Recently, Vancouver SunÂ Op-EdÂ writer Douglas Todd sparked some controversy when heÂ advocated for the abolition of foreign signs, namely Chinese, in Richmond. On the same day of the same paper, Harvey Enchin countered the topic by stating that to restrict Chinese signs would be ‘un-Canadian‘. A few days later, Todd then shared a few letters, of which he received from people of Chinese or Asian descent, who supported his view.
However, these letters are undoubtedly from residents who have already, if not fully, integrated themselves into the English-speaking community. In simplest terms, an immigrant Â who struggles at English would most likely not be adept at drafting a response in written English to an English article.
In context though, the ones who will be affected Â are the immigrants. Richmond’s Asian population sits around 60%. The most concentrated area of Asian signage in Richmond is without question ‘Golden Village,” the well-known commercial district that houses Aberdeen Center, Parker Place, etc. For new immigrants or the Asian-Canadian population in general, it’s a haven that’s better than Chinatown. The signs in Chinese are not put up so that immigrants do not have to learn English; they are put up to make daily life more convenient for the residents, the grocery shoppers. Reading signs in English will not help the average immigrant learn the language.
Then multiculturalism comes into view, as it always does. In its ideal form, it’s about proactively accepting people and their culture into a bigger whole. But it’s certainly not assimilation pretending to be acceptance.
Growing up with immigrant parents, I can say with certainty that they have not neglected the environment that they live in. My father is fairly fluent in English and translates for a monthly community newsletter. My mother regularly attends language classes at a church. However, sometimes what’s most important is still the bits and pieces of what they’d left behind. Even if it’s as small as being able to read a sign in their native language.