Drive For Asian-Only Shopping Plaza Violates Our Prized Canadian Values

Drive for Asian-only shopping plaza violates our prized Canadian values

Alan Ferguson, The Province
Published: Thursday, October 05, 2006

On the face of it, it sounds like an inspired business plan.

You take over a suburban shopping plaza that's showing its years and transform it into a retail version of a theme park.

Unfortunately, there are a just a few awkward obstacles standing in your way, namely some long-standing tenants who don't fit in with your grand vision.

No problem. As their leases come up for renewal, you brusquely inform them “No deal.”

Business is business, right? And all's fair in love and entrepreneurship.

That, in a nutshell, is the situation at the West Willow plaza on Fraser Highway in Surrey.

It's only when we start to peel back the layers that we find ourselves stumbling headlong into a troublesome situation.

As Glenda Luymes reported in The Province earlier this week, there are aspects to this story that threaten to disrupt the harmony of race relations in the Lower Mainland.

The facts as we know them are these:

The new owners of the plaza, represented by the management company Canreal, are Asian businessmen.

They want to turn the plaza into an Asian-only shopping experience.

And with that end in mind, three existing, non-Asian tenants, who have been there for years, have already had their marching orders.

Other non-Asian tenants with leases still in place are worried they will face the same fate.

After Luymes broke the story, this newspaper and other media outlets have been deluged with protest calls and e-mails. They all say the same thing — that the plan smacks of racism and that if it were Asian tenants who were being evicted we'd never hear the end of it.

Some angry folks are even talking about boycotting Asian stores in retaliation.

Before things get out of hand here, let's get a couple of things straight.

First, the decision by the new plaza owners is a dumb one, and their handling of it shows a deep and worrying insensitivity.

The evictions, as they claim, may not strictly be illegal, but they are both morally and ethically repugnant, and appear to contravene human-rights legislation. And while the owners may deny any racial motivation, the evidence suggests otherwise.

As Luymes discovered, job postings for a Korean grocery that is intended to anchor the plaza are written in the

Korean language only.

But to blame the wider Korean community for the blunders of a few thoughtless men in suits would be silly and wrong.

In a multicultural society like ours, differences of culture and conscience will inevitably occur.

They can be reconciled only by reference to those common laws of decency that make up what we know as “Canadian values.”

They are values to which all immigrants implicitly subscribe when they come to this country.

And they are inviolable.