City of Richmond looking for inspector to encourage businesses to add English to their signs

The City of Richmond is looking to hire a sign inspector to “promote community harmony” by encouraging businesses to use English in their signs. According to the job posting, the officer will help translate and interpret signs that are in Chinese, while also developing educational materials in both English and Chinese. Prospective applicants must possess tact and diplomatic skills.

Ted Townsend with the City of Richmond says enforcing the use of English isn’t necessary because business owners usually cooperate willingly.

READ MORE: Group wants Richmond businesses to voluntarily add English to their signs

“What we find is that a lot of them are newcomers and they don’t understand that they’re offending [the] customer base” he said. “What we find is that when we explain the problem, they say, ‘Oh yes, I understand,’ and they change it of their own accord.”
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The city held a forum earlier this year to gauge public opinion on the proliferation of Chinese-language signage. Twenty-three per cent of respondents felt the signs had a negative social impact; 20 per cent felt they were a threat to Canadian identity.

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But local companies say Chinese-language signs are a reality of doing business in Richmond. Adam Mung of Morals Village restaurant says 90 per cent of his customers speak Mandarin or Cantonese.

READ MORE: Chinese-only signs in Richmond subject of a public debate

Rob Akimow with the Richmond Chamber of Commerce welcomes the city’s approach.

“A lot of the times when we speak with Asian businesses in our community, the majority say it’s not that they don’t want to welcome new business, they might be shy about their language skills. They don’t want to welcome people if they can’t service them.”

The bylaw officer will, however, promote and enforce a new bylaw on visual clutter, which limits the amount of signage on storefront windows.

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