By-law amendment could make English or French on Richmond signs mandatory

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You could see some changes to the way signs look in Richmond if a controversial new by-law amendment passes.

The majority of council wants to de-clutter signage around the city, and would also like ads to be at least 50 per cent in English or French to be more inclusive.

“Now that we’ve got a dedicated by-law officer going out and actually educating people as to the benefits of having one of Canada’s official languages on their signs… it’s working,” says Richmond City Councillor Carol Day. “It’s bringing our community together and businesses are supporting it, businesses are embracing the suggestions by the by-law officers so we just felt the time was right.”

Day explains the city’s had dedicated by-law officers go out to help with the education program. They explained to business owners that by not including English or French on signage, they were ultimately saying “no” to 50 per cent of their client base.

The by-law officer position, filled by a Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking person, is currently temporary. Day says if the by-law amendment is passed, the city would create a full-time position that essentially pays $85,000 every year.

“We expect to get about $65,000 in additional sign-permit revenue so really, for only $25,000 we’re creating a position that’s going to help us have better harmony in our signs and also better service to our clients, which are the business owners of Richmond.”

So far, Day claims the city’s had 100 per cent compliance from businesses officers have reached out to.

“Ten years ago, we saw a proliferation of particularly Chinese on signs — only Chinese on signs. Now we’re not seeing that so much anymore.”

The amendment doesn’t come without concerns however. According to Day, those on council who voted against the proposal are worried about how this new requirement will affect charter rights, while others felt the city would be interfering with local businesses.

When asked whether she would support a language law in BC similar to one in Quebec, Day says she would be open to the idea.

“It’s tough to do things at a municipal level that are this significant,” she says. “We really need the provincial government to step up and do what is sensible. We’ve got a real multi-cultural province and for that to be successful, we need to have some guidelines in place and rules, and if they’re not going to do it then we’re going to try it and I hope they’ll be very successful.”

According to Day, the revision was passed through the General Purposes Committee with a vote of five to four, and will likely go to council next week.

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