British Columbia

Belcarra bylaw will require English to be used for village business

A proposed bylaw makes it English-only when it comes to village business. It's a move the mayor says will save resources and even help new arrivals better assimilate.

'It's a question of clarity,' says mayor

Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew said the municipality doesn't have the resources to provide translation services for non-English-speaking people doing business with the village.

English is set to become the sole language for doing business in the village of Belcarra, B.C., in a move the mayor says will save resources and even help new arrivals better assimilate.

The small municipality of about 700 located on Burrard Inlet's Indian Arm, is set to pass a bylaw that requires English to be the language used on all written and oral dealings with the village.

If passed, those who can't speak English but need to do business with the municipality must provide their own translators. A final reading of the bylaw is set for March 29.

Other large municipalities in the Lower Mainland provide language services to people who don't speak English, but Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew said the village can't afford to provide translation services.

A question of clarity

Drew also said the language bylaw will make clear what's expected from everyone who wishes to work with his municipality.

"It's a question of clarity," Drew told CBC News, adding that he thinks the bylaw may also help non-English-speaking immigrants assimilate better.

"If they truly understand that they're in Canada now, and that they need to conduct themselves in the language of the country … then they will strive to become better members of the society," he said.

"Nobody is suggesting that anybody give up their language or their culture. But there has to be a common ground, a common basis under which we live and work together."

The bylaw appears to have struck a chord in the area. John McEwen, the mayor of Anmore, a village adjacent to Belcarra, said it will likely follow Belcarra's lead.

However, the district of Squamish said despite its size, it has no intention of ever adopting a similar bylaw.

A look inside the village hall of Belcarra which houses four employees. (Dan Imbeault/CBC)

Translation available in larger centres

A Belcarra resident interviewed Friday had mixed feelings about the bylaw.

"I'm a little bit conflicted about it because, on the one hand, if you can't speak English then you can't instantly learn and it's difficult to get things done," said the woman, who declined to give her name.

"On the other hand, we're a really small village .... and it's my understanding that there isn't anyone in the village hall that has the knowledge and the background to speak any of the languages."

Most larger municipalities in the Metro Vancouver area provide language services for non-English-speaking residents.

In Vancouver, residents can dial 311 for services in more than 175 languages. In Surrey, there are interpreters at all city facilities, and over-the-phone translation services are available in more than 170 languages.

With files from Lien Yeung


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