerable population. What the latter needs are more services, says Mansveld.

A tent belonging to a person experiencing homelessness is seen in an alley in Chinatown. Two bikes lie on the ground beside it.
Duane Mansveld, the co-ordinator of the homless prevention network at local shelter Maison du Père, says the government has been slow to add more stable and permanent services catered to the city’s vulnerable population, which he says contributes to the insecurity felt on the streets. (Mélissa François/CBC)

According to him, the government has been slow to introduce a more stable and permanent network of services for Montreal’s vulnerable population after emergency measures, like additional shelters, set up during the pandemic in the city’s downtown were cut.

Organizations like Maison du Père have been working with limited provincial funds which contributes to the insecurity people feel on the streets, says Mansveld.

In the meantime, Chang says he’s hoping to meet with Plante and Montreal police Chief Fady Dagher to discuss his plan to keep Chinatown safe and appealing.


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