Much like its next-door neighbour, Vancouver has its fair share of Asian immigrants, generously spread into ethnic enclaves around the city.
And much like Richmond, Vancouver is no stranger to the debate over the language used on business signs, inside stores and in communities.
Vancouver has, historically, juggled off and on over the decades the hot potato of what language should be most prominent on things such as signs.
And while earlier this year a group of Richmond residents appealed to their city to introduce a bylaw demanding a mandatory predominance of English, a Vancouver councillor can actually remember a day when Chinese businesses went out of their way to lure the English-speaking community.
The language issue goes as far back as the 70s, said Coun. Kerry Jang, whos third-generation Chinese and spent a lot of time in Vancouvers Chinatown while growing up.
I was much younger but I do recall that the (Chinese) merchants realized very quickly that it was good for business to have both languages.
They even held their own We Speak English campaign to bring English-speaking customers in.
The situation in Vancouver 40 years ago is the polar opposite of whats happening in small pockets of Richmond today.
South of the river, rather than encouraging English-speaking customers, some businesses advertise their wares almost exclusively in Chinese, primarily because they cant speak English and the Chinese-speaking market is big enough to sustain them.
Vancouver doesnt have a policy on language on signs, but that doesnt mean the issue isnt there.
Most recently, the language issue became a burning topic in 2011 in the Kensington/Kingsway district where the resident Vietnamese community the fifth largest in the city campaigned to have the area branded Little Saigon, in a bid to boost its profile.
The Vietnamese community had been asking to have an official designation on the street banners and things like that, said Jang.
We thought this was a great idea, but we told them they have to be inclusive and they would have to have their signs in English as well.
The city, said Jang, used the opportunity as a vehicle to clean up the area and attract more people to it. And they enlisted the help of the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) to achieve their goal. Once we sat down and explained the advantages to the business owners, the buy-in was instantaneous, added Jang.
Our approach was to get the BIA to educate the businesses.
They were are at a better level to deal with it and they really got across to them that if they want to make more money, they have to attract more people into their community.
Since Richmond City Council decided earlier this spring not to investigate the language matter further, questions have been raised as to whether the Richmond Chamber of Commerce would get involved in the manner of its Vancouver counterparts.
But while the chambers chair, Barry Grabowski, said he believes businesses should be accessible to all customers, regardless of language or ethnicity, the chamber has yet to reach out formally to the Asian business community that advertises in Chinese only.
© Copyright 2013