Richmond Signage petition potential conflict with freedom of expression
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 by Randolf Richardson 張文道
On March 18, 2013 at 16:00, two long-time Richmond residents named Ann Merdinyan and Kerry Starchuk presented their petition regarding signage in the City of Richmond (B.C., Canada) to city council, and I attended because I was concerned that the legislation the petition was arguing for would be in direct conflict with freedom of expression which is a protected right under the Canadian Charter. I also prepared a speech the day before with the intention of presenting it in opposition, but unfortunately there wasn't enough time for any attendees to share their perspectives. Here is the text of my speech:
Sunday, March 17th, 2013
The diversity of cultures and languages accepted and supported in Canada are integral to Canada's character, and are also fondly recognized as our [advantage] on the international stage. If we start rejecting this diversity, then we will actually be weakening our social psychological health nationally and sabotaging our integrity internationally.
Various Government departments are required by law to provide services in either English or French, or both (depending on demand), with a provision to optionally provide support for other languages where demand justifies it. This is not required for the signage used by private individuals and organizations, although businesses that want more customers will often try to accommodate patrons who know other languages.
Restricting or imposing upon private individuals and businesses "expressing themselves freely," as the oppressive burdens advocated by the petition most certainly do, is an unreasonable violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which specifies the fundamental building blocks of our wonderfully diverse Canadian culture).
This petition is demanding unreasonable legislated impositions that threaten to infringe section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which inevitably will lead to the need for enforcement by specialized language police. These "language police" will consume valuable resources that will most likely be a tremendous waste of time and money that would at least be more meaningful if proactively spent on providing free or subsidized English and French language and literacy education.
I am against restrictions being placed upon anyone's freedom to express themselves, regardless of whether I agree with the messages or opinions being expressed, and signs on private property are obviously a reasonable form of free expression regardless of whether the context is commercial.
Do keep in mind that rights, once lost, are far more difficult to recover peacefully (if at all), thus as a society we're generally far better off trying to find win-win solutions instead of insisting on compromises that require concessions. We are at less risk of taking the greater risk of freedom when we don't dictate what must and must not be expressed.
Yours very truly,
Randolf Richardson 張文道
Beautiful British Columbia, Canada
City council, after discussing the matter, made a few motions which resulted in the petition not being supported, so overall I'm satisfied with the outcome. After the meeting ended, press representatives of roughly two-dozen media organizations (mostly from news radio and television networks) surrounded Ann and Kerry and bombarded them with a lot of questions. (It was interesting to see "freedom of the press" in action first-hand like this, a freedom which, by the way, is also specifically protected under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.)
If you'd like to contact me to share your perspective, I'd be delighted regardless of whether you agree with me. My contact information is available on my contact page.