A property manager who recently erected a Chinese-only sign on No. 3 Road, to seek managers for a new wholesale food warehouse said he, as well as the company, didn’t think to include English, or any other language for that matter.
“We haven’t thought about that before,” said Jesse Chung, who said he worked for WTM, a property management firm.
After community activist Kerry Starchuk — who petitioned for bilingual signage throughout Richmond in 2013 — raised concerns on her Facebook page Changing Richmond Neighbourhoods, the Richmond News contacted Chung by calling the number listed on the sign, which has since been removed for a non-language related bylaw infraction.
The News relayed the numerous concerns that such signage was preventing non-Chinese speaking citizens from accessing jobs.
“When we put up the sign, we just wanted to ask those interested person. I think I got your meaning that if people don’t speak Chinese, you don’t know what is advertised,” said Chung, adding, “Our first priority is to find the right people. At very first we just thought about putting up a Chinese sign.”
The site in question is the old Pet Culture building. Starchuk said this is yet another example of exclusive signage in Richmond’s Chinese community.
“We need to understand one another. Now that I know it’s for hiring people, it is probably worse than the real estate signs because people need jobs,” said Starchuk.
Last year, the City of Richmond held a round of public consultation on Chinese signage. Council decided not to enact a bylaw mandating English. Since 2012, the city noted just 4.5 per cent of regulated signs were non-English (although to be considered bilingual a sign needn’t be fully translated).
Starchuk said the issue has expanded to other areas. She has taken issue with not just city-regulated business signs, but real estate construction billboards and advertising on buses, transit shelters and leaflets.
The city is in the midst of preparing a “clutter bylaw,” which would eliminate many ads in storefront windows. A new sign bylaw inspector has recently started a one-year term.
Starchuk said the situation has yet to be resolved and complaint-driven action is not working.
Coun. Derek Dang said otherwise, citing the city’s education efforts.
Dang, a liaison for the city’s economic advisory committee, said he wasn’t sure if such signage could have an impact on the local economy and job opportunities.
Dang called it a “complex” issue that requires “some thought in handling this without insulting either side,” and without going “Donald Trump” on the matter.
Coun. Chak Au, said he was “very concerned” but did not think the sign represented an escalation of any sorts.
Au said the sign was less “debatable” than a restaurant sign because it sought employees.
The Richmond Chamber of Commerce, when reached for comment, stated it had offered the company translation services. The company declined.
The chamber had no comment on the economic implications for such signage.
Chung said Friday he would have the wholesale company contact the News for further explanation. The company failed to contact the newspaper by Tuesday.
Starchuk said the sign has generated lots of negative reaction.