With files from Simi Sara.
The image we have of Vancouver these days is of more and more development and busy, expanding neighbourhoods.
Yet there is one very distinct neighbourhood with an historic identity that is truly in the middle of a transformation.
Main and 49th
We know what Main and 49th used to be and what many still call it – Little India. But after a visit there it became clear it is not the Punjabi Market it used to be.
Once known and celebrated for it’s cultural vibrancy, now it’s storefront after closed storefront.
Windows and doors papered over, with notes inviting customers to visit in their new location – which means over the bridge to Surrey.
“It’s not just for the Punjabi community anymore”
We took a walk down Main Street with Minister Harjit Sajjan, who now represents it as the MP for Vancouver South.
It is also the neighbourhood where he grew up, and he remembers when it was the destination for anything South Asian.
Minister Sajjan says even though it has evolved, there’s a still direct connection with the East Indian community.
“We’ve got a few proposals in place I’m working very closely with the city on, of having a seniors centre, and within that hopefully we’ll have some type of commemoration there that’s going to honour the history of Punjabi Market.
And he says it’s going to be interesting to see what the area evolves into.
“Now you have a much larger Filipino community, you have a greater Muslim community that’s come in, but the one thing that doesn’t change is how we all grew up, and it’s just about being Canadian.”
At one time the neighbourhood was called South Hill. That was back in the 1950s.
Names have changed, and people have come and gone, and maybe some of that history, and how it’s a natural part of any neighbourhood, has been forgotten.
“My regiment that I commanded had deep roots in South Vancouver… that’s why Memorial Park on 44th is called Memorial Park…so many people were recruited from this area to fight in the different wars.
“There was a huge German population in this area as well..and as time passes the community has evolved. It’s been like a multi-cultural evolution in South Vancouver.”