“LRT Good - Wrong Location!” Resonates
Chinese community leads LRT protest
May 21 was sunny and not too hot—the perfect day for a walk. For several hundred people who gathered in the Chinese Elders Mansion, the walk they planned was a protest.
The Chinese community organized the May protest march from the Chinese Elders’ Mansion to City Hall protesting the planned LRT route, in advance of many presentations which were made to the Transportation and Public Works Committee of City Council on May 25.
Chinese community elders, supported by their families, friends, and Boyle Street and Riverdale Community Leagues, walked down 102 (Harbin) Avenue, through the Chinatown Gate, and to the steps of City Hall.
There, Mei Hung of the Chinese Benevolent Association, representing the Chinese community and supported by Candas Dorsey from Boyle Street Community League and Donna Koziak from Riverdale Community League, delivered a letter to Councillor Jane Batty requesting an alternative LRT corridor be chosen which does not destroy the elders’ community at 102 Avenue and 95-96 Streets.
Here’s the background to the protest.
During the planning of the current Downtown and South-East LRT Connectors, due to confusion about where the mandates of each connector began and ended, no consultation was done with the community east of 97 street and north of the river as to the route (“corridor”) the LRT would take.
The chosen route was drawn down 102 Avenue, an avenue which since the 1980s has been ceremonially known as Harbin Avenue, and which is a central location for gatherings and festivals for Edmonton’s Chinese community.
City Council has voted to send this section of the route back to the transportation department planners and directed them to consult with the community.
Two trains and a roadway were expected to pass under the Chinatown Gate, also known as the Harbin Gate because it was a gift of the city of Harbin to the city of Edmonton, and there was a strong possibility that the gate would need to be altered or moved to accommodate the trains and roadway. A ground-level station was proposed outside the Chinese Freemasons’ Association’s 47-suite seniors’ lodge on 102 Avenue, directly impeding its front entrance. Ground-level trains posed potential hazards to vulnerable pedestrians.
In front of the Chinese Elders’ Mansions and United Grocery, a huge trench in the ground was planned for the portal for a tunnel that would have to be dug to bring the trains to the bridge and Cloverdale station at the Muttart Conservatory.
As a result of the roads and portal, four Chinese cultural and service buildings (Toi Shin Society, Kaiping Society, Chow and Lees Community Association, and the United Grocers’ warehouse) would be destroyed. Two of these buildings were new buildings created as part of the Chinatown renewal in the 1979 Chinatown Area Plan, with special architectural features to fit in with a Chinatown theme.
Needless to say, the Chinese community was deeply upset and insulted at the implications of the proposed route. While they are in favour of LRT, the community knows that the route chosen is likely to create maximum disruption and minimum advantage for the community.
Boyle Street Community League and Riverdale Community League supported the Chinese community’s concerns and had other concerns about the route, and joined the LRT Working Group which has presented to City Council and the council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee, and will be working with the LRT planners in the Transportation Department to look at alternatives.
City Council has voted to send this section of the route back to the transportation department planners and directed them to consult with the community. The mayor and some councillors have expressed some reservations about the downtown route in general, and it is expected that an in-depth review will result in changes in the proposed route. Now, the community looks forward to a new LRT corridor that will better serve the community without destroying community heritage or endangering the people who live here and built the community.