Lunar New Year celebrations alongside Canada 150 experience

By Clive Ngan

As the firecracker’s deafening pop acquaints itself once again to unsuspecting ears, Ottawa’s Asian community prepares to celebrate the Lunar New Year, beginning Jan. 28, against the backdrop of a larger celebration – Canada’s 150th birthday.

Beyond including the Feb. 12 Lunar New Year event in Chinatown as a part of Winterlude, there will be no affiliation with either the federal or municipal government, Shirley Fang, executive co-ordinator of the Somerset Street Chinatown Business Improvement Area, said.

“This is our traditional (event) we always want to keep it,” Fang said. She explained that her organization considered partnering with the city, but backed off due to fear that it could result in a change to Lunar New Year traditions.

“On the federal side, we actually don’t know if there’s any funding… We’re just not aware of it,” Fang added.

Without a formal collaboration, some in Ottawa’s Asian community claim Canada 150 has actually been detrimental to planning cultural events.

“A lot of the corporate sponsors are advertising with the Canada 150,” Simon Huang, the project co-ordinator for the Ottawa Asian Fest, said. He points to the Ottawa BMW as an example.

“They’re a major sponsor for that in the city of Ottawa,” he said. “Because they fund that, the resource is limited in terms of what they can do for us.”

Now in its third year, the Ottawa Asian Fest will be ringing in the Lunar New Year with Winter Night Market 2017 in Gatineau, Que., from Jan. 20-22. The event, Huang said, will cost Ottawa Asian Fest $45,000. The Somerset Street Chinatown BIA’s festivities will cost roughly $5,000.

The federal government says there was certainly no intention for Canada 150 events to compete with other cultural events.

“The Government of Canada’s primary goal for the 150th anniversary of Confederation is to reach and inspire Canadians from all communities in Canada and to encourage them to participate and enhance celebrations of pre-existing and annual cultural events in 2017; including the Lunar New Year,” Geneviève Richard-Dubois, a spokesperson for the department of Canadian Heritage, said in a written statement.

According to the department website, groups can apply for up to $25,000 through the Inter-Action multiculturalism funding program if the event involves “more than one single cultural, religious or ethnic community.”

Through the program, the government “wishes to engage the broadest possible array of Canadians with a particular focus on initiatives involving youth, indigenous groups, official language minorities communities and groups that reflect Canada’s cultural diversity,” Richard-Dubois added.

Some of the Canada 150 mood is seeping into Lunar New Year events in Chinatown through red envelopes, Fang said. Traditionally, the envelopes contain small amounts of money and are given by married couples to children.