05/21/2015 13:09 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 05:59 EDT

Richmond's Chinese-only sign debate leads to poster crackdown

The City of Richmond is cracking down on "unofficial" signage in any language, as part of a plan to address concerns about Chinese-only signs in the community.

Richmond city councillors have approved a motion to restrict signs that have not been approved by the city, such as banners or leaflets in storefront windows.

"That may be posters. It may be banners. There's a whole wide variety of things that some people may call signs other people may call advertising," said city spokesperson Ted Townsend.

​Townsend says the predominance of these types of unregulated materials have a strong visual impact, and restricting them has dampened the sign debate in other Canadian cities with multi-cultural demographics. 

Shop owners will still be free to decide what language to use on their official signs, but they will be encouraged to include at least some English as well. 

An issue of exclusion

​The issue of Chinese-only signs in a city where nearly 50 per cent of the population identifies as being ethnically Chinese has stirred controversy in recent years.

Several English-speaking residents have said they feel they are being excluded in their own communities and have urged city officials to do something about it.

Townsend says Chinese-only signs account for less than one per cent of businesses signs throughout the city — though previous estimates have suggested it's closer to 3.5 per cent.