Heritage status sought

Provincial government asked to recognize the Gateway shelter, the former Chinese Freemasons Club

The City of Vernon wants to honour a diverse part of the community’s heritage.

The provincial government is currently seeking nominations for sites of historical significance to the Chinese community, and the city is putting forward the Gateway shelter.

“It is formerly the home of the Chinese Freemasons Society and one of the last remaining buildings in Vernon’s historic Chinatown,” said Mayor Akbal Mund in the letter to the government.

“Vernon’s historic Chinatown once encompassed several blocks within the original town site laid out in 1885. At one time, Vernon was the largest Chinese community between Vancouver and Calgary. At its height in the late 1940s and 1950s, Vernon was home to as many as 1,000 Chinese-Canadians.”

Recognizing heritage sites is part of the formal apology the provincial government made in 2014 for historic wrongs committed towards individuals of Chinese ancestry.

Among the race-based policies were preventing Chinese-Canadians from voting and owning property. They could not seek public office.

“Although we cannot undo the past wrongs that were committed, we can make amends to start the healing,” said Mund in his letter.

Beyond seeking provincial heritage status for the Gateway shelter, there is also a push from the Chinese Freemasons to install signage in Chinatown that commemorates its role in Vernon’s development.

“They are willing to work with the city to apply for grants and identify donors for the project,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.