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(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Let us congratulate Mayor Malcolm Brodie and the Richmond, B.C., City Council on deciding not to dive into the vortex of cultural and linguistic politics.

They have not yielded to the calls from some citizens (going as far back as the 1990s) for limits on the use of Chinese characters on commercial signs. Such a bylaw would surely not pass muster with the Charter of Rights.

Instead, city officials are going to gently encourage shopkeepers to use English as well as Chinese signs, and to "de-clutter" unregulated leaflets, banners and other bric-à-brac in or around their store windows and premises. Just so long as they don't try to regulate the language of signs.

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Just over half of the population of Richmond, B.C., are of Chinese origin, but according to a survey by the city government of recent sign permits, only 4.5 per cent were unilingual in any language other than English. This is hardly evidence of "ghettoization" or a "failure to integrate" – both terms that are far from self-explanatory.

One of Richmond's proponents of restrictions on the language of signs has argued that Chinese-only signage is a threat to multiculturalism. How? Such reasoning shows how much the meaning, or rather the meanings, of diversity and multiculturalism have become muddied.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes Canada can be quite good at muddling through. Richmond, B.C., appears to be doing that fairly well.

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