Vancouver Chinese Condo Owners Oppose St John's Hospice For Dying
Vancouver Chinese Condo Owners Says St. John Hospice For The Dying Is Against Chinese Culture And 'Bad Luck'| And CBC Radio Believes It - Not Knowing Difference Between Superstition And Culture
The 15 bed St. John's hospice would be next door to the existing 18 story condo Promontory condo tower where some units sell for $1 million, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia.
CBC radio quotes one condo owner of Chinese descent.
In Chinese culture, we are against having dying people in your backyard," said Janet Fan, who has signed a petition against the hospice. "We cannot accept this. It's against our belief, against our culture. It's not culturally sensitive."
Janet Fan goes on to ask how will she explain the ambulances and death to her 2 year old? And besides there may be additional traffic issues, what with people dying.
The province newspaper also covered the story of the upset Chinese Condo Owners.
Fan said 80 per cent of the residents of her 18-storey building are Asian and are strongly opposed.
“Units here are worth $1 million,” she added. “We put our life savings into this.”
She said residents are worried the hospice will have a negative impact on their property values....
Qing Lin, who bought a Promontory apartment for $900,000 almost a year ago, said she and her seven year old daughter will have nightmares if the hospice goes ahead.
The residents have signed up 200 names to a petition opposing the construction of St. John's hospice and plan to present it to the University of British Columbia which administers the land.
St. John's Hospice has a July construction date and a clearly spooked UBC agrees further consultation is required.
What is curious about this story is the seeming inability for the media to differentiate between culture and superstition, thereby fueling cultural ignorance and intolerance (more on that later).
Here is an explanation of Chinese death rituals from the Chinese Culture website operated by the Ministry of Culture from the People's Republic of China. The description below outlines the rituals of a traditional Chinese wake. (bold emphasis is mine)
The coffin is placed on its own stand either in the house (if the person died at home) or in the courtyard (if the person died away from home). The coffin is placed with the head of the deceased facing the inside of the house, resting at about one foot from the ground on two stools; wreaths, gifts and a portrait or photograph of the deceased are placed at the head of the coffin. The coffin is not sealed during the wake. Food is placed in front of the coffin as an offering to the deceased. The deceased's comb is broken into two -- one part is placed in the coffin and the other is kept by the family.
It seems the Chinese culture not only accepts living next to people who are dying but the death rituals show a profound respect for elders who have died.
Dead family members are actually brought into the home as per this explanation of Chinese death rituals (except for the owners of luxury condo towers at Promontory Place) or in the courtyard (except for the proposed St. John's Hospice).
How The CBC St. John's Hospice Story And A Clash Of Cultures Misses The Mark
On the CBC Radio morning show, The Early Edition, host Rick Cluff spoke with CBC radio reporter Andy Yang,who did the story.
"Being Chinese Rick I can understand their discomfort. It's just not a choice for Chinese to live next to a place that deals with death on a daily basis. It's bad luck....I myself would think twice if i have to live next door to a palliative home, so putting up a hospice behind a bamboo grove beside a condo tower occupied mostly by people from Asia...it's not respectful, It's not culturally appropriate."
The interview between CBC host and CBC reporter left me stunned because of certain flawed assumptions, besides the inability to distinguish between Culture and Superstition.
The claim that living next door to people dying is somehow against Chinese Culture was based on two sources: Jane Fan (a self interested condo owner) and the CBC reporter himself who agreed, living next to someone dying, clashes with Chinese Culture.
- Reporter X interviews subject Y- Subject Y makes claim Z
- Reporter X validates and affirms claim Z on air because it reflects their own personal or cultural experience. (no third party sources are cited that may have another point of view)
- The Story is reported as truth that Chinese people believe living next door to dying people is against Chinese Culture.
- Subsequent text version of radio report goes online fueling intolerance.
Case in point: check out the comments triggered by the CBC story.
To me this is sick. We have 2 choose send them back to china.or Bulid in big rehab for people like this and make them work with the the sick. No one should be able to is come here and say we can not help the sick in there dying days. No I not a racist I just have some respect for people. There is a boat leaving for china today take you money I do not care. You are saying we can't treat the sick with dignity go home do not come back. Canada or the United states. Until You have Respect............
It seems to me the story is really about wealthy home owners not wanting anything to threaten their property values - a straightforward Not In My Backyard Story (NIMBY); and the Chinese Culture angle is just a smokescreen.
Let's end with the obvious - something CBC Radio missed in this particular story - China has 1 billion people and unless dying Chinese are sent to to the remote hills and mountains to spend out their last days, living next or near to dying people in China, one suspects, is pretty common.
*Disclosure: I worked for the CBC for years and have a lot of respect for the place and its people but this story missed the mark.