Culture clash or unwarranted fears? Community leaders say residents wrong

GlobalTV reports on unhappy residents at UBC

UPDATE: Well, our commenters have told me I’m all wet on this item. The residents of the building are over-reacting say community leaders like Tung Chan and BC Lee. The "research centre" proposed beside the building is indeed a hospice, and whether that got lost in translation, it appears that UBC is putting this development on hold until a review of the project while they work through the controversy.

As for my attempt to see this from a different standpoint, well, it has not been well-received by the majority of readers who left a comment. I must admit seeing both Tung’s and BC’s reactions, as well as learning more about the struggles the facility have had getting constructed, have me reconsidering my position. Here’s the argument I put forward on Thursday.


province-cover-20110113 I’ve read the story featured on the front cover of today’s Province newspaper, and watched the lead story on today’s GlobalTV Noon News (posted above). I do not represent myself as an expert on Chinese cultural matters, but I understand the point they are trying to make.

And unlike the vast majority of comments I’ve read on, I support these residents in their concerns about a new development moving in next door.

Last month a national furor was set off by those who felt that Maclean‘s magazine were deliberately racist when they described the way some campuses are handling high numbers of Chinese university applicants. I read that piece and didn’t see how it could be interpreted as a racist message, but spoke to a couple of folks who saw it differently.

Today’s story by The Province is, in my opinion, is more heated rhetoric around race and status than the Maclean‘s story. Note the use of "swanky highrise" on the newspaper’s cover, and the word "posh" and "upscale" to describe the building. There’s a palpable contempt for the residents because they’re well off, yet harbour suspicions about ghosts.

A detail reported only in Tanya Beja’s GlobalTV story mentions is that residents buying into this building were mislead by sellers into thinking that the empty lot next door would have a research centre, not a hospice. One person suggested to me this is symptomatic of UBC’s weak governance system – who do you take these complaints and concerns to on campus? In most cities you have systems in place to deal with such disputes.

The comments left on both the digital and web versions of are rather disturbing, but unfortunately, predictable. Lots of anger directed at people who, many suggest, should pack up and leave because they don’t accept Canadian customs. Reading Damian Inwood’s story though, I’m not surprised that there is such an emotional reaction. If I didn’t know anything at all about Chinese customs and their deeply held views about luck and spirits, I might also react dismissively.

In my Fraser Street neighbourhood I live just a few blocks from the Mountain View Cemetery. I’m somewhat familiar with traditional angst about our symbols of death from living around here. It explained why when many parts of the eastside were being redeveloped two decades ago with Vancouver Specials popular with Chinese buyers, developers skipped the blocks beside the cemetery, preferring to build new homes elsewhere. Many older homes still stand around here as a result.

Vancouver is a place so steeped with history and connections to China and her people, we rightfully earn the designation as a true Pacific city. We’re not some outpost of European fur traders anymore. It absolutely amazes me that despite living together for 125 years, many here on the left coast don’t know much about the Chinese culture in their midst.

CTV’s new co-anchor Mike Killeen even has a fairly representative viewpoint, evidenced by this tweet from this afternoon:

Who ya gonna call – ? Some folks on the westside don’t want a in their ‘hood. Boo!? @

Posh, westside, swanky, upscale. I guess it’s just a bunch of rich, superstitious people who can’t get with the program.

While media coverage might lead you to think that the people residing in that tower at UBC are wealthy, I have my doubts. One resident claimed that the family’s life savings are invested in their home purchase (pretty common these days). How many families are living cheek by jowl in condo apartments around town? It would appear they are in this building too.

While we shouldn’t bend over backwards to accommodate these kinds of concerns, UBC is doing a lot of greenfield development and presumably has options on where to locate the hospice. But the example of a community group in Richmond a few years ago, which shut down plans for a mental health and addictions facility, is a circumstance we shouldn’t tolerate.

From the comments made by UBC representatives, it appears that this concern caught them off guard, but they plan to do something about it. While most of us might not resent having a facility like this move nearby, it’s pretty clear that those living next door would be deeply affected by it. The right thing in this instance will be to find another location to build the hospice.

What do you think? Should the residents just work through their fears and keep plans to build the hospice as is, or should UBC find a way to be ‘culturally sensitive’ in this matter?


UPDATE: This evening the Globe and Mail reports the project is "on hold" (thx, spartikus for the link) due to concerns over cultural sensitivities. A respectful and passionate discussion has broken out beneath this post, almost unanimously disagreeing with my position. Remarks by former city councillor BC Lee are most poignant:

I suggest new immigrants should learn how we Canadians respect the life and dignity of each individual and treat them as a member of a community with peace and love and caring. They should be careful not to judge us as if we are the the country and community from where they tried to leave.

Even Tung Chan reportedly described the position of the residents as "overstated".

I have to salute those who leave their comments here. It’s a breath of fresh air compared what I was reading elsewhere earlier. Thanks for your input.

– post by Mike

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  • Jen

    I agree that we should be sensitive and respectful of others’ cultural beliefs. And I know all too well how the media can bait a story to make it more racially charged that it should.
    But I find it hard to have sympathy for residents who seem to be (like every other good Vancouver NIMBY-er) more concerned with their property values than actual cultural significance.

  • Andrew

    Would it be bad karma if a 20-storey high-rise was built next door instead? We live in Canada, not China or other country with cultural traditions being questioned, etc. What would the scenario be if the roles were reversed? Would the existing culture get trumped? How hypocritical is that?
    At some point a building will likely be built next to this one at UBC…let’s hope the cultural argument doesn’t get too much say in what type of building that is.

  • Dave Smith

    This is Canada. The only cultural values we should be sensitive to are the Canadian ones of showing respect and dignity to the elderly and dying, not greed based concern about financial gain or baseless concerns about “ghosts”
    Fine, no hospice. Put in a homeless shelter or a halfway house instead!

  • Max

    Sorry Mike:
    I cannot agree with you on this one.
    We, Canada, have gone overboard on both ‘cultural sensitivity’ and ‘political correctness’.
    People immigrate to Canada for a reason (as did my grandparents).
    We welsome you, but leave your issues at the door.

  • George

    @ Mike
    I must admit, I saw the news piece, read the comments in the province and I had the same opinion as most of the posters….
    Until I read your article.. I must say your story has given me a different view of the situation. I do believe everything is getting blown out of proportion, due to the knee jerk reaction of the residents trying to get their point across…
    I must admit a smile crossed my lips as I read Dave Smiths comment. It was a little funny, all things considered in the big picture.
    I just hope this issue is one of culture clash and not money, but your explanation of the culture has had a big influence on my opinion.
    Nothing about this issue is black and white…many points to ponder.
    Thanks Mike, you’ve given us a different prospective to think about.

  • @Max. I’m not afraid to be wrong, and may be in this matter. This is a difficult issue as I see it. If the residents were driven only by greed I wouldn’t be bothered. The statements of the woman saying she was kept up at night (either from fear of ghosts, or huge losses in property value), I think UBC needs to find more effective ways to plan their communities.
    Btw, I highly doubt that Vancouver’s Chinese media are treating the story in the same way. It would be interesting to get a transcript.
    @George. Thanks. I can only try.

  • bc lee

    UBC did make a mistake in not proactively communicate with the residents.
    UBC made many mistakes in their development projects lack of a macro-perspective.
    But that doesn’t mean that the protestors are rational in their demands.
    I do not identify the residents’ concerns as a “cultural” issue.
    Confucius taught us to care for the youth, the elderly and the people who are dying. Please check “Confucius:The Commonwealth”.
    The residents protested only because they think that the hospice will lower their “ property value”….It’s all about money.
    The residents demands are merely about ignorant, arrogant and selfish.
    Ignorance to believe that the hospice will bring disorder and horror to the community;
    Arrogance to believe that people who are dying should be left alone and not to bring bad luck to their neighbor’s children;
    Selfish to think that their property value is all this community should be concerned about, which is also arrogant because no property value was ever effect by any hospice.
    Mike: I appreciate your trying to be culturally sensitive. But I do not agree with your conception that what the Chinese residents over there represents anything that is called “Chinese Cultural”. I really appreciate what our community does to the people who are in need. When I visited some public care home for my father, I was moved by the respect and upmost peaceful environment they serve to the people who are reaching the end of their journey, in particular the “hospice”, which is usually adjucent to care homes and hospitals. The Hospices is a place that gives respects to the dying. Your job is to show them our cultural which respects the dignity of any individual human life and not to join them with the cheap sentimental of “bad fong sui”. Help them understand what the facility will do to our society. Tell them why Canada is such a great place to be in because we care about every and each human life. We do not push people away simply because they are dying. The resident at UBC is not showing anything that is of cultural significant to the Chinese community. They are merely arrogant, selfish and ignorant.
    I suggest new immigrants should learn how we Canadians respect the life and dignity of each individual and treat them as a member of a community with peace and love and caring. They should be careful not to judge us as if we are the the country and community from where they trid to leave.
    They might have reasons to reject a “house for the dying” back from their old environment, but they need to learn that they have no reason to protest against a “hospice”, — a home of caring that is a Canadian institution. We will all someday end up appreciating having a hospice as our final destination for this life journey in our own neighborhood.
    I do agree that it is UBC’s responsibility to help people understand this issue in essense. Afterall, UBC is an educational institution.

  • Delia Wheelright

    This story is utter nonsense. Ghosts? Give me a break1 Superstitious hokum! Build the hospice and provide a dignified, supportive environment for persons with terminal illnesses. The neighbours are being totally ridiculous!

  • Max

    Mike, it is not a matter of being right or wrong. It is a matter of opionion.
    One of my closest friends is Canadian, born of Chinese parents who came here rougly 60 years ago.
    Her father passed away when she was 20 – lung cancer.
    Every year during Chinese New Year, the family goes to his grave with a feast of all the meals he loved. They have a celebration of his life.
    And from what she has told me, they have people directing ‘traffic’ at the gravesite as this is ‘tradition’ and this is whay families do – some bring portable picnic tables.
    I was lead to believe that the Chinese look after their elderly. That the young look after the old.
    So someone needs to explain to me what is different in this situation.

  • boohoo

    Also, the notion that they were mislead by the sellers into thinking the empty lot would be this or that–irrelevant. Buyer beware.

  • Jan

    Actually, it IS going to be used for research. Out of the twelve locations UBC proposed, this one, according to
    Peter Hebb, Vancouver spokesman for the Order of St. John, said: “It is the best one suitable for hospice uses that can link with the Faculty of Medicine’s academic and research component in the field of palliative care.”
    “The integrated research component and the proximity to the UBC Faculty of Medicine provide a rare service to improving health services to the most vulnerable… There is no other physically separate hospice on the west half of Vancouver.”
    Anyway, since the residents were not made aware that the research next door was going to be about palliative care and that they would not have bought there had they known, then compensate them for the move, inconvenience and any losses from the sale (totally unlikely).
    But do NOT move the hospice! We’re going to need improved knowledge about caring for people at the last stage of their life (particularly as the world’s biggest demographic becomes seniors at a time when we’re failing to provide enough care and beds for the ones we have now!), and if this is the best spot for research, then this is where is should be built!

  • spartikus

    The project is cancelled
    Of note:

    Tung Chan, the former head of Success, a Vancouver group that works with Chinese immigrants, said the cultural concerns were “overstated.”
    “No doubt that is her belief, and no doubt she represents a portion of the Chinese-Canadian community,” Mr. Chan said. “But bear in mind that there are 600,000 Chinese-Canadians in the Lower Mainland … so for people to say that there is a strong aversion to death, I would say that is overstated.”

  • Hey Mike,
    Good post. I have to say I disagree with you but the details are not important. This article was a good example of sensitive writing on a difficult topic, especially when you may (so far as I can tell) hold a minority opinion.
    As someone who has been ‘team flamed’ in comment sections of blogs (including this one) for offering a respectful opinion,I hope that your space here on this article remains as civil as your post.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    Sorry Georga and Mike,
    Going to vehemently disagree with both of you.
    Ms. Fan clearly stated in the Province story that this was also a question of property values.
    While she might have a real feeling of superstition, as we mightwe all (I avoid walking under ladders), she needs to separate her fears of the “not very likely”, from the reality of how we share our neighbourhoods. She accepts that there is a hospital nearby, ready to serve her and her family and neighbours–and people from around the city. People die there too. If she is ill and needs medical assistance, will she avoid using that facility?
    Further, she needs to really think about what this facility’s intent is—and what it is not.
    It’s intent is to serve all cultures and races.
    It does not pose a physical danger to her or her friends and family.
    To her second argument, having a hospice or palliative care facility in the ‘hood is not proven to lessen property values.
    Oddly, Ronal MacDonald House exists in a far tonier neighbourhood (Shaughnessy) than that the one that Ms. Fan lives in. I haven’t heard about a neighbourhood call for “Ghostbusters” to remedy “bad luck” there. And, the last time I looked at property values there, well, they hadn’t gone down. 😉
    For arguments sake, let’s say that a Vancouver neighbourhood is populated mostly by Mainland Chinese, who follow Ms. Fan’s belief set. Does this mean that “cultural belief’s” from the majority in a single enclave trump the good that could be provided to others outside the immediate area?
    Look, there is Asian immigrant “nimbyism’ as much as there is bred-in-Canada “nimbyism” in Vancouver, so let’s stop pandering to this particular nod to “multi-culturalism” and stop trying to make excuses for the inexcusable.
    While it sounds like UBC Community Planning didn’t engage the neighbours very well in the first place, the only other action that needs to be taken here is to get Ms. Fan up to speed on what constitutes good citizenship.
    Hmmm. Maybe that is a course that all Vancouverites should take.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    PS Kudos to Tung Chan, those in the Chinese media and to all in the Asian community who have disavowed Ms. Fan’s reasoning.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    Beautifully put, BC.

  • Bob

    I find your mealy-mouthed editorial disgusting Mike. This is nothing more than pandering to somebody’s superstitious mumbojumbo at the expense of the proven need of giving people end of life care. Ghosts? Give me a frickin’ break!
    UBC can rest assured that this alumni will not be giving them one red cent of my money, but then I guess offending some of their deep pocketed Asian donors overrides commonsense and compassion.

  • Toowoozy

    Sorry but this is nothing but a pandering editorial, pure and simple.
    And lets get this straight – IT IS A HOSPICE! Not a residential development, and certainly not comparable to a cemetery!
    It is a building that will be staffed with people committing to an amazing noble cause to support those of all cultures who are in their waning days.

  • Bill McCreery

    There do seem to be 2 sides to this discussion. If in fact the ghosts concern is valid, perhaps the neighbours fears do need to be respected, perhaps not.
    I can say to those neighbours as an architect who designed the St. James Cottage Hospice in Burrard View Park, that there is no more caring and supportive place for any person to pass to the other world than a hospice. As well, the building itself can be designed in such a way as to be a gentle, good neighbour while providing a very important service to those who need it and their families. I am confident that if this were done, the property values would not be adversely affected, they might well be increased.

  • Toowoozy

    Further, if the cultural sensitivity has to do with the bad luck that is allegedly derived from people who are dying (as seen on global tv) – do they not realize we are all dying; that is are eventuality, it’s just a matter of how close we are to that inevitability.

  • Rick Vespasian

    The residents who are organizing this protest disgust me.

  • yuri

    Very disappointed with your take on this Mike. Very sad that people can feel this way about those in their last days. Just disgusting actually and any reprecussions the residents feel is well earned. Maybe the premise of karma will prevail on them all.
    This whole story makes me sick and I have lost a little respect for my fellow asian citizens. Very sad.

  • yuri

    Sorry i meant to say asian neighbours. I wouldn’t want people to think I am representing myself as a fellow asian when I am not. Sorry for the typo.

  • Max

    ‘Lin’, the one woman interviewed stated ‘no one would buy these places’ if the hospice goes ahead. And then she corrected herself to ‘No Asians’ would buy this place.
    I guess the rest of society are let out of living in that building.

  • Stef

    I strongly believe that a society is judged upon how it treats it’s young, dying and most vulnerable. I was also an immigrant to this country and my family strongly believes that we chose Canada because of how people treat each other here. Many years later now, I teach immigrants (mostly Asian). Cultural values are still an important part of how I approach each class I teach. Last year, our school raised money for Canuck Place…and yes, I had to thoroughly explain how valued this hospice is to the families who need it….and you never know when you may also need this type of care. I was surprised at the initial resistence of our students to help but after putting forth faces and stories and asking our students to write letters to the families and patients, the students went full-out and felt good about their contributions. My advice to the residents would be to plan to volunteer at the hospice, give back to the community and country that has welcomed them with open arms and set a good example to their children. If this hospice is not opened there as planned, please build it across from my home! I would be honored to live next to such brave and courageous neighbours and their families.

  • JS

    2 points;
    – if it’s about good/bad luck why does the largest concentration of chinese live on an island, a few feet above water, in an earthquake zone??
    – I suppose those living in that tower have a greater value than those in a hospice – alas, wea are NOT all equall.
    ANY support of their whining is dysfunctional at best

  • bobh

    I don’t think we should disregard the neighbors’ legitimate concerns, but we can question their legitimacy. On questions of cultural clashes or alleged cultural clashes, we have to place first emphasis on what is the traditional Canadian way of conducting ourselves. After all this is Canada, not China and we do expect our immigrant friends to accommodate their traditions to Canada’s.Compassion for the sick and dying is a tradition in Canada and should trump any suggestion it is “unlucky” for neighbors. I have been suspicious of the Chinese belief in feng shui ever since I listed my west side hoe for sale some years ago. We face a laneway on the opposite side of our street. Some Chinese buyers explained that our lot’s location had bad feng shui, but if we reduced our asking price by $200,000 then the bad feng shui would no longer exist. That made the situation clearer, and better defined the Chinese superstitions.

  • Rob

    My initial reaction was one of utter and complete disgust with the heartless and self-indulgent attitude expressed by these people.
    In retrospect, perhaps this protest presents Canadians –and UBC in particular — with an opportunity to educate our Chinese neighbours, and to show them that there is nothing to fear from a hospice, a place where care and compassion is shown to those who need it in the short time they have left on this earth.
    I feel it’s incumbent on UBC, as a place of higher education, to dispel myth, promote understanding, and foster critical thinking. Yielding to the unfounded fears of the ignorant would be contrary to the raison d’etre of any place of higher learning.

  • Miguel

    It’s pretty clear that this is a wrongly perceived “property value” concern topped with a nice race card for sympathy. I think this has backfired tremendously for this greedy group.

  • Seriously?

    Every carbon based life form dies. It is a slippery slope down to it would be impossible to live next to anyone or anything because every life is going to end in death, sometimes sickness before death. Also, if they are up at UBC, they are near a hospital and biology labs that house animal research facilities. Is there some kind of perimeter or distance imperative that makes living near this sick, suffering, dying and death stuff alright?
    I will admit that I am particularly sensitive to this story. I have watched a parent and am now dealing with a close friend who is dying of cancer. If you never have the opportunity to do this in your life, that is too often. It is an awful process. It is physically exhausting, it is messy and gross, it is long and it is filled with grief. I am just speaking for the caretakers, for the patient, it is much, much worse. No one WANTS to live next door to the sick and dying, let alone watch it happen up close. However, it is part of being human. It is part of being humane. People who are in a terminal phase deserve all the respect, dignity and assistance that can be given to them, regardless of how difficult the process may be.
    If you don’t want to live next door to a hospice – move. I am sure that someone who is not culturally pre-disposed to not living next to the terminally ill will buy the condo and will pay market price for it. Or, I am sure there is some kind of feng shui or other belief based element or evil spirit barrier or firewall that can be placed on the property to ward off the evil spirits of the people who have the temerity to be sick and die in the vacinity. My culture believes in faeries and leprechauns – excuse me little people, leprechauns is considered derogatory – I would be happy to call upon any of these to assist in this situation.
    I fully accept that the hospice may not be built in order to placate the residents. Because I am a civilised and community oriented human being, I will live with that when it happens, but I will not like it. I believe the behaviour and words of these residents are disgraceful. They are being disrespectful, immature and insensitive. I am going to give exactly the same amount of sensitivity and respect for these residents as they have shown to the patients who need this facility.

  • Ross Doherty

    The vast majority of settlers in Vancouver in the early days were Scots.
    What amazes me is that despite 125 years of living together many Chinese living here on the left coast are unaware of the rich Scottish culture in they’re midst.

  • Good to see that other Chinese are separating themselves from the comments that Janet Fan and the other condo owners have made.
    Here are two important things to remember about UBC’s behaviour for a number of years :
    (1) UBC is supposed to be focused on education. However, it has been involved in disgraceful real estate deals with developers to market high end housing on endowment land which was supposed to be used for higher ed. Like the whole of the Lower Mainland, UBC is well on the way to becoming an environmentsl disaster. The province should have investigated UBC’s real estate activities long ago.
    (2) UBC’s primary purpose has been to provide university education for B.C. students. Yet, like many in Canada’s politically correct herd of independent thinkers, its current President Stephen Toope has recently stated an alternate purpose : “Diversity is a key to (students’) future well-being.” In November, Toope went on a trip to India with 14 other university presidents to recruit foreign students. Supposedly, one of the purposes of this visit was to bring additional revenue to UBC and other universities. However, the former President of the Council of Ontario Universities and former head of Trent University has stated that foreign student tuition fees “are not money-makers”.
    The result of Toope’s (and predecessors’ activities) is that UBC now has a student body that is well over 50% Asian and well on the way to becoming a mono-culture. How much “diversity” is in a mono-culture? No one objects to people of Asian background who were born here becoming students at UBC. But most would object to importing students from Asia for highly questionable economic reasons. Most would like to know what percentage of UBC’s students are foreign students who have been brought here with the intent of profiting from their presence.
    Most would also like to know what effects Toope’s (and other university presidents’) moves are having on Canadian students of both mainstream and Asian background. Toope and his colleagues should know that many students could not find summer jobs in 2010 to support themselves this year. Many have had to take on debt. When these students graduate, many will have to compete with foreign students for employment—thanks to an immigration policy of encouraging foreign students to stay in Canada.
    Furthermore, many B.C. students are already competing with both foreign students and recently-arived immigrants for a limited number of places in UBC faculties. Toope and his colleagues should know, but probably don’t know, that most of this immigration of over 5 million people since 1990 was completely unnecessary. In fact, it was outright political fraud. But Toope and others have cheerled it. B.C. and the rest of Canada needs a thorough investigation of this entire topic. (See for details.)
    As for delaying the building of a hospice to accommodate Chinese sensitivities, UBC should be telling Janet Fan and her fellow condo owners that this is Canada. It is not a colony. If they don’t want to adapt to the culture here, they have a place they can return to.
    Toope and UBC should develop the backbone to get off their knees and publicly say this and much more.

  • CultureIsEverything

    Mike, I can’t believe you’re going to cow-tow to your racist commenters. Go with your gut.
    I completely agree with your original position. If this hospice location will cause significant distress due to the cultural values of the residents on UBC campus, it should be built elsewhere. UBC has plenty of land, including the very large south campus location that is only half-developed. This is not about whether the hospice should exist, but where, and there are other options.
    From the comments on this and other sites, I can only conclude that the “tossed salad” and “cultural mosaic” notions of ethnic diversity that Canadians just love to brag about are total bullshit.

  • ITK

    If this truly is some kind of cultural taboo for those living near this future facility, then fine, let a public hearing about it go forward and get the community’s take. But, how far do we take cultural sensitivity when it starts to impede on our government and institutions providing needed care and services for it’s citizens??
    However, if, as BC Lee and a few others have suggested, this is mostly about property values, then what they are doing is quite cynical and devious. It’s not like they are building a new Insite right next door. It’s a medical facility for people who are dying. For crying out loud, how cold-hearted do you have to be to protest against something like this?

  • That Angry Taxpayer

    Sorry, Culture Is Everything, totally disagree. You are wrong.
    We can have a 100 different cultural values from people from around the world, each vying for supremacy over their little piece of Vancouver, and operating ynder culturla “rules”.
    Or we can decide what our common values are as a humanistic society and how they can will serve all.
    In the end, as per the Province article and the interviews with the tenants of the building, this is also about property values and NIMBYISM.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    Wow, too many typos. Hope you all get the gist of my previous comment.
    Mike, I think that your rethink and the update of the headline is a good move. Have heard from many from the Asian and Asian-Canadian community who are distressed that this particular group at UBC has made such inflammatory and divergent statements on the reason they don’t want a hospice.
    Not one beleives it’s about “culture”.

  • Ernie Street

    The hospice needs to stay.
    If you’d like to voice your outrage that the UBC Planning group is even considering to changing the location of the hospice, here’s the director of Planning’s email:
    I am a UBC alum, and every year I donate money to UBC as support. I promise you that if they move that hospice, I will stop my support of UBC. And I will make it my mission to convince all my UBC alum friends to do the same.
    These selfish condo owners need to have some respect and for the people of the hospice. Absolutely shameful.

  • Max

    Just curious CulturesEverything:
    How do you think it would work in a reverse situation in China.
    Do you truly think the Chinese government would bend their rules to appease immigrants living on their lands?
    Not a chance.

  • CultureIsEverything

    If you don’t live on UBC campus, why do you care where on campus the Hospice is built. And what did you think about the fact that the students already had the originally planned location moved because they wouldn’t be able to party as hard?
    UBC has plenty of land.
    Perhaps there is a better location for terminally ill patients to die peacefully than DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM THUNDERBIRD STADIUM. The caps are to show how loud the stadium can get.

  • CultureIsEverything

    The gov’t is not involved. It’s a question of whether UBC will be respectful of the cultural values of the residents it has attracted here by developing its lands to support the UBC endowment. I have no idea what they would do in a similar situation in China. It’s irrelevant.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    Tell me, Culture, does “culture” trump the common good? Other neighbourhoods, far more epensive that UBC, have mental health (Dunbar) or hospices (Shaughnessy). We needn’t point out that the DTES carries more than it’s share of treatment facilities.
    These places serve people from around the city.
    Why should “culture” trump care, or, the common good?
    And where is it that the claim of “culture” is just an excuse for nimbyism (that you can find anywhere). It has been noted—and you want to ignore—that the residents have also mentioned that they thought their real estate values would slide.
    I don’t care what superstitions/spiritialy/religious cultural values an individual has,or believes in because here, you are certainly allowed to believe what you want—but your culture, or claim of culture, cannot—and must not—supercede the duty and responsibility we all bear, when it comes to looking after the unfortunate.
    Culture does not trump the common good, here in Canada. That outlook and belief, that one cultural group is no more important than any other, is what makes this such an attractive place for immigrants. People from many different places who come here have the opportunity to think as they want, as well as to become part of the fabric of this country.
    That does not mean that what they think will usurp some very straightforward Canadian community values, that most do accept. Deal with it.

  • Bill McCreery

    If one wants to find out if real estate values because of a hospice in their community have declined I suggest they speak to the neighbours around the Cottage hospice off Wall Street in Vancouver.
    Perhaps UBC might also look at that model. We incorporated a “Community Room” in the lower level which the local neighbourhood uses as an extension of the Hastings Community Centre. It’s actually brought the community together in that neighbourhood. That and the residents next door volunteering at the hospice would be positive steps forward.

  • CultureIsEverything

    No one is saying there shouldn’t be a Hospice at UBC. But surely UBC can consider other locations on its campus, large parts of which are undeveloped. Some Asians observe cultural prohibitions against living near places related to death. So it puts them in a difficult position if a Hospice is built next to their home. I don’t believe this is your garden-variety NIMBYism and I don’t see anything wrong with appealing to UBC to consider other options. Maybe there’s a solution that works for everybody.

  • Vancouver Citizen

    So now land use planning decisions should be based on superstition and fear of “ghosts”? This is absolutely nuts!

  • The Angry, But Hopeful, Taxpayer

    With regards to locating, I know that the university tried other sites, that, yes, were rejected by other groups, though not for the purported reason of “culture”.
    And while I don’t pretend to know (or would approve of) the reasons as to why the university decided to not locate there (I have heard that Wreck Beach Society, who reject all development near the beach, and a student residence area, were being looked at), I have to say that at some point the University has to make a decision.
    I would say that they have looked at many available spots. The piece of land that the hospice might have gone on off of Marine Drive might have been rejected for a lot of reasons, including, finally, reasons from the Community Planning Office.
    St. John’s Hospice Society itself supports the hospice going in at the West Mall. One of the reasons: the hospice is part of a research study, and physically closer to the researchers and their facilty.
    But back to our original debate: in bringing up the reason of “cultural differences” as way to reject the hospice, the people at the Prometory have, I think, done themselves a terible disservice, in so many ways. They look self-absorbed, unneighbourly and appear sadly lacking in compassion to the dying.
    By then tying that reason to a loss in property value, they have not only undercut their primary stated argument, but have made thenselves look foolish and only interested in their own personal gain, in the bargain.
    I attach two stories for you. The first is from today’s Globe & Mail column from Gary Mason.
    And, serendipitously, another story in today’s Globe, that tells us of the Cinese government’s rather interesting rehabilitation of Confucius to everyday Chinese life.
    A Canadian scholar, Daniel Bell who teaches at Tsinghua University in Beijing and is the author of “China’s New Confucianism” says this: “I think the reason that Confuscianism is being revived is precisely that there are so many problems in China that need some sort of answer. There’s a need for an increased sense of social responsibility…people sense a kind of moral vacuum”.
    So, the humanity of Confucius is replacing the dialectic of Mao and Marx, and becomes an appealing figure to a government wrestling with issues of harmony, ethics and a very angry populace.
    “The Chinese are a nation without religion. We believe only in ourselves”, said a 48 year-old businessman and former soldier who gave only his family name, Zhang. “Mao’s theories, to speak frankly, are not as tolerant as those of Confucius. It’s a lucky thing to see (the statue of Confucius) now in Tiananmen Square”.
    I put it to you then, Culture,
    that perhaps “tolerance” and “compassion” brings its own “luck”.
    I would be very happy to share my own very lucky and even happy experiences in volunteering service to the dying, with Ms. Fan or any of the other residents at the Prometary.
    Again, quoting from Mr. Mason’s article:
    “Immigrants make a pact when they become Canadians. They promise to abide by the laws of the country and otherwise fulfill the duties and responsibilities that their fellow citizens have undertaken to perform”
    We don’t ask immigrants to repeal or turn their back on cultural practices that are important to them, as long as they don’t offend the sensibilities of a majority of Canadians. To the extent that we demand they assimilate, we hope they adopt the value and belief system upon which this country is built.”
    Culture, I hope that when the UBC Community Office meets with the residents of the Prometory, that they will be able to educate them in a way that allays all their fears.
    The need for a compassionate and caring place for the dying, in a clean, quiet, well-run hospice (that really is an enhanced level of hospital care), is an asset that is benefits us all. I also hope that residents really think about this situation, and discover a way to show goodwill to their fellow Canadians.

  • CultureIsEverything

    I don’t believe this is about a lack of tolerance or compassion. And it’s not about how a cultural group supports the dying. In fact, some of the concerned residents believe people at the end stages of life should spend it in a peaceful setting, not across from a noise sports and music venue. UBC has other options and I hope they will listen to the residents in their community who hope for a solution that works for all stake-holders. That’s all I have to say. Angry Taxpayer, let’s agree to disagree.
    Peace out.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    We will have to agree to disagree, Culture. I think the media coverage has been fair, given what the residents had to say.

  • Bob

    CulturelsEverything, I can’t help wondering if you have some personal interest in this, given your vehemence about shunting the dying off to some corner.
    Isn’t it funny that Chinese don’t seem to have any problems living close to Normandy Hospital at King Ed and Macdonald? And I had to laugh at Ms. Lin’s interview on TV, she certainly did a horrible job of representing Chinese immigrants, with her hysterical rantings about ghosts coming to get her and her family.
    Finally, its a bit ironic playing the “poor little immigrant” card when you’ve bought a million dollar home in the sky.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    The concern and well-being for the dying was absolutley NOT in evidence in the videos I saw, or in the accounts in the papers.
    I think that claiming that the resident’s are actually concerned about noise from the stadium around the dying is…well, let’s say disingenuous, at best.
    Like the creme de la creme remark several years ago from that woman in Kerrisdale, I wish the residents would just recognize that they have represented themselves poorly, and offended the majority of Vancouvites of all nationalities/cultures in this matter.

  • Toowoozy

    One only needs to take a look at the Cross Roads hospice located right in the new town centre area of Port Moody adjacent to Newport village. I do not recall when this hospice was being proposed that there was a rallying cry from the community to ask this organization and its clients to look elsewhere so as to accommodate cultural sensitivity – there was not, any cultural sensitivity was put aside for the greater good of the individuals and the greater good of the community.
    This hospice does not take away from the community – it enhances it, making it truly a community that is inclusive – isn’t that the intent of a community. This community demonstrates its diversity and demonstrates its intent to help those less fortunate, not a community of special interests and exclusivity.

  • Bill McCreery

    Culture, your suggestion that the noise from the Stadium makes the location inappropriate is not valid IMO. The people in hospices are in a variety of conditions from being quite normal to unconscious. And, some stay only days, others for months. One of the benefits to help maintain their spirits (pun not intended) is to have other external connections so that they are aware the world is out there and that life goes on. The Cottage Hospice is located in Burrard View Park immediately adjacent to a day care and a clihdren’s playground.

  • Florence

    The key is whether the residents’ concerns are genuine or simply NIMBY. As a resident in the Hawthorn area of UBC, I believe that I know more about these residents than many who have made comments here. So far their media representation is really bad, but I guess that’s understandable as the majority are new immigrants moms with children. This group of people are mostly very quiet, not vocal at all in the community, again due to their limited English proficiency. This is actually the fist time when I hear their voicing their opinion. So I believe their concern is genuine and should be taken seriously.

  • Toowoozy

    Florence, I certainly agree their opinion is genuine – everybody’s opinion is genuine, but what concerns me is their position appears to be one of intolerance, that of those who are disabled or who are ill. This should not be an argument of: well lets send them to a place that is more appropriate for their kind, the dying kind apparently.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    Florence, here’s the thing.
    While all Canadians have traditions/superstitions/beliefs, those are NOT SUPERIOR to the need to look after the dying. That is a Canadian concept–we look after our dying in a community/neighbourhood setting, as much as we can. We also have other types of treatment facilities in neighbourhoods throughout the city.
    We do not insult the dying by saying that they will be “Dying in our backyards!”, and then, as another effort to stop the development, say that a facility like a hospice will affect our property values.
    That is just gross, rude, offensive behaviour. I know that the horrified reaction from the general population, as well as the news media has not been pleasant for the residents. I hope that they really think of how they have contributed to the problem.
    I think the “moms” have been very, very vocal, rough and ready to “march” on the president’s office—which is their right to do. BUT, I also think they didn’t think through, or understand, the Canadian way on this issue–or the reaction to their reasons.
    I also think sometimes that some people think that the majority will always give in to the loudest complainers, if they are loud enough. That is not the case here, as you can see. Many people have been offended and have pushed back–because we hold looking after the dying in community to be very, very dear to our hearts and our way of life.
    Presumably “our way of life” is what draws people from all over the world here. Our way of life is is not just the pretty mountains, the lovely ocean and the good climate that makes us who we are. It is how we treat and what we do for the unfortunate amongst us. Tung Chan and BC Lee and many, many other Chinese Canadians understand this—perhaps the West Mall residents should talk to these people.
    I wonder if the women went to the University Community Planning before they went roaring off to the media? If not, that should have been their first course of action.
    I don’t believe that they were just naive women. I do think that they were angry women. I think they hoped that by saying it was a “cultural” matter, that we, in this lovely, mostly accepting multi-cultural country, would say, well, that is the first consideration.
    But not this time. This time, we said “our culture accepts the dying, and that dying is part of life—and our culture”.
    Instead of making more excuses for themselves, I think it would be lovely if the residents at West Mall, really re-thought their presentation, and thought about how they could make things right with St. John’s and to people who need hospice care.
    This would not be a loss of face, but a note of grace.

  • TAP

    An update: Tung Chan interview today, online at Vancouver Sun

  • Bill McCreery

    The right answer to this dilemma is is not clear to me. But, what is clear is that we all can learn from this.

  • Florence

    I totally understand the general public attitude towards this group of residents in my neighborhood. And I agree that public decisions should not be based on superstitions of one specific culture. After heated debate in my family, husband and I decided that we will not take part in if there is a public vote on this issue in our community. My husband and I are born Chinese born, we both studied physical sciences, both work at UBC. However, he and I actually had some “cultural clashes” in the past few days when we discussed this issue. I was born and raised during the “cultural revolution era” in China, during this time, the government brainwashed people with communism, books were burned and traditions to the ground. My exposure to traditional Chinese rituals/superstitions might be quite minimal. However, as a child you pick up these things pieces here and there. I remembered that my elementary school was very far as we lived in the rural area. In between my home and the school there was a graveyard of another village. My mom escorted us everyday from home towards school, she’d return home after we passed the graveyard. My mom was a very busy woman as we needed to farm everything and she needed sew clothing for everyone in the family. She didn’t waste a minute of her time as far as I could remember. But she did this everyday for 5 years while I attended the school. Anyway, let’s keep it short. I don’t tout myself as Chinese expert, I do want to write down my understanding of the Chinese belief towards death and the dead. For Chinese, death only means the death of one’s physical body, but the spirit remains (the spirit becomes ghost in situations if the dead didn’t get treated fairly or long time illness etc). Another thing here is that hospice is a totally new concept to Chinese. In China, most people die in their homes, surrounded by family members. Aging parents normally move in with one child or the other way around. There is no hospice in China (maybe I am wrong here). I heard so many comments that these people should adopt the Canadian value system. Yes, true. But for something like this, it needs brainwash. Now another subject. If the hospice gets built, there is actually some direct impact to me personally. I do Taichi and meditation in the woods right next to the site. To me, the woods is my spiritual retreat. After the hospice gets built, I don’t think that I’d be staying there, at least not for while. My husband tells me to get over it. I might be able to conquer this, I might not. I don’t know. I can take in my selfishness and not voice any opposition to the hospice. But what about these other residents, who can not understand all this, can not read English, can not really participate in this debate. Their only way of expressing themselves is to rant, to express their anger, and that seems to be exactly what they did. In my opinion, something can be educated, something can not. However, we can rely on time. I am sure that these residents’ children will not have the same belief/superstition system as their parents. My understanding is that these families came to Canada mainly for the education of their children. The fathers normally stay behind, working hard to support the expenses in Canada. My don’t know the ladies appeared in the media, but I do know some moms in that building. They put their life savings in the purchase of the condo. And now they may have to move away as they might not be able to ever overcome their distress living next to a hospice. Is it fair that we have to insist building the hospice there if there are other locations to consider? I am sorry about the hurried writing.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    Thank you for writing back.
    I think it was very interesting to hear that even in your own family, this issue is making sparking conversation.
    I think I understand some of your personal experience. It must be a struggle to challenge yourself on the old ways, while learning the new. That certainly happens, all through our lives, doesn’t it? We can all have fear, going from things we have known, towards new experiences. As the grand-daughter of immigrants (who also spoke no English), I often heard stories of how hard it was, at first, to deal with the perceived differences, the differnces between the old and new world, the changes in attitude, some prejudice, and, yes, customs.
    But, for my grand-parents, part of their successful integration into Canadian life (without giving up their important beliefs), was to participate in the life here, and understand the customs.
    That made them understand that maybe there were other ways and other customs and beliefs that could complement their own from the old country, and help make them even better citizens, in this one.
    It wasn’t about NOT asking questions of authority (my grand-parents came from an authoritarian culture, and became involved in politics in Canada, because of that harsh experience in the old country), but it was about understanding that as much as they chose Canada, Canada also chose them— and that certain attitudes come with Candian citizenship.
    My grand-parents kept many of their emigre friends of course, but they figured out what the most important aspects of life here were, and they learned to accomodate and then, believe in them.
    They became very successful, both in life and in business, and part of that was due to that understanding. They did not become poorer for accepting Canadian ways; I think their lives became richer, and they lost the fear around “change”.
    I understand that fear can be ingrained in people and that it can be distressing to come to a new culture, one that doesn’t share those exact fears.
    I think it was very wise of you to note that new Canadians need to be educated on the hospice ideal. I would hate to call it “brainwash!” but maybe this is a different interpretation of that word. :-). I think the word is understanding–not just being told to accept, but in having the your own personal experience that shows you (perhaps even at another hospice) that there is nothing to fear.
    And while, yes, there is a good probability that second generation children, educated here, understand the laws and culture of Canada more fully than their parents, I urge you and any friends, as “first generation” Canadians, to not be shy about finding out about our customs and values. Everyone is here (including me) to be a good Canadian citizen and to help build a stronger country–for all.
    I would suggest that for those Prometary residents who do not speak English, perhaps you could be a guide for them, and get them to contact SUCCESS, and learn about hospices. It may be a comfort to them to speak to other people of Chinese background who understand the Canadian sensibility around this issue, and to talk to other Chinese Canadians who have had that experience with hospices.
    I believe that once your friends understand that there is no proof that they will lose value in the condos because of a hospice being next to it–ask the people who live near them in Shaughnessy or Granville!—that they can accept the fact that out of 12 locations that UBC looked at, this seems to one that will work–and serve all in the community—the best.
    I also think your husband offers you good advice when he says that if the hospice is built there, that you keep practicing tai chi near there. I see that you refer to the woods as your “spiritual retreat”. The woods also represent a “spiritual retreat” for many other Canadians. I feel quite comfortable in saying that you will find many fellow Canadians sharing that spiritual space with you, regardless of whether there is a hospice there.
    In fact, I think it would be wonderful if you taught classes in tai chi to fellow Canadians there.
    We have a lot we can learn from each other.

  • Fred

    We all recognize that the views of Ms. Fan and her fellow petitioners are reprehensilbe and unacceptable.
    Simple Solution:
    Ms. Fan and her fellow petitioners should apologize to UBC, its students, Vancouverites, British Columbians, Canadians for their shameful remarks and intentions and to the Chinese community for misrepresenting Chinese culture in the name of greed. They should then collectively create an endowment for the Hospice and each donate $1000 to it

  • K

    I think it’s similar to a case where you have a community of vegans and then having someone build a butcher’s shop right next to them. I mean, their own personal choices shouldn’t trump the common good right? Besides, Canadians eat meat! If they don’t like it, they can move. Honestly, these residences were marketed to superstitious asian people. This is evident in the fact that there is no fourth floor at the promotory. These are people squeamish enough about death, to actively avoid a fourth floor simple because the chinese word for four kind of sounds like the chinese word for death. So it’s well and fine to take advantage of these superstitions to increase the commerciality of these buildings – but when it comes time to live up to these promises, suddenly, these superstitions don’t matter?