Carol Lee, chairwoman of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, says the neighbourhood is all about resilience.
But Lee broke down in tears as she described the impact of a triple stabbing at a festival on Sunday that had been intended to “bring the community together to celebrate the progress” made in a neighbourhood where crime, street disorder and economic decay have been concerns.
“[We] thought things were normal, but it’s a good reminder that there are a lot of things that are in play in Chinatown,” said Lee, whose group co-organizes the annual Light Up Chinatown! festival.
Lee was speaking at a news conference on Monday with Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer, who said the suspect had been on release during the day from a forensic psychiatric hospital.
Palmer said a 64-year-old man is in custody after the attack that left a Burnaby couple in their 60s and a Vancouver woman in her 20s with severe but non-life-threatening injuries.
All of the victims were ethnically Asian, Palmer said, but there was no indication of motive for a crime that “defies logical explanation.” Whether it was a hate crime is under investigation.
Palmer said the attack occurred around 6 p.m. near the festival’s main stage.
He said the suspect, arrested a few blocks from the scene, has had contact with police before, but Vancouver police have no previous record of him in the city.
Palmer said the victims have been treated for their injuries and their physical scars should heal, but their emotional scars and the damage inflicted on the community would take longer to repair.
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim attended the festival and told the news conference that the two-day Light Up Chinatown! was an “incredible celebration” filled with energy and excitement.
The neighbourhood had been making progress, he said, but the knife attack that came as the festival was wrapping up was a “setback.”
“It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is, there is an energy of people really wanting to make this place a better place,” said Sim.
Sim said Chinatown had been through a rough time in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re all here for the community … whatever we can do to make this place a better place, we will, and we are not giving up,” said Sim.
Jordan Eng is president of the Chinatown Business Improvement Association that also co-organizes Light Up Chinatown!
He said no single emotion could capture his feelings in the wake of the stabbings, at an event aimed at creating great memories of Chinatown.
“I mean we have heard the word ‘devastating,’ ‘tragic,’ and you know there is anger too. There is anger in the community,” said Eng. “We wanted to create new memories, and this is not what we expected.”
Chinatown had been “under siege” during the pandemic, but Eng said he felt like the neighbourhood had recently been turning a corner with help from the mayor and city council. Sunday’s attack was a blow.
“Incidents like yesterday take us back and it remind us that we are not there yet. We cannot take our foot off the pedal. We need to move forward,” said Eng.
He said residents would not allow the stabbing to “put them back in the shadows” and living in fear.
Palmer said the neighbourhood had the support of his officers.
“Please know that we’re in this together and that we have your backs and that crimes like this one that happened last night do not define the Chinatown community,” he said.
Lee said the issues facing Chinatown are “not going to be an easy fix.”
“So, we’re going to have setbacks along the way. But I think that we’re on the right path, and it will take us time to sort of regroup (for) what will come next,” Lee said.
“I have no doubt that the community will come together, stronger and more determined to make the neighbourhood a safe place for all,” Lee added.
Nono Shen, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2023.