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Kerry Starchuk – Richmond community activist

Kerry StarchukAs a sixth-generation Richmond resident, Kerry has witnessed dramatic demographic, cultural and linguistic transitions in her home community. Feeling increasingly like a stranger she set out to petition Richmond City Council to pass a bylaw making English a requirement on business signage. One thousand signatures later, she and a colleague presented their petition and were quickly dismissed by the Mayor and many councilors that did not see the connection between maintaining one of Canada’s official language and social cohesion.

“This is not cultural harmony because I have no idea what these signs, advertising and the real estate papers are saying”, remarked Starchuk.

It would appear on the surface that many of Canada’s political and business elite and ‘community cultural activists’ are championing a multi-linguistic Canada where languages should be dictated by money and or changing demographic patterns. Mass immigration and the all too common pattern of allowing people in the country that cannot communicate in either English or French plus an assertive multiculturalism mandate seems to be the logical culprit behind a country that is having trouble communicating with itself. Big corporations such as all the major banks in Canada, publicly funded television, city governments, to thousands upon thousands of small businesses are operating in Mandarin, Cantonese and or Punjabi. One need to simply drive down major streets across Metro Vancouver and Toronto suburbs to see exclusive Mandarin and Cantonese signs that serve only one group of people.

There are still approximately 40% of Richmond’s population that is non-Chinese and 80% if you account the entire Metro Vancouver area. Those that are not conversant in the Chinese languages cannot understand business signs nor can communicate with merchants. As a result of this rapidly changing development, people are voting with their feet, further encouraging apartheid like conditions across Metro Vancouver.

The petition effort was seen as a valiant effort by Canadians across the country but some Richmond councilors and business leaders were quick to suggest that efforts to enforce the English language was racist and or colonial.

Richmond Councilor Derek Dang said he was afraid the petition may be “veiled racism,” and that not many people support the proposal.

Barry Grabowski, chair of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, says businesses should be allowed to make their own decisions about marketing and signage as part of “free enterprise,” and that council should stay out of the issue.

Does Starchuk and the 1,000 local supporting signatories need to accept their fate of living in a new Chinese city, reflective of a changing ‘multicultural’ Canadian environment or are they heroic citizens for finally taking a stand to safeguard what remains of a dying country?

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