Chinese only signs alienate residents
The town of Richmond British Columbia has grown exponentially in the past few decades.
From what had been a relatively sleepy area decades ago of mostly “white” Canadians, some 78.000 in 1981, with a tiny minority of Chinese, and other South Asians, the city population grew rapidly and changed even more rapidly.
In the 2011 census, the white population had decreased to 56,000 while the Chinese population had ballooned to 89,000, and other South Asians added another 14,500.
Indeed the majority of residents , some 6 out of 10, were not born in Canada.
This influx has created tensions, not the least of which have focused on business signs.
Many original residents say they feel like outsiders in their own community and country because too many signs are in Chinese only.
The issue first boiled over in 2012, when a petition was sent to city hall to force businesses to include English on signs.
Another request for a bylaw change was rejected again a few years later. On both occasions, council said they’d prefer to work with business owners to modify signs, and lawyers suggested such a law would invite a Charter of Rights legal challenge.
A city consultation in 2016 showed a strong desire for signage regulation which required English.
Sign motion passed
This week a sign bylaw modification was proposed by council.
This however was to reduce signage clutter in the city, but with no language regulation. However a last minute amendment to require all future signs carry at least 50 per cent English.
The motion passed 5 to 4 with Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie voting against it.
Mayor Brodie was quoted in the CBC saying, “”There’s the issue of community harmony: you can either lay down bylaws … or you can work with your community”.
Legal opinions are now being gathered towards a possible language segment to the city bylaws ahead of another council meeting set for June 12
Mayor Brodie said such a bylaw would take some time in any case as exact wording would need approval, then go through a council vote, and then go to a public hearing.
- Richmond City website- signage issue
- CBC: L Britten: Jun 7/17
- Richmond News: A.Campbell: Jun 7/17: English signs coming?
- The Province: C Chan/I Austin: Oct 19/14: Charter violation?
- Vancouver Sun: D Todd: Jun 16/16; Pt 1 of 3 Richmond demographic
- Canadian Press-Global TV: Mar 13/13: petition for English