Nanaimo has had four different Chinatowns in its history. Browse the content in this section to discover the dates and locations.

first chinatown second chinatown third Chinatown fourth Chinatown

The Legacy:

Nanaimo’s Chinese settlers had a unique impact on the City’s history. Like all pioneers, they struggled against many obstacles and ultimately had to fight for recognition as Canadian citizens. After World War II, the removal of discriminatory immigration policy and acceptance of official multiculturalism allowed people of Chinese descent to take their place at all levels of Canadian society.

When I went to school, I wished I wasn’t Chinese. There was lots of name calling and discrimination. If I wasn’t Chinese, I wouldn’t have to face this. I wanted to get out of Chinatown. Everything was old, the buildings were firetraps . . . you couldn’t really improve it. The young generation didn’t want to live there. Once they saved some money, they wanted to get out and live like everyone else in the community. It was much better after World War II . . . since we’ve been allowed to vote. You felt really great. Over the years, when I was operating my own business, I got lots of support from the whole community.

Chuck Wong, on growing up in the Third Chinatown

I was always proud of my heritage. I felt I was as good as anyone. After grade 4 or 5, I was pretty well accepted by the white students as their equal. There was discrimination and bullying but I had to stand up against them otherwise you’d always be picked on. When World War II started, enlisting was something that had to be done. I joined the RCAF even before we were allowed to vote. Our family never lived in Chinatown. For those that resided there, they felt more secure amongst themselves. After 1947 when we got the vote, if you had the ability or desire, you could be anything you wanted. After 1947 all the official barriers were gone.

Dick Mah, on growing up in Nanaimo