Chinese-only signs cause furor in community

by John Tenpenny28 Sep 2015
Locals in Richmond, B.C., are pointing out the lack of municipal action the issue of Chinese-only signs in the community, many of which are real estate-related.

Community activist Karen Starchuck and business consultant Rupert Whiting, say the city is, once again, ignoring the issue.

“I’m frustrated at the lack of leadership from the city. It seems people are doing what they want within whatever bylaws exist, even if those bylaws are not fit for purpose,” Whiting told the Richmond News.

The pair took media to a construction site of a new home, which featured a Chinese-only sign, another example, Starchuk says of the city dragging its feet on education after Richmond city council chose not to implement a more stringent bylaw to make English mandatory on business signs.

“This (house) isn’t going to get sold to a non-Mainland Chinese person. They’re not even trying to sell it to a non-Mainland Chinese person. That, to me, is a problem,” said Whiting.

“They got off easy. They said they were going to address it, and get on it right away, but basically they’ve done nothing,” said Starchuk.

The city maintains that, using auxiliary staff, it spoke to 2,000 businesses to “encourage” English on all signs. It’s also reminding businesses as they apply for business licenses.

City spokesperson Ted Townsend said a new bylaw on clutter is in the works and the process of education is one that takes time.

Townsend said the clutter bylaw, expected to come to council in early 2016, is intended to clear up additional, unregulated signage on street fronts, regardless of language.

“How we will deal with it in the new bylaw is something we are studying as part of drafting the bylaw,” said Townsend.

Still there's some concern that the latest kerfuffle speaks to BC's lingering apprehension about Chinese real estate investors and their effect on home price growth. Those concerns are largely unfounded, or at least undocumented.

"While there’s been a lot of talk about Chinese buyers being responsible for the high cost of homes, it’s a free market and it’s one of the major cities in the world,” Layla Yang, an agent with ReMax, told REP. “The market is not overpriced and if it is, it’s not because of Chinese people.”

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