By Amy Lee-SmithToronto (AFP) – With its sprawling skyline, rolling hills and cobblestone streets, Toronto’s Mandarin Oriental is one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions.
But a long history of Chinese influence has fuelled tensions and concerns, as a growing number of Canadians look to the city for a way out of the city’s long-running economic downturn.
A new book is being released today that offers a history of the Chinese and how the city is becoming a popular gateway to Canada for those looking to explore the world.
“The Mandarin Oriental has been a cultural hotspot for many years and is becoming increasingly popular as China has become a major trade partner,” says the book, written by an American writer and editor.
“Chinese tourists are coming here for a variety of reasons and often for economic reasons.”
In the early 1980s, more than 1 million Chinese tourists flocked to Toronto for the first time, with the number growing to more than 20 million in the last 10 years.
The book’s author, American author Amy Lee Smith, says that China has been growing in number for the last 30 years and that tourism has become an important part of the equation.
“We are seeing Chinese businesses in Toronto, and we are seeing an increasing number of Chinese business owners who are moving in and out of Toronto,” she said.
“They want to establish their businesses and get their products out of China.”
But there are concerns about the growing number and diversity of Chinese visitors who are trying to get to Canada.
“There’s a real concern that they will have a more difficult time in Toronto and that they might be subjected to greater scrutiny than other Canadians,” Smith said.
While Chinese are often targeted for being tourist pests, the government says that there are many other factors contributing to Chinese tourists staying in Canada, including the economic downturn and a lack of awareness among Canadian communities about the history of China.
“People may not be aware that the Chinese were in Canada before the 18th century, but they are very much a part of our history,” said city councillor Jim Karygiannis, who is the author of the book.
“And so it is very important that we have the opportunity to educate Canadians on the history and the place of the Chinas.”
The book, which was published in English and Chinese, also highlights the cultural and historical importance of Chinese in Canada.
It also highlights some of the issues that have prevented many Canadian Chinese from moving to Toronto, including a lack, for example, of schools that provide Chinese language training.
“I think that the main issue is that Toronto has been under-resourced,” said Smith.
“It has not been able to offer the quality of a school, the kind of facilities that would allow for that kind of education.
And that is really a concern.”
Many Chinese have migrated to other cities to seek opportunities to learn English, but many remain stuck in China.
Many Chinese, especially those living in Toronto’s inner city, have become a part-time or seasonal workforce, which is a concern for the city.
“If you look at what’s happening in the inner city in the GTA, we have seen a lot of the young Chinese coming to work,” Smith told reporters.
“Some are working in restaurants and some are working at restaurants, and there are lots of people who are working, but it’s very difficult to find work for them.”
Toronto is the third largest city in Canada with more than one million Chinese residents.