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‘Sad to see:’ Edmonton’s Chinatown losing business after killings, rise in crime

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EDMONTON — The 97 Hot Pot restaurant in Edmonton’s Chinatown used to be crowded on weekends, with some customers lining up and craving slow-cooked veggies, lamb and beef.

But that hasn’t been the case lately.

Manager Vincent Lau says the killings of two workers from nearby shops last monthand years of social disorder in the century-old downtown neighbourhood have scared away many regulars.

“Business has died down significantly in the last few weeks,” said Lau, who lives a 15-minute walk from the restaurant.

“Chinatown has been here for a long time, so it’s sad to see. Being able to have a safer area would welcome more guests and more citizens to this part of the city.”

Wen Wong, executive director of the Chinatown and Area Business Association, said the district in the McCauley neighbourhood has been deteriorating over the last 20 years.

The decline worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the oldest bakery in the community was burned to the ground and multiple other cases of arson and vandalism followed.

Edmonton police said there has been an increasing trend of violence, disorder, and property crime in areas including Chinatown, the downtown, and the transit system.

Wong said years ago, many Chinatown businesses stayed open late into the night to serve a busy clientele. Many close now by 6 p.m. and, during the day, operate with their doors locked so customers have to knock to get in.

“We surveyed our members and close to 100 per cent said Chinatown is extremely dangerous, especially at nighttime,” said Wong, adding he doesn’t walk outside at night.

Lau said the killing of Ban Phuc Hoang and Hung Trang a few blocks away from his restaurant has made it difficult to attract customers. Hoang was working inside his electronics store when he was attacked. Trang was found dead outside the autobody shop where he worked.

Lau said some of his larger male workers have been regularly walking servers out to their cars after shifts “because we’re scared of what might happen.”

Wong said addiction and mental health issues have worsened and more people have been in the area to access nearby social service centres.

Volunteers have been collecting as many as 300 needles a month in the community, which is just a few blocks from Edmonton’s safe drug consumption sites, he said.

“I don’t understand why and how safe injection sites and these centres were all placed near Chinatown,” Wong said.

“We have a lot of homeless who come in and they don’t want to leave,” Lau added.

“We have to call the police, which sometimes takes up to an hour. By that time, they have made a mess.”

Wong said he counted 150 businesses operating at the start of the pandemic and today there are about 120.

Children of many of the business owners tell their parents they don’t want to continue running their family shops because of how challenging it has become, he said.

“We are having less and less Chinese owners, because they are getting old. It’s hard for the Chinese community.”

Lau and Wong agree two solutions would help Chinatown become the colourful, tourist-friendly and vibrant neighbourhood it was once: more security and fewer social service centres in the area.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi announced a plan last week to address crime. It includes $1 million to revitalize Chinatown, grants for businesses to upgrade their security, more public washrooms downtown and help for owners doing cleanup.

In the long term, the city plans to urge the province to stop releasing mental health patients and those released from provincial corrections facilities onto the streets. This, after questions have been raised about why the man charged with killing Hoang and Trang was dropped off in Edmonton by RCMP when a bail condition stated he could only be in the city for an addictions treatment program.

The city also wants to decentralize social services now concentrated near Chinatown over five years.

Edmonton police said it is also creating a strategy to increase community safety along with more officers in downtown areas.

Wong said 12 security officers in cars, on bikes and on foot have been patrolling the area from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week since the funding was released. It will cover their costs for up to six months.

He’s not sure about what will happen after that.

“We hope we will see a big change for the better.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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The U.S. wants to ban Juul. Where is Canada on regulating e-cigarettes? – CBC News

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Earlier this week, regulators in the United States ordered Juul to pull its vaping products from the market, dealing a major blow to one of the most powerful players in the industry.

The company is appealing the decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking a federal court to block a government order to stop selling its electronic cigarettes.

While the attempted ban in the U.S. doesn’t directly affect Canada, some health advocates say it raises questions about the slow pace of regulation in this country.

Here’s a closer look at the FDA’s decision and what’s happening in Canada. 

Why was Juul banned?

As part of the FDA’s review process, companies had to demonstrate that their e-cigarettes benefit public health. In practice, that means proving that adult smokers who use them are likely to quit or reduce their smoking, while teens are unlikely to get hooked on them.

In its decision, the FDA said that some of the biggest e-cigarette sellers like Juul may have played a “disproportionate” role in the rise in teen vaping. The agency said that Juul’s application didn’t have enough evidence to show that marketing its products “would be appropriate for the protection of the public health.”

On Friday, the e-cigarette maker asked the court to pause what it called an “extraordinary and unlawful action” by the FDA that would require it to immediately halt its business. The company filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington as it prepares to appeal the FDA’s decision.

That dispute is far from over. 

Juul products are shown at a vaping store in New York in 2020. The FDA has ordered the company to halt the sale of its products. (Marshall Ritzel/Associated Press)

What about in Canada?

Juul’s vaping products, as well as those sold by other companies, remain available in Canada. 

Health Canada proposed a ban on flavoured vaping products last June. At the time, it cited research indicating that flavoured vaping products are “highly appealing to youth, and that youth are especially susceptible to the negative effects of nicotine – including altered brain development, which can cause challenges with memory and concentration.” 

But after a round of consultations last year, that proposed ban still hasn’t been put into effect. 

WATCH | P.E.I. now has toughest vaping, smoking laws in Canada: 

P.E.I. now has toughest vaping, smoking laws in Canada

2 years ago

Duration 2:06

As of March 1, people have to be 21 to buy vaping or tobacco products in P.E.I., giving the province the highest age limit in the country.

Several provinces and territories have put in place their own limits on flavoured vaping products, citing their appeal to teenagers.

(Juul voluntarily stopped selling many of its flavoured cartridges in 2020 following criticism they were designed to entice youth.)

David Hammond, a public health professor at the University of Waterloo who researches vaping in youth, said banning Juul products in the U.S. won’t necessarily have a significant impact on the industry as a whole, given its declining market share and the variety of products available.

“You know, it’s like a tube of toothpaste. If you press at one point, you just kind of squeeze it to a different spot,” he said.

What does Health Canada say?

“Health Canada has no plans to remove any vaping products from the Canadian market that comply with the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act,” the agency told CBC News in an email.

The government has recently put in place new restrictions on the sector, including limits on advertising for e-cigarettes and the amount of nicotine in the products. It’s also undergoing a review of the legislation for vaping products that went into effect in 2018.

On its website, Health Canada warns of the risks of e-cigarettes, saying “the potential long-term health effects of vaping remain unknown” and the government continues to investigate “severe pulmonary illness associated with vaping.”

Last week, Health Canada announced another set of proposed regulations that would require vaping companies to disclose information about “sales and ingredients used in vaping products,” to help the government “keep pace with the rapidly evolving vaping market.”

How popular is vaping?

Vaping is popular among young people, with 14 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 19 having vaped in the last month of 2020, up from six per cent from the same month in 2017, according to the results of the Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey.

Vaping is less popular for adults over the age of 25, with just three per cent reporting that they vaped within the last month in 2020.

Robert Schwartz, a senior scientist at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said the regulatory challenge is to strike a balance between making these products available to adults as an alternative to cigarettes, while at the same time limiting their appeal to younger non-smokers.

“We definitely are finding that young people who would not otherwise become cigarette smokers have started to use e-cigarettes and they fairly quickly develop a dependence on them,” said Schwartz.

“Our research is also demonstrating that some adults are able to quit by … using these cigarettes.”

What’s the holdup?

Like Schwartz, Hammond said vaping products could be a useful tool in helping wean smokers off cigarettes. He said it doesn’t make sense to put strict limits on vaping products if cigarettes, which are thought to be more harmful, are still available in corner stores. 

Dr. David Hammond is a public health professor at the University of Waterloo who researches vaping among younger people. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

“I don’t think the answer lies just with how they are regulated,” he said. “I think it lies with the industry and reframing these products as something that a 50-year-old uses to quit smoking and not a 15-year-old grabs on the way to a party.”

Hammond, who sits on Health Canada’s advisory board for vaping products, said the agency could stand to move more quickly given the stakes.

“There’s no doubt these are difficult questions and the market shifts rapidly. But it’s not an area where slow, plodding regulation is a good fit,” he said.

Cynthia Callard, executive director of the advocacy group Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, said that, while the context is different in Canada, the FDA decision “is a reminder that governments can and should bar market access to products which cannot be shown to benefit public health.”

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Inflation: Half of Canadians' finances worse than last year – CTV News

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As inflation rates soar to the highest they’ve been in Canada in forty years, nearly half of Canadians say that right now, they’re doing worse financially than they were at this time last year.

A further third say they expect things to get even worse in the coming year, the largest number of people to answer this way in more than a decade.

The numbers come from a new Angus Reid Institute (ARI) survey released Friday, which surveyed more than 5,000 Canadian adults between June 7 and June 13 on their financial standing and struggles.

The results shed light on the plight Canadians are facing coast to coast.

Currently, inflation is at a staggering 7.7 per cent higher than last year, according to Statistics Canada. The inflation rate hasn’t been this high since 1983, the year that Canada Day replaced Dominion Day.

TRENDING DOWN

The percentage of Canadians answering that they are worse off financially now than a year ago has been increasing steadily over the last few years. In 2018, only 29 per cent of Canadians said they were doing worse than the previous year. That number climbed to 32 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, then to 45 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

It’s now the highest that it has been since ARI started tracking this specific question in 2010.

At the same time, the number of Canadians who said they were doing the same as a year ago plummeted, going from 54 per cent in 2018, to 44 per cent in 2020, to 36 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

Interestingly, the percentage of Canadians who say they are doing better than the previous year jumped to 23 per cent in 2020, after years of hovering around 13-14 per cent. That number is now at 17 per cent.

When these results are broken down into the household income of the respondents, those who are in the upper echelons of income, making more than $200,000 annually, were much more likely to report that they were doing better than last year financially, at 26 per cent, and the least likely to report that they were doing worse, at 30 per cent.

On the other end of the scale, those making less than $25,000 per year were more likely to say they were worse off this year, at 51 per cent, and less likely to say they were doing better than last year, at 15 per cent — underlining how the rich are hurt less by shifts such as inflation, and the poor keep getting poorer as rising costs hit their wallets.

Only one in five Canadians said they expected things to improve a year from now, while a third anticipated things to get even worse.

“Residents in Saskatchewan voice the most pessimism and least optimism on this question,” the report stated.

COST OF LIVING IS EXORBITANT FOR MANY

Concerns about the cost of simply living is the one that consumes the time and energy of most Canadians, with food, housing and bills driving a huge amount of financial worries across the country.

When asked what the top provincial issues were, with respondents being able to choose up to three options, “cost of living/inflation” was overwhelmingly the most popular selection, with 63 per cent of respondents selecting it as a major issue.

Health care and housing affordability took second and third place at 52 per cent and 31 per cent respectively, with climate change and the environment coming in at fourth with 26 per cent.

“Some regions of the country are under more economic stress than others,” the report stated. “In Atlantic Canada, the cost of living was already higher than most other parts of the country last year. And Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have experienced higher rates of inflation than other provinces, alongside Manitoba and British Columbia.”

When it comes to the country as a whole, more than half of those who rented said that it’s difficult to afford their rent.

For homeowners, monthly mortgage payments are on the rise after a series of interest rate increase by the Bank of Canada. One quarter of Canadians with a mortgage say prices have already gone up, while another half said they anticipate a price jump. Two thirds say that if their payments increased by $300 a month, they might not be able to afford it anymore.

“The challenge for many, as pandemic-era supports are removed, and some struggle with repayment of the CERB they received, is to avoid debt creation,” the report stated, noting that many Canadians are already struggling with debt.

Two in five Canadians said they had credit card debt.

Of those who scored high on the ARI Economic Stress Index and were classified as “struggling” on that index, 62 per cent had credit card debt, and three-in-five of this group said it would take them more than a year to pay it off.

The Economic Stress Index, created in January, looks at core costs related to quality of life, such as debt, housing and household food costs, as well as the respondents’ anxieties and assessments of their own finances, to map out who is having a harder time.

There are four categories: struggling, uncomfortable, comfortable, and thriving. The proportion of those who are “thriving” has dropped six points since May, while the number of those who “struggling” has risen three points in that time period. Some good news is that 29 per cent of Canadians fit into the “comfortable” category compared to 26 per cent in May.

“A majority in each of the Atlantic provinces fall under the Struggling or Uncomfortable categories,” the report stated, with 55 per cent in Nova Scotia and 64 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador falling into one of these two categories.

Across the country, in most provinces, more than half of the respondents fell into the one of the bottom two categories, with 64 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador, 59 per cent in Alberta, 62 per cent in Saskatchewan, 57 per cent in Manitoba, 55 per cent in Nova Scotia and 54 per cent in Ontario. Prince Edward Island was not included in the survey.

“Only in Quebec (61 per cent) and B.C. (52 per cent) do more than half fall into the top two categories on the ESI,” the report stated. “Notably, by Statistic Canada’s CPI, those provinces have the lowest cost of living of any province in the country.”

The province with the single highest percentage of Canadian respondents deemed to be “thriving” was Quebec, with a whopping 30 per cent.

Just over 75 per cent of Canadians said their province had done a poor job of handling inflation.

Around one in three Canadians said their costs due to purchasing gas had increased, while just under half stated that those costs had gone down for them because they were consciously avoiding driving and seeking out other forms of transportation to save money.

FOOD PRICES LEAVING SOME HUNGRY

The report noted that inflation affects some goods more harshly than others.

“Food inflation was 10 per cent in May, higher than the 7.7 per cent inflation rate overall,” the report said.

Just over half of Canadians surveyed reported struggling to make the grocery bill each month, with the report noting that this is seven points higher than last October.

And the lower your tax bracket, the harder it is to put food on the table. Seven out of ten Canadians making less than $25,000 a year said it is difficult to feed themselves and their family, while at least one third of all incomes reported finding it hard to budget for food.

One B.C. resident told The Canadian Press that her grocery bill has more than doubled. Food Banks Canada are concerned that more and more children — who make up a third of those who rely on food banks — could be going hungry this summer as school ends and access to school-based food programs is cut off.

Earlier this month, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called out MPs for laughing in the House of Commons after he spoke about Canadians being unable to afford groceries. In a video Singh posted of the incident, laughter can be heard after he states that one in four Canadians are going hungry.

“I just mentioned that Canadians are hungry and I hear laughter in the chambers,” Singh said after the Speaker asked him to repeat himself. “They should be ashamed of themselves. Absolutely ashamed.” He stated on social media that those who were laughing were Conservative MPs.

TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS

Amid rising inflation, the Bank of Canada is meant to keep the impact on Canadians to a minimum through policy adjustments, but Canadian trust in this institution is split, according to the survey. While 46 per cent said they trusted the Bank of Canada, 41 per cent said they did not.

When the political leanings of survey respondents were taken into account, the results became more stark: Past supporters of the Conservative party and the People’s Party of Canada were less likely to trust the Bank of Canada, with 59 per cent and 86 per cent indicating this respectively.

The Bank of Canada has admitted that it made missteps, and is now playing catch-up as Canada’s economy overheats.

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Disney, other companies vow to cover employees' out-of-state abortions – CBC News

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The Walt Disney Co., publishing giant Conde Nast and the investment firm JPMorgan Chase were among the major American companies that pledged on Friday to cover travel costs for employees seeking out-of-state abortions, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade

The ruling did away with the constitutional protection of abortion, leaving the matter to individual states, 13 of which were poised to immediately ban the procedure. 

Florida, home to Walt Disney World, currently prohibits abortions after 15 weeks. Disney’s employee benefits will cover costs for those who need to travel to get health-care, including abortions, a company spokesman said Friday. The company, which recently sparred with state lawmakers over the contentious “Don’t say gay” bill, had previously declined to comment on a potential overturn.

Other major media companies — Sony, Paramount, Comcast, Warner Bros. Discovery and Netflix — also said they will reimburse travel expenses for out-of-state abortions.

Airbnb, Dick’s Sporting GoodsPatagonia made similar pledges. The Gap, in a statement, noted its employee benefits cover abortion and other family planning services, but did not specify travel expenses. 

Top executives at other companies — Meta’s outgoing COO Sheryl Sandberg, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman — condemned the ruling as a step back for women’s rights. 

“Business leaders must step up to support the health and safety of their employees by speaking out against the wave of abortion bans that will be triggered as a result of this decision, and call on Congress to codify Roe into law,” Stoppelman wrote in a statement.

Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of the dating app Bumble, said her company will continue supporting reproductive rights by donating to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. OkCupid encouraged people to contact their elected representatives, in a post on Instagram.

Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, Starbucks and Microsoft have all previously said that they would also cover travel costs for employees seeking out-of-state health-care. 

In September, Uber said it would cover legal fees for any drivers sued for dropping people off at abortion clinics. That same month, Salesforce offered to help Texas employees relocate, after that state, together with Mississippi, passed “heartbeat bills,” effectively banning early-pregnancy abortions.

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