The British Columbian provincial government and the City of Vancouver in Canada announced here Monday that they will pursue a UNESCO World Heritage designation for Vancouver's historic Chinatown.
The two levels of government said they signed a memorandum of understanding to reaffirm their commitments to seek the designation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
"Vancouver's Chinatown is a powerful symbol of the resilience, determination and courage of generations of the Chinese community and people who have helped build this province," said B.C. Premier John Horgan in a statement.
"The contributions of early Chinese immigrants, and their descendants, touch every corner of our province. We're working to honor this legacy and protect historical sites for generations of British Columbians to come," he said.
Vancouver's Chinatown, the largest in Canada, dates back to the late 1800s. It remains a bustling commercial and residential corner of the city that is now facing development projects by eager builders, as advocates and city planners try to preserve its character and history.
To receive the UNESCO designation, Canada's government must officially nominate sites for consideration by the UN agency.
This past April, the City of Vancouver formally apologized for historic wrongs committed against the city's Chinese community.
From 1886, and lasting for about 60 years, various policies blocked Chinese residents from voting, holding certain jobs and living in particular parts of the city.
City bylaws enforced segregation and restricted business opportunities and Vancouver's government successfully lobbied the Canadian government to wage a head tax against Chinese immigrants that lasted from 1885 to 1923.
It wasn't until World War II, when young Chinese-Canadians, many born here, earned their right to vote and to receive better treatment by volunteering to fight for Canada.
"In the wake of Vancouver's apology to the Chinese community for historical wrongdoings, we are fully committed to partnering with the Province to pursue Chinatown's designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Monday.
"This signals a new chapter for Chinatown with an important opportunity to invest in this extraordinary community and highlight the many positive contributions that generations of Chinese-Canadians made to Vancouver," he said.
The UNESCO World Heritage site designation would recognize the global significance of Vancouver's Chinatown as a site of ongoing cultural and historic value.
The site would remind people about the racism, discrimination and hardship that Chinese-Canadians faced here while helping to build the province and the country.
The provincial government and Vancouver city council also made official apologies for the treatment of Chinese Canadians in 2014 and 2018, respectively.