Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour

The Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour is an immersive celebration of the layered history of Vancouver’s indigenous and immigrant communities told through the streets of the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Passing through Hogan’s Alley, Jewish Strathcona, Powell Street (“Paueru-gai”) and Chinatown, participants hear the clacking of Mahjong tiles, the slam of the butcher’s cleaver, and the many languages of the street; they smell the aroma of herbs and dried fish, taste foods and hear stories from each community, and even sing in harmony together. In this way, they come to see that the cultural heritage of this neighbourhood is alive and enduring, a history that is still unfolding. 

Tour organizers happily invite teachers attending the BC Social Studies Teachers’ Association Conference to join us for a very special tour, occuring during the October 2019 BCSSTA Conference. Tours can be designed to fit within 75 minutes, but if time permits can be extended to its full length of 2 hours, and be limited to 20 people per tour in the interest of being respectful to residents of the area.

Originally conceived in celebration of Vancouver Asian Heritage Month and Canada’s Jewish Heritage Month, the first series of tours were offered twice daily every Sunday in May 2019. The theme was education and the route began at the oldest elementary school in Vancouver, Lord Strathcona Elementary School (592 East Pender Street). Referred to as the League of Nations for its multicultural make-up, this school has worked throughout its history to bring together the many communities it serves. When the school triangle rang at the end of the day, school continued for many children in the form of nearby afterschool programs where students learned language and cultural traditions. Participants learned how these diverse communities interacted with one another in their common struggles to survive and thrive, and how they were impacted by the urban renewal of the area.

What makes these tours exceptional is the unique opportunity they provide to get a “big picture” understanding of the 150+ years of interaction between the various communities who have called Strathcona “home”. These indigenous and immigrant communities each faced hardship, marginalization, racism, and in many cases displacement and dispossession. Through the tour, guests hear first-hand from community members not only of these hardships, but also accounts of resiliency and the ways in which communities supported one another and their own. These communities lived in close proximity, traded with one another, supported each other’s businesses, sent their children to school together, and came together to resist the demolition of their shared neighbourhood.

The tours provide a taste of each community’s individual history, while dwelling in the points of intersection between them; the organizing committee opted for this approach in an effort to support the sustainability of each participating organization. Rather than duplicate tours and programs offered by each organization, this tour is but a sample, designed to pique guests’ interest. If guests are interested in the history of a particular group, our guides and printed materials are able to direct them to the relevant organization, where they can learn more.

A full year of collaborative planning between participating organizations preceded these tours, with meaningful exchange and relationship building occurring. These relationships are vital to the ongoing sustainability of the program and integral to our ability to repeat – and grow – the program in the future. 

With the pilot year now complete, and an overwhelmingly positive public response, there is a strong desire from all participating organizations to resume the tours next year. There is great interest in involving the schools in Strathcona, including the students, teachers and parents. Efforts are underway to develop a teacher’s manual to accompany the walking tour. 

Maya McDonald, Social Studies Department Head at Britannia Secondary School, Vancouver, BC ( & 604-908-9129) reached out to the Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour project and writes: "We invite teachers to learn more about the history of Vancouver in an immersive experience. There is potential to bring these walking tours to elementary and secondary students in the future and provide teachers with a teaching guide to support local history projects. The walking tours are of particular interest to teachers teaching social studies 9, social studies 10, social justice, urban studies and urban geography."

Participants are able to walk and talk with the guides between stops and ask questions to learn more. For many on these tours, it sparks the sharing of even more stories, which is part of the beauty of how central the Strathcona neighbourhood has been for many of Vancouver’s residents. The walking route will require participants to use sidewalks and navigate uneven pavement. There will be voice amplification to ensure that tour guides can be heard clearly. For participants with accessibility needs, kindly note that we are a group of volunteers and have limited resources; however, we will do our best to accommodate such needs within our means.

We acknowledge that our tours take place on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Thank you to the Grant family who brings us greetings from the Musqueam Nation.

The Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour project is a coordinated effort by the following participating organizations: Association of United Ukrainian Canadians; Benny Foods Italian Market; Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden; Musqueam Elder Larry Grant (Hon. Advisor to PCHC-MoM & VAHMS); Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens Association; Heritage Vancouver Society; Hogan's Alley Society; Jewish Independent; Jewish Museum & Archives of BC; Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre; Pacific Canada Heritage Centre Museum of Migration; Saint James Music Academy; Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society’s explorASIAN; Vancouver Heritage Foundation; Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall (administrative host organization); Vancouver School Board; Vancouver School Board Archives and Heritage Committee; Wongs’ Benevolent Association (Mon Keang School) and Youth Collaborative for Chinatown.

1.  Our one-minute promo video (;

2.  The Georgia Straight feature article about the project (;

3.  The Jewish Independent feature article about the project (;

4.  The La Source feature article (in French) about the project (;

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Michael, Carmel and Maya

Target Audience

Social Studies Teachers


Friday 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

This session is full.


  • Michael Schwartz

    Michael is Director of Community Engagement at the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC. Michael has pioneered innovative public programs for the JMABC - including the Chosen Food Supper Club, The Kitchen Stories Podcast, and the Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour - and has led efforts to build partnerships with representatives of Vancouver’s diverse communities.


  • Carmel Tanaka

    Carmel Tanaka was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people to an Israeli mother and a Japanese-Canadian father. She holds a Master’s Degree in Emergency and Disaster Management from Tel Aviv University. Her specialties are organizational disaster management, partnership building and community development with experience in Australia, Canada, and Israel. Carmel's pro-diversity stance and open door policy stem from valuing both sides of her heritage, which she describes as "Jewpanese". This base provides Carmel with the ability to sensitively manage and effectively mediate challenging projects involving multi-generational groups with mixed political, religious and social opinions. Her passion projects include the Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour (, the Genocide Prevention Think Tank (, and JQT Vancouver (Jewish Queer Trans*)( She also serves as Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association and is active with Kikiai Collaborative (, the young Japanese Canadian community, and is gearing up for BC Redress for Japanese Canadian internment.