Held every year at the end of June since it was first launched in 2013, Welcoming Ottawa Week (WOW) is a series of celebrations, cultural activities, sporting events, documentary screenings, talks, and other great events designed to welcome newcomers to Ottawa. WOW creates opportunities for immigrant and Canadian-born residents to connect and get to know each other; and to celebrate the flourishing diversity that has come to characterize Canada’s national capital. WOW 2016 was launched at Ottawa City Hall on World Refugee Day, June 20th, and concluded with celebrations on Canadian Multiculturalism Day, June 27th.
Chinatown & Little Italy Tours
As an exciting addition to this year’s WOW activities, Heritage Ottawa, the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, and the City of Ottawa partnered to offer guided walking tours of Chinatown and Little Italy. Funded by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), four tours – three in English and one in French – took participants on a journey of discovery through Ottawa’s Chinatown and Little Italy neighbourhoods. Though we tend to associate these neighbourhoods with the Chinese and Italian communities, they have always welcomed people from a great diversity of backgrounds. In addition to Italian and Chinese immigrants, Irish, Ukrainian, Polish, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Cambodian, and South American immigrants, among many others, have all made their home and left their mark in these neighbourhoods. Today, the Chinatown and Little Italy neighbourhoods have come to embody the multicultural Canadian mosaic in which Canadians live harmoniously and thrive not despite their differences, but because of them. Visit the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study website for the latest demographic data.
The Immigration Heritage Walking Tours were designed to showcase the contributions of immigrants to the social, cultural, and economic development and vitally of these neighbourhoods. The tours gave participants the opportunity to discover the treasure trove of history, food, art, architecture, places of worship, and the myriad of businesses that have flourished along Somerset and Preston Streets thanks to the efforts of successive generations of immigrants and their descendants.
We were fortunate to have three wonderful tour guides with extensive knowledge of these communities: Luciano Pradal, Don Kwan, and Tam-Ca Vo-Van. The tour groups also received a presentation from Dr. Can Le.
Listen to Don Kwan’s interview on CBC Radio.
Read this fascinating story from Luciano Pradal about his discovery of Frescos in Ottawa.
Check out some photos from the walking tours.
The 2016 tours were a great success, and the tour organizers have already begun planning more Immigrant Heritage Walking Tours for Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. Chinatown and Little Italy are just two of many Ottawa neighbourhoods that have welcomed – and continue to welcome – new Canadians. The goal is to offer more tours, in more neighbourhoods, next year. Please check back soon for more information. In the meantime, everyone is welcome to contribute their suggestions in the comments area below.