A week has now passed since the disconcerting incident when an alleged 64-year-old assailant stabbed three bystanders without provocation at the Light Up Chinatown festival. Members of the community are grappling with the aftermath but they are holding onto resilience and harboring hopes for a transformative shift. Among them, Emmanuelle Rousseau and Boyd Thomson, the duo behind Stretch, a widely appreciated yoga studio in Chinatown, operating for the last decade.
The paradox, however, lies in the blossoming of their small business against the backdrop of deterioration in the surrounding neighborhood.
With palpable sorrow tinged in his voice, Thomson admits, “My heart shatters each day.” A resident for more than 15 years, he laments the neighborhood progressively losing its charm, causing his disposition to sour steadily. The transformation is regrettable, he notes, moving from a man who would aid the needy, to stepping over destitute bodies while merely walking for three blocks to reach home. Even in proximity to an elementary school, he witnesses appalling sights. “Were you to assist in all the situations crying out for help, a single block would prove untraversable,” he exclaims.
According to the studio owners, the infrastructure of the community is crumbling beneath the weight of rising crime and unbridled violence. Rousseau rues, “This isn’t the inaugural instance of a significant calamity befalling our neighborhood, and we reside in constant disquiet. The scarcity of residents is pronounced, with deserted places forming the dominant view now. Over three years, stores continue to shut down, everything being up for lease. There’s an ominous presence hovering, creating an unsafe environment for all.”
Despite these troubling times, the duo observes inklings of a positive shift but emphasize that adequate stimulus from political stakeholders and personal initiative from individuals is imperative. Rousseau ponders prospective interventions like transforming alleyways into greenways akin to Montreal, or orchestrating more artist participations. She extols the passionate dedication of Chinatown’s residents towards shaping its future.
Echoing Rousseau’s sentiment is Kevin Rigney, the proprietor of the newly established Raven Coffee Company. He opines, “Fluctuating fortunes are an integral part of any community. To navigate towards brighter times, mutual support and shared driving energies are essential.”
Maintaining a spirit of resilience, the community carries on hosting events, the recent ones being the Chinatown Dance Party and Sid Chow Tan Film Screening. Elizabeth Guan, one of the participants, acknowledges the positive shift, saying, “Previously, Chinatown was a place I’d hesitate to visit alone or at night. But my perception is gradually changing as I encounter its wonderful inhabitants. This transition is heartening and helps refashion its image.”
As they strive to overcome the tragedy of the recent violent episode, the local residents and business operators view it as an opportunity to advocate for substantial change within their cherished neighborhood.