Sien Lok History

Established in 1968, the Sien Lok Society of Calgary was first founded to preserve Calgary’s Chinatown from demolition and/or relocation. The name “Sien Lok” was taken from the proverb “wai sien gee look” (to be charitable gives one of the greatest happiness). It was chosen to proudly display the core values of the Society’s members and served as a focus for a Society that embarked on an historic event for all Chinatown’s everywhere.

Under the guise of urban renewal, the City of Calgary originally intended on the construction of a roadway called the “East-West Penetrator” that would have guaranteed the elimination of the existing Chinatown. Sien Lok worked unceasingly to forge virtually all the family associations and political groups in Chinatown into one voice to save their way of life. However, Sien Lok quickly realized that the situation facing Calgary’s Chinese community was not unique as all over Canada, in cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, Chinatown’s were being eliminated by the relentless forces of urban development.

Sien Lok took the initiative to invite Chinese Communities, Urban Experts and Representatives of every level of government to convene in Calgary in an attempt to unite Canada’s Chinese citizens, for the first time in history, in a concentrated examination of the urban crisis threatening the existence of Chinatowns everywhere.

During April 6-9, 1969, Sien Lok hosted the National Conference of Urban Renewal as it affects Chinatown. The delegates, representing over 100,000 Chinese Canadians from all parts of the country, joined with experts in every affected field to probe the history and structure of Chinatowns, and to discuss the psychological, sociological and economic factors that govern the degree of Chinese integration and participation in the dominant Caucasian culture. The end results of the groundbreaking conference went far beyond the scope of the original conference objective. Indeed, it has guaranteed that Chinese communities and the Chinese culture would always be a part of the fabric of Canadian life.

Sien Lok succeeded dramatically in its original goal to preserve Calgary’s Chinatown and as a result, Calgary is the only city in Canada with a Chinatown identified in its bylaws. In living up to the legacy of our Chinese forefathers who pioneered Canada, Sien Lok continues to blaze a trail in its endeavours to work within the Calgary community to promote, preserve and honour this rich legacy of sacrifice, hard work, and determination in Chinese Canadian Heritage.

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