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English mandatory on Richmond bus stop ads due to new contract

The contract states advertising must have at least 50% English content

The city of Richmond is regulating bus stop ads like this one on No. 3 Road and Capstan Way to include at least 50% English content.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro

The city of Richmond is regulating bus stop ads like this one on No. 3 Road and Capstan Way to include at least 50% English content.

Bus stop ads in Richmond must have a significant amount of English on them, according to a new contract between the city and an advertising agency.

The city’s contract with Pattison Outdoor, which came into effect Aug. 1, states advertising must be a minimum of “50 per cent English in terms of overall space, font size, content, and level of detail.” 

The rule comes more than a year after city council voted down a motion to regulate language on business signs, but the new contract makes it clear that English is the official language in Richmond, said councillor Alexa Loo.

“It establishes a baseline so that people have an understanding…that we have an accepted way of doing things,” she said.

“If it’s going on our property, then we have the right to dictate certain parameters about what’s put on it.”

Other municipalities like Vancouver do not have rules mandating English on signs but language is one of the things the city is looking at in its sign bylaw review.

Richmond is regulating bus stop ads but not signs on private businesses because bus stops are on public property, said Loo.

Putting restrictions on private signage may infringe on Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the discussion around sign language has already yielded results, she added.

“There aren’t very many Chinese-only signs because people are realizing there’s an expectation that we communicate in a common language and the common language we agreed on is English.”

Metro’s photographer drove through Richmond for an hour and a half and only found one bus stop ad that was predominantly in a language other than English.

That’s because city staff already established an understanding with Pattison that ads be mostly in English, explained mayor Malcolm Brodie.

“We indicated our preference to the Pattison group who does the advertising that we wanted a major part of it to be English, a long time ago.”

The new contract simply formalizes that understanding, he said.

But the city probably won’t formalize its preference for business signs, said Brodie. Instead, staff are taking an educational approach.

“When a business licence is being reviewed and when they come in for a sign permit, we remind them of our preference that a significant amount of English is on that sign,” said Brodie.

“I think we are getting pretty good cooperation”

Language on signs, business or otherwise, is a hot topic that is not going away anytime soon, he added.

“Unless we went back to being a homogenously Caucasian community, it’s not a discussion that will stop and frankly I think it’s fair enough that it’s an ongoing discussion.”

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