There’s no doubt Richmond — with a population of predominantly Asian descent — enjoys a generous helping of Asian language on signs, shops, advertising, real estate newspapers and mail outs.
But a delegation preparing to present its case to city council claims Richmond’s plate is now piled too high with the Chinese language and is asking for a more balanced diet of Canada’s official English and French tongue.
Residents Kerry Starchuk and Ann Merdinyan have spent the last eight months researching the issue, taking photos and gathering signatures for a 1,000-strong petition, before they face city council on Monday.
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.”
And, with a view to “increasing racial harmony,” Starchuk is asking the city to consider adopting the same policy as Aberdeen Centre, where two thirds of any signage has to have English and French.
“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.”
Starchuk said if someone, such as city council, doesn’t “get a handle on it” soon, there may come a time when there’ll be no English to be seen.
“If this is our Canadian identity, then it’s not very inclusive is it?” said Starchuk, who added she won’t drive up the north end of No. 3 Road anymore because the predominantly Chinese signage.
“This is not cultural harmony because I have no idea what these signs, advertising and the real estate papers are saying.
“We value Richmond and we value our Canadian identity and I hope that comes across with our presentation.”
Aberdeen Centre spokeswoman Joey Kwan confirmed it has a signage policy for all of its retailers, with at least 70 per cent English/French and the remaining 30 per cent a language of the retailer’s choice.
Starchuk, who says she’s been researching the subject off and on for three years, feels Aberdeen’s approach is the way forward.
“Up the top of No. 3 Road is one thing, but it’s crept further and further down into all of Richmond and into my neighbourhood,” she said.
“When you drive down your own street and you can’t read many of the signs and can’t read half of the stuff that comes to your door, something’s wrong with that.”
Starchuk has approached several members of city council in the past with her issue and, according to her, she didn’t gain much traction.
“The discussion needs to be opened up about this and that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do here.”