Richmond hiring sign inspector to regulate Chinese-only signs

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The City of Richmond hopes that hiring a sign and business inspector will be the solution to address some of the growing concerns around businesses who use Chinese-only signs.

A job posting by the municipal government last week indicates that the inspector is expected to promote “community harmony” by encouraging the city’s businesses to include English on business signage, advertisements, and other communication platforms.

The posting states that the individual will be required to resolve conflicts, conduct investigations, and “perform under pressure and deal with contentious and challenging situations in a diplomatic manner.”

“Disagreeable situations which include verbal abuse, threats, rudeness and the risk of potential violence may be experienced,” reads the job posting.

Fluency in the Mandarin and Cantonese languages is of course required as the successful candidate will translate and interpret business signage and develop educational materials on business licensing and signage. The new hire will also conduct routine site inspections of businesses to determine their compliance with business licenses and signage.

An annual salary of approximately $68,000 to $80,000, subject to review, is being offered to the successful candidate.

Richmond has one of Canada’s largest concentrations of ethnic Chinese people; nearly 50 per cent of the city’s 189,305 population identifying as Chinese. When other ‘visible minorities’ are included, the number increases to 70 per cent.

The move to hire an inspector to educate and regulate signage comes after a 2013 City Council vote against a bylaw that would have required a minimum amount of English on any building signage or advertisement. The motion was triggered by a petition signed by a thousand local residents who took issue with the prevalence of Chinese-only business signs, to the extent that some argued such signage is ‘exclusionary’.

At the time, City Council said a complete ban on Chinese-only signs would violate the Canadian Charter right of freedom of expression. The Charter only stipulates levels of government to provide English and French language text options; businesses are not required to abide to the bilingual policy. Instead, it would pursue educational initiatives and pursue voluntary compliance from businesses.

Earlier this year, a group of local Chinese community leaders supported by non-profit organization SUCCESS also started an initiative dubbed the “Signs of Harmony Project”. They urged local residents to submit photos of Chinese-only signs so that any ‘problematic’ businesses can be pursued to follow a voluntary compliance of including English into their signs.

 

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