Free Film Screening: Changing Chinatown, 4 Short Films

Film Screening Flyer

How does community knowledge – of place, of people, of food – get transferred between generations? Find out how a younger generation is using film as a means to bear witness to a rapidly changing Chinatown, and in a way, give gratitude to the people and places of a neighbourhood.

On Saturday May 10th, Centre A will host the premieres of four films created by emerging filmmakers.

This screening is part of the Living Language Studio project, curated by Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon, for the exhibition M’GOI/ DO JEH 唔該/多謝: SITES, RITES AND GRATITUDE, which runs from April 25-June 14th.

Changing Chinatown: A Community Film Screening
Saturday May 10, 3pm-5pm
Centre A, 229 E. Georgia Street
Chinatown, Vancouver
Free admission – Tea will be served and a discussion with filmmakers will follow the screenings.

About the Films:

Saving History: Activists Behind the Ho Sun Hing Printing Company Project
Created by: Jeremia Chow, Martin Lay, Siobhan Quinn, Lisa Reid and Seara Yoshida
(UBC students, 12 minutes)

This film shines a spotlight on the work of community activists of the Ho Sun Hing Project. Their common goal of preserving the history and culture of the Ho Sun Printing Company shop and Chinatown has brought them together to start a community project. While these community activists come from different backgrounds, their story of migration has in some ways had an effect on their involvement in this project.

Behind the Walls of 439
Created by: Bay Leaf Productions – Gloria Ching, Sarah Marsh, Carmen Ma, Alleris Gillham, Laura Heavens and Darian Parrish
(BCIT students, 2014, 5:30 minutes)

A few months have passed since the emergency demolition of a building at 451 Powell Street, across from Oppenheimer Park, in Vancouver. The demolition caused damage to the neighbouring building, 439 Powell Street, the Ming Sun-Uchida building. As a result, residents of 439 Powell St had to be evacuated immediately. “Behind the Walls of 439″ take a close look at what happened with the building and controversies between the City of Vancouver and the Ming Sun Benevolent Society.

After Sunset: Nightlife in Vancouver’s Chinatown
Created by: Victor Ngo, Alexander Reid, Tammy Kwan, Shaina Somers, Fiona Li and Claire Peng
(UBC students, 2014, 14 minutes)

Vancouver’s Chinatown has a rich history of a vibrant nightlife. During the 1960s and ’70s, it was characterized by exuberant and colourful neon signs, restaurants, cinemas, and nightclubs such as the Marco Polo Restaurant. As a result, Chinatown formed an ethnically diverse and unique part of the city’s social scene. In recent years, the Chinatown community has worked towards the goal of nurturing new residential and commercial growth in the historic neighbourhood.

What role can promoting options for nightlife, particularly for youth, play in supporting neighbourhood revitalization and maintaining a complete community for both young and old? What insights can we gain from cosmopolitan nightlife scenes in cities such as Hong Kong? After Sunset: Nightlife in Vancouver’s Chinatown explores how new businesses and initiatives including the Chinatown Night Market, Fortune Sound Club, and Bao Bei are contributing to a modern take on nightlife in Chinatown. How do these recent developments contribute to neighbourhood culture, heritage preservation, economic development, and life in a multicultural Vancouver?

Cooking (Local + Organic) Wontons with G-Ma
Created by: Bard Suen and Julian Fok
(hua foundation, 2014, 5 minutes)

In an intergenerational cooking workshop facilitated by Jessica Van and hua foundation, Grandma Van teaches an enthusiastic group of youth how to cook wontons with local and organic ingredients. Filmed as an instructional music video, learn how to prepare and wrap wontons G-Ma style.

Cooking (Local + Organic) Wontons with G-Ma is an ode to our elders who taught us the meaning of food and the powerful role it plays in our families and communities. The Choi Project is an initiative of hua foundation—learn more at


Join Us for a Community Photo

Join Us for a Community Photo

439 Powell Street – An Important Part of Our History & Community
鮑威爾街439 號 – 我們的歷史和社區

Ming Sun Benevolent Society, Vancouver, 1975

Ming Sun Benevolent Society, Vancouver, 1975

In 1975, members of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society gathered outside their building at 439 Powell Street for a 50th anniversary celebration.

一九七五年民星總社成員為慶祝總社成立五十週年在鮑威爾街439 號大樓門前合照

Dear family, friends and supporters,

Friends of 439 invites you to celebrate new beginnings and the Year of the Horse by joining us, along with members of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society, in re-creating the above photograph. We will take a multi-community, multi-generational photo to honour the building’s 125 years of history, the families and communities connected to it, and those who have come together from all walks of life to support its restoration. All are welcome.


WHEN:  Sunday, February 2, 2014
            Gather at 12:30pm, photograph will be taken at 1:00pm.

WHERE: In front of the Ming Sun-Uchida Building, 439 Powell St., Vancouver (opposite Oppenheimer Park).

日期:2014 年2月2日,星期日
集合時間: 中午12  時  30分
拍照時間 :下午 1時正
地點:鮑威爾街439 號民星總社正門前
Vancouver (across from Oppenheimer Park).

In December 2013, the building was almost demolished, but thanks to a groundswell of support from people from all walks of life – including Chinese Canadian, Japanese Canadian, indigenous, low-income, arts, heritage, and housing groups – the building still stands and there is a chance that together, we can save it.

2013年12月,這棟大樓面臨被拆卸的命運,多得無數有心人仕的協助 – 包括華裔加人,日裔加人,原住民,低收入,兿術界,保存歴史文化,房屋設計等群軆,商界人士和無數市民的支持下- 大樓的命運獲到重生,只要我們共同努力,我們一定可以把它修葺完美,讓它回復昔日的 光彩。

To donate to the ongoing restoration efforts, sign our petition, and for more info:


We hope to see you there!

Friends of 439

Ming Sun Building History – Omni TV

Omni TV aired a history of Ming Sun Benevolent Society… the meaning of its name; the people it served; its role in helping fund the overthrow of the Qing, the last imperial dynasty in China, and helping Dr Sun Yat-sen (revolutionary) efforts in Vancouver.


by OMNI News, in English and in Cantonese
Ming Sun Building History – Dec 30, 2013 (BC).

Letter from Grace Eiko Thomson to Councillor Louie

The following is a letter that Grace Eiko Thomson, a long-time activist in the Japanese Canadian (JC) community wrote to Councillor Raymond Louie, to share with Vancouver’s Mayor and Council). She and Judy Hanazawa spoke at the City of Vancouver’s apology to the JC community (Sept 25, 2013) about the City’s role in the injustices of 1942 during the internment of Japanese Canadians. Saving the Ming Sun building would be one small way that the City could back the apology with some action to give it meaning . 

Dear Mr. Raymond Louie,

Thank you so very much for your prompt response. It is very much appreciated. What you are informing me of events to date are those that are pretty well known to me, regretfully. I think for the people who wish to save Ming Sun building, it has not been easy to find the funds to do all that is necessary to save it from demolishment, and for continued use as it were.

My main concern here, is not necessarily this building only, though I appreciate very much what this Benevolent Society has been doing and wish it could continue to do so.

This block on Powell Street is one that is filled with archival memories of old Japantown. As you well know,`towns’ such as Japantown and Chinatown (perhaps even Little Italy in New York) were formed at specific times in our history when Asian immigrants and their children were treated as second class (or perhaps third class) citizens. These towns with their own infrastructures developed out of necessity to give support to their communities, particularly with respect to jobs, but largely protection from outright discriminatory and racialization practices promoted by the government and politicians (i.e., White Canada Only, 1907 Riot.).

Japantown thrived for several decades to do just that, but for the second generation, those born in Canada, this place was nothing more than a ghetto, a place from which they wished to escape. They made an attempt by forming a League from which they sent representatives to Ottawa in 1936 to appeal for the right to vote. But with the expelling of all Japanese Canadians from Vancouver in 1942, (based on racism, not, as documented, security risks), this town was never allowed to develop to become what Chinatown is today, a place of pride.

Our children and grandchildren are slowly beginning to realize the importance of this place to their history. And I credit Powell Street Festival Society which reminds us all annually that a Japantown once existed here, and those who volunteer annually to work to the success of this event, now not only see this area as a site of memories that should not be forgotten but also as legacy of injustice that should not be repeated on those who currently live there (DTES).

Particularly the unique architectural façade of this block, the New World building (also known as the Tamura Building), and the few colourful homes that line Jackson Street (already saved as heritage buildings), together make up what remains of the old Japantown, which surrounded the centre of activity, Powell Ground, where the famous Asahi Baseball Team practiced and played their games. These are seen as backdrops in archival photographs of Japantown. It is an inheritance only of memory, if such physical traces are erased through demolishment without care of history and stories that need to be remembered about Canada`s development into this Multicultural nation. It is to be remembered that this area began with the Squamish Nations being displaced by the early European immigrants who moved to the middle class areas to the west, and soon after Japanese Canadians establishing residences, thanks to Hastings Mills which hired Asian immigrants.

Unlike Chinatown, which was able to flourish in time (though its residents during the Second World war, despite China being an ally of the West, continued to be treated as second class citizens, not allowed enlistment until later when both Chinese and Japanese Canadians were invited to join the Canadian armed forces), physical memories of Japantown are now being proposed to be erased totally with demolition of buildings or transfer to developers without (it would seem) much knowledge or care not only of lives once here, but of the precedent setting Government of Canada`s Redress Acknowledgement and Apology, and of the City of Vancouver`s Apology.

As a senior with early memories of this area, who lived through internment and dispersal, and who returned to Vancouver to spend the rest of my life here, I appeal to you, and all honourable Council Members, together with His Worship, Mayor Gregor Robertson, to take leadership and acknowledge a City with heart and responsibility to its residents. If we miss the chance offered at this moment to remember the significance of this area and its residents, we will have erased an important part of Vancouver`s (and Canada`s) history. I trust that the City`s proclaimed Year of Reconciliation is based on courage and spirit to act on such issues of history and present supported by ordinary citizens, not only economics, as the driving force.

Again, thank you very much for your kind consideration.
A Very Happy New Year to you and all Members.

Kind regards,
Grace Eiko Thomson

Ming Sun Benevolent Society’s response to City of Vancouver Information Bulletin dated, December 6, 2013

Ming Sun Benevolent Society’s response to City of Vancouver Information Bulletin dated, December 6, 2013

Prepared on December 12, 2013
(NOTE: reference to “Exhibits” may be made available to qualified requests)

City of Vancouver: “ Over the past five months, the City of Vancouver has taken repeated steps to ensure the safety of the Ming Sun Building at 437-441 Powell Street. Unfortunately, the owners have refused to provide a plan to make the urgent repairs required. The Ming Sun Benevolent Society themselves informed the City on November 14 that the building is beyond repair and should be demolished.”

As disclosed at our Media Conference on Dec 6, 2013, it has been the City of Vancouver who has not responded in a timely manner. The MSBS has always met with city reps in good faith, and met on a timely basis.

On July 30, 2013, MSBS representatives and family members met with the City to express concern regarding the City’s role in the demolition of the neighbouring building (451 Powell St) and the damage to MSBS building that resulted from said demolition. The MSBS was informed by the City that it would assist in repairing the damages. The MSBS were to receive a letter from the City documenting this agreement (Exhibit A). After numerous delays and requests to the City for this letter, the City eventually responded with legal references to justify their actions that had led to the overnight demolition of 451 Powell Street, and denied the MSBS compensation. The City informed the MSBS that the delays in receiving a response from them was the result of city staffing issues. The then contact person, Mr. Will Johnson resigned from his post as Chief Building Official  (Exhibit B).

The MSBS was further informed that communications were delayed due to the fact that key city staff were away on summer holidays.   (Exhibit C)

City of Vancouver: “ City has received reports from two professional engineers, one hired by the Ming Sun building owner and one by the adjacent building owner.”

There were three, not two reports produced. The MSBS hired an engineering firm recommended by the city. The firm stated in two separate reports, that 439 Powell Street showed no obvious signs of distress, and that the walls, windows and doors showed no signs of settling; the brick veneer appeared loose, and recommendation was made to remove the brick veneer off the timber frame building, and to replace some exterior wood sheathing.  (Engineering reports will be made available to qualified persons).

In contrast, the MSBS requested from the City, on nine separate occasions, the independent consultant report that resulted in the City’s overnight demolition of 451 Powell Street in the name of public safety. To the MSBS’s knowledge the demolition order was based on one complaint from then pending purchaser of the property.  (Exhibit D)

City of Vancouver: “ After discussions with the building owners, they have not been able to develop a plan to undertake the repairs or to address the public safety risk. They have not applied for any permits to prepare the building for reoccupation.”

The MSBS had engaged a contractor to repair the damaged exterior east wall. After meeting city staff, the City advised our contractor to prepare permit drawings with professional documentation, and that a permit could take upwards of 3 to 5 weeks to be issued.

The MSBS solicited quotes from building professionals and contractors. A concern for the MSBS was that time was not on their side. The now vacant property of 451 Powell Street was to transfer ownership to the individual who earlier alerted the city of the “failed wall”. The MSBS negotiated with pending new owner to allow scaffolding and construction activity on his property. An agreement could not be reached. MSBS shared their quandary with elected city officials, asking the City to speak to the new pending landowner to allow work crew access. Elected officials indicated that discussions had been undertaken with city staff to help them resolve this problem. The MSBS was informed to wait until other elected colleagues were back in town. MSBS was eventually informed that the city’s legal department had instructed elected officials not to communicate with MSBS due to possible litigation.  (Exhibit E)

City of Vancouver: “ Additionally, it should be noted that the demolition of the neighbouring building was supervised by a professional engineer hired by the demolition contractor and by the City’s senior building inspector. There is no evidence that this demolition in any way impacted the structural integrity of the neighbouring building.

MSBS still awaits independent confirmation of this. Interesting to note, that this city query, “There is no evidence that this demolition in any way impacted the structural integrity of the neighbouring building”. This implies the MSBS building was still structurally sound.

The MSBS had presented a collection of photographs of the “failed wall” – photos taken a week before the building had been demolished. The MSBS presented photos to other structural professionals for their information. An observation was that the wall failure appeared “unnatural” and warrants further investigation. The MSBS shared this observation with photos to the City with a request for follow up and investigation. The City declined.   (Exhibit F) 

City of Vancouver: “ The first engineering report was received in August. On September 9, 2013, a City safety inspection revealed that the brinks (SIC) on the front façade posed an immediate safety risk. City officials placed fencing around the building and closed the sidewalk.”

The MSBS appreciated the City’s help in expediting a demolition permit, which the society used to employ a demolition company who successfully removed the front facade bricks in order to decrease the City’s concern of a safety risk.

City of Vancouver: “ On November 5, 2013, a second engineering report revealed that the bricks on the west facing façade were also in danger of collapse without warning.

The MSBS’s primary concern was that the author of the report had no access to the MSBS site to make an informed assessment of the overall and complete structural integrity of MSBS building. In addition, the MSBS questioned the impartiality of this report as it was commissioned by the now owner of 451 Powell Street who was actively seeking to purchase the MSBS building.  (Exhibit G)

City of Vancouver: “ On November 14, 2013, the Ming Sun Benevolent Society acknowledged that the building at 437-441 Powell Street had been structurally compromised beyond repair and would have to be demolished.

A number of options were explored with the City, including: restoring the building (MSBS’s first choice), demolishing the building, selling the property, or partnering up with the city and/or some other organization. The City declined a partnership arrangement in a redevelopment option.

The MSBS was contacted by phone on November 13, 2013 (Exhibit H). During that phone conversation, the MSBS revealed its financial strength was no longer strong. The option of demolition was discussed. City informed that the cost of a demolition permit could be waived if the City issued an Order to Demolish. An Order to Demolish would bypass the city’s own rule of SRO removal that required Council approval, and help alleviate concerns of a prolonged delay– as delays would lead to further vandalism to the structure that in turn could result in safety hazards to the vandals themselves. The MSBS agreed, as all other options had been expended and a demolition was inevitable. The City requested that the MSBS follow up with an email with the request. The MSBS sent an email on November 14, 2013 to the City. The following day, the City issued an Order to Demolish. (Exhibit I)

The MSBS had requested a final piece of dignity by having the demolition order picked up in person from the city, and have this document presented to the elders. The City unfortunately posted the Order to Demolish on to the building before it could be picked up.    City apologized for this oversight. (Exhibit I)

City of Vancouver: “ In the meantime, the residential tenants have all been rehoused; the commercial tenants have been provided supervised access to acquire their belongings.

The MSBS was informed as of late as last week, that the one of her tenants had not found permanent accommodations, and a number of the MSBS’s former tenants are seeking other more satisfactory arrangements.

City of Vancouver: “ In the case of the Instant Coffee artists, the City has provided them with a number of options in other sites to continue their work and they have finally accepted a storage container in which to safely store their equipment. The City’s Cultural Services staff continue to work with them.

The MSBS received a copy of an email to the City from Instant Coffee artists challenging the city’s statement  (Exhibit J)

City of Vancouver: “ Despite months of the Society refusing to make repairs to address the safety issues, and acknowledging that the building could not be repaired and should be demolished, the City has recently learned that there is now interest in preserving the northern portion of the building.

The MSBS agrees safety issues are paramount, and had followed through in each instance where the concern of safety was highlighted. For example, brick veneer cladding for the east and south walls were removed on separate occasions as per separate City requests. In each instance, although building demolition may have been cost effective, the option to retain the building was the priority. As such, care was taken not to disturb the remaining exterior veneer. The west brick veneer wall is now being removed.  Although the building proper has been continually vandalized, the MSBS has continued to secure and lock up the structure, with daily checks and visits.

The MSBS engaged the services of a heritage consultant to prepare a Statement of Significance report and documentation. A lot of valuable new material was identified. With recent public sentiment and support, new options have now presented itself. The unprecedented support from across many diverse socio-economical, cultural groups and organizations, have raised an expressed desire to re-examine the MSBS’s first option of restoring the heritage building.

Media Release – Ming Sun Benevolent Society Calls Flooding Suspicious

December 11, 2013
For immediate release

Ming Sun Benevolent Society Calls Flooding Suspicious
Trusts that Police Will Continue Investigations

The Ming Sun Benevolent Society is calling the flooding of 439 Powell Street suspicious.

Earlier on December 10, the city of Vancouver set up scaffolding at 439 Powell Street in preparation for the removal of bricks from the west wall. That evening, Ken Wong of the Society, informed that the building was flooded with water from within.

David Wong, spokesperson for the Ming Sun Benevolent Society (MSBS) says: “This is very suspicious as we had turned off the water supply. In fact when we escorted media and concerned individuals through our building over the past weeks to view the smashed sinks, broken hot water tanks, and overturned toilets… these fixtures had no water coming out of the supply pipes because all water had been shut off. Our sprinklers had also been drained this past fall “.

The MSBS has contacted the Vancouver Police Department, requesting that they maintain their ongoing investigations into the vandalism and background series of events that precipitated this crisis.