Oct. 26, 2021 CBC interactive feature: Saving Chinatown: The modern city is closing in on Montreal’s Chinatown and advocates fear the historic neighbourhood could disappear if more protections aren’t urgently implemented
I’ve been writing about history, including local history and world history, at this website for the past decade. Occasionally, site visitors have found some items of interest and have added to the conversations – for example, about Cartierville School in Montreal where I attended Grade 4 in the mid-1950s – initiated at these pages.
These have been thoughts that come to mind as I read an Oct. 26, 2021 BC interactive feature, the title of which forms the title of the current post.
Some further thoughts come to mind as I read the interactive feature about Montreal’s Chinatown.
First, I am impressed with how productively Melinda Dalton and Holly Cabrera have constructed the story.
By encountering vignettes of particular individuals, such as Walter Tom and Amelia Wong-Mersereau, we are introduced to the history of Montreal’s Chinatown, and the wider story of the history of the immigration to Canada of people from China. I find it very easy to follow the story on my iPhone.
The references to Chinatown landmarks that have disappeared are poignant for so much has disappeared, in urban settings across Canada, and in other (for example, what we sometimes call rural) settings also. Most notably – with regard to some such other settings – many landmarks of a pre-settler Indigenous nature have also disappeared.
That said, landmarks now gone in Montreal’s Chinatown live on in memories, and in stories passed down, as they do with regard to Indigenous landmarks and experiences of centuries past.
We are fortunate that we live at a time when we can ponder what has disappeared, and what remains.
I’ve recently been reading “We Are All Treaty People: History, Reconciliation, and the ‘Settler Problem,'” which is the title of Chapter 7 in We Are All Treaty People: Prairies Essays (2008) by Roger Epp.
The chapter highlights, in an interesting and cogent manner, arguments formulated by John Locke, the seventeenth-century English philosopher, who among other European observers advanced what Epp characterizes (p. 127) as “what amounted to a political creation myth, embellished with a crude anthropology to suit European imaginations.”
Some pages forward in his 2008 study, Roger Epp refers (p. 129) to the Canadian philosopher George Grant’s claims – in an essay, “In Defence of North America” – regarding what in the view of settler society existed (or, more precisely, was claimed to not exist) on the North American continent before the arrival of European settlers.
The essay makes for good reading as does an article by Geoffrey R. Martin that I have subsequently located online, entitled “Justice in the Thought of George Grant.”
George Grant had a big concern all of his life about whether or not Canadians were truly possessed of a national identity, and he was strongly concerned about what technology was doing to the human mind. Good reason to be concerned.
The readings that I refer to bring to mind the concept that, within a tight little (inner/outer) world to which birth and formative experiences have caused a person to find themselves inside of, a person in some cases – perhaps George Grant’s range of thought is an example – sees the outside world in a way that makes good sense within the inner world’s tightly delineated contours. On occasion, a person steps a ways beyond the tightly delineated contours.
I grew up in Montreal in the 1950s and 1960s. Accordingly, I began by absorbing, albeit with a degree of youthful skepticism even then – as a newly arrived immigrant to Canada – some of the concepts of world history that were left over from the remnants of the British empire. It doesn’t matter where a person starts.