British Columbia

Chinese-only bus shelter ads in Richmond being phased out

New contract requirement means bus shelter advertisement in Richmond now must be at least 50 per cent in English.

'Visually it should be equally English and Chinese ... if not predominantly English'

This Chinese language sign for Crest on bus shelters in Richmond was the subject of complaints. (CBC)

Chinese-only bus shelter advertising in Richmond is about to be phased out thanks to tweaks the city has made to a contract with a yet-to-be named advertising vendor.

Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend told CBC News that a just-signed contract stipulates that bus shelter signs be predominantly English. 

"We've had the ongoing issue in Richmond about signs on businesses being in Chinese only or predominantly in Chinese, and there's great concerns and complaints in the community." said Townsend. 

Richmond has been trying to educate businesses about the council's preference for 50 per cent English on signs.

"We've always made it clear that it's our desire that signs should be at least 50 per cent English. In this case because the signs and bus shelters are on city land we can take a proactive approach and actually put in the requirement," he said.

According to Townsend the English requirement was added to Richmond's bus shelter advertising request-for-proposal after a contract with Pattison Outdoor Advertising expired last year. 

Richmond has been grappling an the on-going issue of Chinese-only signs, exposing the cultural tension in a city where almost half the population identifies as ethnically Chinese.

Last year Richmond city council voted unanimously against calls for an English-only sign bylaw and instead launched an educational outreach program to let business know the city preferred signs to be at least 50 per cent English. 

In 2013 council voted against banning Chinese-only signs, after being presented with a 1,000 signature petition demanding signs contain at least one of Canada's official languages — English or French. One councilor felt the petition was nothing more than veiled racism.

Townsend says when the new bus shelter contract is finalized, the company selling the space will be obliged to have "predominantly English" posters.

"Visually it should be equally English and Chinese, and if not, predominantly English on the sign because that is the language the city does business in," he said.