Delegation set to lobby city council to limit Chinese language signs in Richmond, B.C.

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

I think we all get a little annoyed at the 'language police' in Quebec.

These are the folks who complain about English language signage and harass restaurant owners about their menus.

But what about foreign language signs in 'ethnic neighbourhoods' in Canada? Specifically, what about signs that are only in Chinese? Are we okay with that?

[ Related: Walmart to take Quebec to court over need for bilingual signs ]

There's at least one thousand people in Richmond, British Columbia that are not.

According to the Richmond News, Kerry Starchuk and Ann Merdinyan — residents of the Vancouver suburb — will present a 1000 signature petition to Richmond City Council, on Monday, asking them for rules that would require "a minimum amount of English on any signage, shops or advertising."

Starchuk and Merdinyan — who’ve sat in on many of the city’s intercultural advisory committee meetings over the last six months — say the amount of Chinese-only literature they’ve photographed over the past couple of years has gotten “way out of hand.”

“We’re not saying there shouldn’t be Chinese language on signs,” Starchuk told the News.

“I’ve lived in Richmond all my life and I enjoy having so many different cultures in the city.

“But this isn’t right and it’s all the way through Richmond, not just the city centre and the lack of English is way out of proportion.”

Richmond is one of the most ethnic communities in all of Canada. According to the City, it has a population of 205,000 — of which over 50 per cent are of Chinese descent.

There are, as Starchuk indicates, neighbourhoods and blocks of commercial districts with Chinese-only signs.

It remains to be seen, if anything comes of the petition in Richmond.

City Councillor Chak Kwong Au (originally from Hong Kong) told CKNW News that he's open to visiting the issue.

"I'm open on this one because I think if we have one sector of the community feeling not comfortable when they go to certain parts of our city, and feel overwhelmed by some Chinese signs, I think we have to address it," he said indicating that the issue has come up before.

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But you have to wonder if this is an issue that's going to come up again in cities and provinces across Canada.

According to analysis by Statistics Canada, by 2031, 63 per cent of the population in Toronto and 59 per cent in Vancouver will be "a non-white visible minority" buoyed by immigration and higher birthrates within ethnic communities.

You can bet other communities across the country will be watching to see how Richmond city council handles the issue.

Do we really want to see 'language police' in other parts of Canada?

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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