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Filipinos want Vancouver designated 'Pinoy Town'
posted 4-Jan-2012  ·  
Photo By Carmine Marinelli
Filipino stores, shops and restaurants at the corner of 28th and Fraser Street in Vancouver, B.C., part of the proposed "Pinoy Town," Tuesday Dec. 20, 2011.

Filipinos asking Vancouver City Hall to officially designate an area as “Pinoy Town” say they won’t make the same mistake the Vietnamese community did.

Petitions for a city-designated Pinoy Town — located on a stretch of Fraser Street between Kingsway and 33rd Avenue — have been going out since October. The movement comes after city council passed a motion last fall designating Kingsway area between Fraser and Nanaimo Streets as “Little Saigon” neighbourhood.

But Little Saigon supporters made the misstep of not consulting with the entire community before submitting a 3,000-signature petition to city council, said RJ Aquino, a COPE candidate in the last municipal elections who declared in favour of Pinoy Town. That omission angered many locals.

City-funded public consultation on the Vietnamese neighbourhood is scheduled for the start of 2012. Coun. Kerry Jang, who put forward the Little Saigon motion, said he supports efforts to celebrate Vancouver’s diversity, but adds it’s important for organizers to talk to both businesses and residents before approaching the city.

“They need to come up with a clear rationale, a justification and a clear idea of what they want for a Pinoy Town and then from there we can look at it and decide our next steps,” Jang said.

University of Victoria sociology professor Zheng Wu said now that Little Saigon has been given the designation, it could be politically dangerous for city council if the proposed Pinoy Town is not recognized.

“It’s going to be a tough call, I think, for the city to single out one community over the other communities,” he said.

“I think it would be great to see, but I think it should be a benefit to the neighbourhood as a whole rather than just benefiting a certain segment of the community,” Aquino said.

Tom Avendano, president of the Multicultural Helping House Society on Fraser Street, said he’s against specific minority neighbourhood designations.

“I think while we are here, we shouldn’t live as separate Filipino or Vietnamese (communities),” Avendano said. “This is Canada; therefore we should strive to be integrated and assimilate to Canadian culture.”

Giving neighbourhoods official ethnic designations could hamper integration of new immigrants and wouldn’t necessarily boost cultural recognition or improve business, he said.

Aquino said he understands Avendano’s stance on integration, which is why he wants inclusive consultation about Pinoy Town.

“We can’t allow this designation to create insulation within the community,” Aquino said.

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