CAG 2017: A year of building people power in the community

As 2017 comes to an end, here are some CAG highlights we’d like to share as we reflect on our work this past year and look ahead into 2018.

This year, we door knocked, surveyed, and interviewed hundreds of Chinatown residents, reaching them with the Voice of Chinatown News Service.


We hosted two community tea times that brought Chinatown residents together to discuss issues and solutions in their neighbourhood.


Consolidating our findings from door knocking, surveying, and interviewing, we created and launched the People’s Vision for Chinatown.


We mobilized the Chinatown community and allies across Vancouver in the 105 Keefer campaign to rally at City Hall in the May/June public hearings and October DPB meeting and stop Beedie’s luxury condo from being built.


We built relationships and shared stories and learnings with dedicated organizers across Turtle Island (North America), including Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (Los Angeles), W.O.W. Project (New York), People’s Defence (Toronto), and Chinese Canadian National Council (Toronto).


We filmed six language learning videos with CAG volunteers and Chinatown residents to add to our organizing toolkit.

We organized study groups with allies on patriarchy, gender oppression, anti-sexist organizing, and anti-Asian racism.

We spoke at conferences and gave talks and workshops to high school students, university students, union workers, organizers, and the general public to share our work and build solidarity.


We shifted the housing narrative in the media by highlighting the concerns of working class Chinese residents in Vancouver’s Chinatown and bringing to the forefront their stories and lived realities.


Thank you so much to everyone who has been part of this beautiful year of organizing and learning with us. 2017 was definitely a year of building people power and community for CAG, as we worked together to create a strong grassroots movement. We look forward to 2018 as a year of growth and more thoughtful organizing where we will sharpen our political analysis, deepen our social investigation, and strengthen relationships with each other so that the work we do continues to be nurturing and sustainable. ❤

Photo credits: Celine Chuang, Nat Lowe, Lenée Son, Sid Tan


Can You Tell These Elders To Their Face That Beedie’s Profit Is More Important Than Their Lives?

Can you tell these elders to their face that Beedie’s profit is more important than their lives?
Oct. 30, 2017


My name is Jannie Leung and I’m also known as 梁泳詩. I’m an organizer with the Chinatown Action Group.

I grew up here on unceded Coast Salish territories, and Chinatown has always been an important part of my identity, culture, and community. I am indebted to the elders of Chinatown — many of whom you’ve met today — who teach me my language and history, and teach me to speak up for what is right.

I’m here today to ask you to do the right thing and reject Beedie’s application at 105 Keefer on the grounds that it will cause devastating social and economic harm to the neighbourhood.

Building condos at the Keefer triangle will not only disrespect a culturally and historically important site in Chinatown, it will further threaten the livelihoods of the neighbourhood’s most marginalized residents. In the neighbouring 189 Keefer building, we have seen 1 bedroom condos being sold for just under half a million dollars. In a neighbourhood where the median household income of the area is $27,000 and social housing waitlists are years long, and with over 2000 homeless people in Vancouver, it would be completely inappropriate to allow more condos to be built instead of affordable social housing.

Since 2014, Beedie’s previous 4 attempts to build on this site were unsuccessful because of overwhelming community opposition. We have voiced again and again that this community does not need more condos, but what we desperately need is affordable social housing. Yet, this developer has demonstrated that their sole interest is in making profit, and they do not care about or respect the Chinatown community. They especially do not care about the low-income people in this neighbourhood who struggle daily to meet even their basic needs. It is a selfish and greedy act that their current application has 111 units of market condos that will be completely unaffordable for these residents, and zero units of affordable social housing.

In this current version of their development application, 78% of community members giving feedback oppose this development. It is not appropriate to allow a building into a neighbourhood that will cause harm to the community and where the majority have rejected it.

And while I have your attention here, I also need to speak on the discrimination and exclusion I have seen within this Development Permit process. We know that a very high proportion of residents in Chinatown are unilingual Chinese speakers. And it is inexcusable that many of its residents can’t participate equally in these city processes about their neighbourhood because they speak a different language. Language accessibility is something that can be so easily addressed with appropriate interpretation services.

As we have seen today, the Chinese speakers only get half the time to speak as everyone else because they need English interpretation. There has been no interpretation of the proceedings into Cantonese and Mandarin for them, so they watch other people talk about their community and make decisions about it, but they cannot understand what is happening.

Chinatown has a long history of the city making decisions about them, for them, and enforcing regulations that threaten their livelihoods without their consultation. Even today, I commonly hear from Chinatown residents and businesses that they feel like their voices do not matter, and even when they participate in city processes, the city does not listen to their needs.

This is unacceptable.

As the City of Vancouver is making efforts towards reconciliation for historical discrimination against Chinese people, it is appalling to me that there continues to be systemic racism to this day. It is appalling that you discredit the community members telling you the very real and harmful impacts on their lives. It is appalling that you think you can ignore social impacts in assessing this development.

And despite the accessibility barriers, some of our courageous Chinatown elders have come here to speak their truth to you. Can you tell these elders to their face that Beedie’s profit is more important than their lives? Can you, in good conscience, approve a development that the Chinatown community has so definitively opposed?

I ask you to show us that these city processes are not a sham. I ask you to show us that we no longer live in a time when Chinese voices are silenced and our needs ignored. I ask you respect what the Chinatown community has so clearly asked for and do your duty to protect the community against a development that will cause irreparable harm to the community. I ask you to reject Beedie’s development application.

I also ask that you undertake a review of your procedures to end these discriminatory practices and ensure that community members have equal opportunities to participate and their accessibility needs are addressed. You can do better. You must do better.

Jannie Leung 梁泳詩 is an organizer with Chinatown Action Group.

Photo credit: Lenée Son

Ain’t​ ​Nobody​ Going​ ​to​ ​Save​ ​Chinatown

Ain’t​ ​Nobody​ Going​ ​to​ ​Save​ ​Chinatown
Oct. 30, 2017


Hey,​ ​I’m​ ​Vince​ ​Tao,​ ​speaking​ ​on​ ​behalf​ ​of​ ​Chinatown​ ​Action Group.

You​ ​know​ ​why​ ​we’re​ ​here​ ​today.​ ​Beedie​ ​is​ ​attempting​ ​to​ ​push through​ ​its​ ​latest,​ ​and​ ​likely​ ​last,​ ​development​ ​application​ ​to build​ ​on​ ​the​ ​105​ ​Keefer​ ​site.​ ​For​ ​the​ ​last​ ​four​ ​years,​ ​the Chinatown​ ​community​ ​has​ ​come​ ​together​ ​in​ ​opposition​ ​to​ ​Beedie’s designs​ ​to​ ​construct​ ​a​ ​tower​ ​of​ ​market-rate,​ ​luxury​ ​condos​ ​that would​ ​cast​ ​a​ ​long​ ​shadow​ ​over​ ​the​ ​Chinese​ ​Worker’s​ ​Memorial​ ​and the​ ​Sun-yat​ ​Sen​ ​Garden.​ ​If​ ​built,​ ​the​ ​condos​ ​on​ ​105​ ​Keefer​ ​will accelerate​ ​the​ ​destruction​ ​and​ ​displacement​ ​of​ ​Chinatown​ ​as​ ​we know​ ​it​ ​—​ ​where​ ​communities​ ​of​ ​workers,​ ​immigrants,​ ​and​ ​the marginalized,​ ​of​ ​all​ ​backgrounds,​ ​have​ ​laboured​ ​to​ ​make​ ​homes​ ​in their​ ​image.

This​ ​is​ ​Beedie’s​ ​fifth​ ​application.​ ​We’ve​ ​beaten​ ​them​ ​back​ ​four times​ ​now.​ ​They’ve​ ​seen​ ​our​ ​strength.​ ​The​ ​community​ ​has​ ​spoken. No​ ​Beedie​ ​at​ ​105​ ​Keefer.

You​ ​would​ ​think​ ​after​ ​four​ ​years​ ​of​ ​mounting​ ​community resentment​ ​and​ ​four​ ​rejections​ ​from​ ​the​ ​city,​ ​billionaire developer​ ​Ryan​ ​Beedie​ ​would​ ​have​ ​the​ ​sense​ ​and​ ​dignity​ ​to​ ​cut his​ ​losses​ ​and​ ​crawl​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​gilded​ ​cave​ ​he​ ​came​ ​from.​ ​But he’s​ ​bitter.​ ​He​ ​can’t​ ​stand​ ​that​ ​the​ ​poor,​ ​the​ ​working,​ ​the youth,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​elders​ ​of​ ​Chinatown​ ​have​ ​banded​ ​together​ ​to​ ​run him​ ​out​ ​of​ ​city​ ​hall.​ ​He​ ​wants​ ​revenge.​ ​Beedie’s​ ​last​ ​failed application​ ​promised​ ​12​ ​storeys​ ​of​ ​market-rate​ ​condos​ ​with​ ​25 units​ ​of​ ​social​ ​housing.​ ​We​ ​called​ ​his​ ​bullshit;​ ​25​ ​is​ ​a​ ​drop​ ​in the​ ​bucket​ ​in​ ​this​ ​city,​ ​and​ ​only​ ​7​ ​of​ ​those​ ​units​ ​were​ ​actually affordable​ ​to​ ​seniors​ ​living​ ​on​ ​welfare​ ​and​ ​pensions.​ ​Today: Beedie​ ​wants​ ​to​ ​railroad​ ​through​ ​a​ ​9-storey​ ​tower​ ​with​ ​zero units​ ​of​ ​social​ ​housing.​ ​Zero​ ​units.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​the​ ​cruel​ ​last resort​ ​of​ ​a​ ​man​ ​vindictive​ ​of​ ​the​ ​community​ ​that​ ​has​ ​grown stronger​ ​than​ ​ever​ ​together​ ​in​ ​struggle​ ​and​ ​opposition.

But​ ​Ryan​ ​Beedie​ ​will​ ​do​ ​as​ ​Ryan​ ​Beedie​ ​does.​ ​He​ ​is​ ​a​ ​pathetic, greedy​ ​little​ ​man​ ​—​ ​his​ ​contempt​ ​for​ ​the​ ​poor​ ​should​ ​not surprise​ ​us​ ​in​ ​the​ ​least.​ ​The​ ​city,​ ​however,​ ​had​ ​a​ ​rare opportunity​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​the​ ​land​ ​back​ ​from​ ​Beedie​ ​and,​ ​with​ ​BC Housing,​ ​build​ ​100%​ ​social​ ​housing​ ​on​ ​the​ ​site.​ ​Just​ ​three​ ​days ago,​ ​we​ ​were​ ​notified​ ​that​ ​this​ ​negotiation​ ​had​ ​ended,​ ​and​ ​the latest​ ​application,​ ​featuring​ ​a​ ​stunning​ ​0%​ ​units​ ​of​ ​social housing,​ ​will​ ​proceed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​reviewed​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Development​ ​Permit board,​ ​not​ ​city​ ​council.​ ​The​ ​cowardice​ ​of​ ​the​ ​city​ ​and​ ​BC Housing​ ​on​ ​this​ ​matter,​ ​at​ ​a​ ​time​ ​when​ ​the​ ​homelessness​ ​crisis has​ ​reached​ ​unimaginable​ ​heights,​ ​at​ ​a​ ​time​ ​when​ ​the​ ​homes​ ​and livelihoods​ ​of​ ​Chinatown’s​ ​most​ ​marginalized​ ​hang​ ​dangerously​ ​at the​ ​brink​ ​of​ ​disappearance,​ ​their​ ​failure​ ​to​ ​seize​ ​this opportunity​ ​is​ ​nothing​ ​more​ ​than​ ​a​ ​crime​ ​by​ ​the​ ​rich​ ​against​ ​the poor,​ ​the​ ​violence​ ​of​ ​profit​ ​over​ ​people.

Ain’t​ ​nobody​ ​going​ ​to​ ​save​ ​Chinatown.​ ​Not​ ​the​ ​developers,​ ​not the​ ​non-profits,​ ​not​ ​Chinatown​ ​“stakeholders”,​ ​not​ ​even​ ​the city.​ ​Chinatown​ ​doesn’t​ ​need​ ​to​ ​be​ ​saved.​ ​United,​ ​the​ ​working and​ ​the​ ​poor​ ​of​ ​Chinatown​ ​have​ ​the​ ​power​ ​to​ ​determine​ ​what happens​ ​to​ ​their​ ​homes,​ ​and​ ​we’re​ ​going​ ​to​ ​fight​ ​like​ ​hell​ ​for our​ ​right​ ​to​ ​live​ ​and​ ​prosper​ ​in​ ​the​ ​neighbourhood.

They​ ​have​ ​the​ ​money,​ ​but​ ​we​ ​have​ ​the​ ​power.

Vince Tao is an organizer with Chinatown Action Group.

Photo credit: Lenée Son

Stop the Discrimination Against Chinese Working-Class People

Stop the Discrimination Against Chinese Working-Class People
Oct. 30, 2017

King-mong 1200x630

Good afternoon everyone. My name is King-mong Chan and I am an organizer with the Chinatown Concern Group and Chinatown Action Group.  I acknowledge that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations.  I am asking the Board to reject the development application.

At tomorrow’s City Council meeting, the General Manager of Community Services will be recommending to City Council to acknowledge past discrimination against Chinese people and to offer a formal apology.  This discrimination however has not passed and is actually the point of discussion today.  105 Keefer is situated by the Chinatown Memorial Square within Chinatown, a working-class Chinese neighbourhood whose livelihoods are being threatened by gentrification, caused by market housing projects such as 105 Keefer and zoning polices that allow these projects to be built.

To approve this project is to continue this history of racism against Chinese people by saying Mr. Beedie’s profits are more important than the lives of the Chinese working-class residents.  To approve this project will go against Council’s motion on May 27, 2014 that directs staff to recommend steps and actions in support of reconciliation.  But the Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee voted to not support this project on Oct. 12th.  The permit staff committee report for this application indicates that 78% of respondents were opposed to this application.  Close to 3,000 people have signed a petition rejecting market housing at this site.  Since 2014, the community has loudly vocalized opposition to Beedie’s market housing applications at this site.  To approve this project is not supporting reconciliation! Instead it means you are deciding to escalate hostility against the Chinese community!

And so Development Permit Board members, I call on you to stop the discrimination against Chinese people. Reject Beedie’s application, recommend to City Council a zoning policy at 105 Keefer that support justice and reconciliation such as no market housing and put people before profit!

King-mong Chan 陳敬望, is an organizer with Chinatown Action Group and Chinatown Concern Group.
Photo credit:  Lenée Son

On Grassroots Leadership

Photo credit: Murray Bush

The following is an excerpt from Chinatown Action Group organizer Stephanie Fung’s speech at the Hospital Employees’ Union Fall School (Oct. 15, 2017):

So I’ve been asked to come here today to speak about resilient leadership and what it means to be a grassroots leader. The more I reflected on leadership in Chinatown Action Group, the more I wondered about what it is that’s the real work we do. Beyond facilitating study groups, beyond organizing direct actions, what is our real job as grassroots organizers in the larger scheme of things? The way I see it is this: our greatest, and probably most difficult, task is to identify and develop leaders who want to build leadership in others.

For me, building resilient leadership means not only dedicating my own time and energy to various efforts for social change, but also working to move others to take action. It means helping them develop skills, political analysis, and confidence to organize so that in the long term they can continue to help sustain the movement by identifying, recruiting, and training other leaders who themselves will develop other leaders, and so on and so forth. This is the process of building a mass organization and building grassroots community power. It’s hard work. It involves tremendous labour and we don’t expect fast results. Organizing at the core is about building relationships. It’s about developing collective power through developing leaders. It’s about learning how to be patient through struggles and how to care for each other as we grow. This is a long-term project where the fruits of our work can take a long time to see.

Chinatown Action Group’s organizing model draws from and is inspired by grassroots organizing of the American Civil Rights Movement. Community organizers like Ella Baker, Septima Clark, and Myles Horton challenged the limits on the ability of the oppressed to transform their own lives. They engaged in participatory democracy where decisions were consensus-based. Ella Baker once stated: “I have always thought what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership in others… Strong people don’t need strong leaders.”

What makes you get out of bed every morning? What does it take for all of us in this room to persuade ourselves to pick up and go?

If we’re not developing leaders, then we’re not building the organization. We start with where people are at. We share stories. Start with what matters most to our base and work with them in a way that they see themselves as having the right to fully participate in transforming their lives. We don’t empower people because people already have power; they don’t need us to liberate them from anything. Instead, we move each other to take action. We move each other to build capacity to use our power to change the material conditions of our lives.

How do we do this? Here are some concrete ways of how we build leadership in CAG:

    1. We have work parties as a hands-on, low-commitment way to get people involved. We bring people together to do action-oriented tasks so that they feel a sense of purpose right from the start.
    2. We build strong and organic relationships with others in the organization. This means members develop one-on-one relationships with volunteers to bring them into CAG. We also have mentorships between core members.
    3. We develop relationships with Chinese seniors in Chinatown by listening to them share their life experiences. Working class seniors who live in Chinatown make up a large part of the base that we organize and they love to talk about their life experiences. This is where they are experts—they have wisdom, they have life experience that we don’t have, and this is where we want them to feel the most confident in articulating. Seniors have endured a lot, and it is important to validate their experience and acknowledge that they have survived through tremendous hardships, that the injustice they face is real, but their existence is important and should not be invisibilized or marginalized. Their stories convince us that the work we do matters.
    4. We engage in grassroots education. We organize study sessions to learn about histories of grassroots organizing and movements. We develop power and class analyses.
    5. We develop a Vision and Basis of Unity where we bring people on the same page and create a sense of vision to understand the importance of our work in a more historical context and that we are part of the broader movement for social and economic justice.

Strengthening our relationships with each other through sharing stories, listening, and caring about each others’ growth and struggles—these are all things that build a community. I’m interested in how grassroots spaces might offer possibilities to shape our power beyond hierarchical cultures, in ways that can build momentum and allow us to relate to each other. That’s really the heart of organizing: to develop ourselves and more importantly, each other as leaders so that we can use our power together to create stories that address social issues and move more people to act on the side of justice.