Reduce Intercultural Isolation and Mistrust

Diagram showing the Onni buildings

We have to encourage mutual respect among cultural communities.

Richmond Demographics

According to the 2016 census, Chinese is now the most common ethnic origin in Richmond with 54% of the City's population, up from 34% in 1996. Canadian, English, Scottish and Irish ethnicity combined is 28%. Filipino is 8% and East Indian is 6%. The City of Richmond provides full details on its website here.

Although a degree of cultural isolation and mistrust applies to all of the cultural communities, the size of the Chinese community makes it the principal target of mistrust. In addition, historic mistrust between First Nations communities and the non-native majority continues, fed by stereotypic characterizations and land claim disputes.

Foreign Purchasers of Richmond Housing

The overheated Richmond housing market has put prices far above what most people who have been brought up in Richmond can afford to buy or rent. My ideas on what to do about it are here. A number of experts believe that non-resident wealthy investors play a major role in this market distortion because they are willing to pay much higher prices than local residents. See the commentary here.

Many local residents believe that the majority of these non-residents are wealthy Chinese. This has been reinforced by property developers who put up for sale signs in Chinese only. Non-Chinese residents tend to overlook the fact that the problem is with wealthy investors, no matter what their ethnic origin. Many Chinese believe that these accusations are rooted in ethnic prejudice which in turn leads them to mistrust the non-Chinese community.

New Immigrant Integration

While there are a number of agencies in Richmond working effectively to integrate new immigrants, it is difficult to learn a new language and customs, especially for adults. It is much easier to interact with those who speak your native language and patronize stores and services geared to your native culture.

When venturing outside that immediate environment, it is easy to inadvertently run afoul of local customs and cause offence. This can be interpreted as a lack of respect for the historically predominant local ethnic group, especially when that group is very sensitive about the fact that it is no longer predominant.

Promote Mutual Respect

Several Richmond groups sponsor intercultural activities such as a tour of various religious institutions. While these are well organized, they tend to attract the people who are least likely to exhibit ethnic prejudice.

It is much easier to accuse an entire ethnic group of disrespect or ethnic prejudice than it is to accuse an individual that one has met. However promoting ethnic interaction isn't easy, especially when there is a language barrier. One way is to get the different ethnic groups working together on joint projects and events.

Suggestion for a Joint Project

The project or event is best promoted as a fun activity for the whole family. The fact that it is designed to facilitate intercultural interaction should be de-emphasized. One idea is that the City of Richmond could sponsor an annual relay race on a major street:

  • Each segment of the race has a different type of participant racing: adult, adult over 60 years, teenager, child under 10 years, pushed wheelchair, auto with 4 occupants, etc.
  • Anyone can send in an application to participate, but they must specify an ethnic origin and languages spoken.
  • Race organizers place the participants in multi-ethnic teams making sure that there are participants who can translate.
  • Each team has a practice day supervised by a race organizer where they practice together and then have a group lunch.
  • Race day is an event for everyone in the City similar to a July 1st parade.

This idea obviously requires a lot of organization and a large number of volunteers. No doubt others can suggest equally effective activities that are less labour intensive.

Lessons Learned

It's all about mutual respect.
Respecting another culture doesn't require one to like that culture or even know very much about it. It requires a belief that members of that culture wish you well, do not intend to do you harm, and have a right to be different from you.

Intercultural interaction can be promoted indirectly.
People from different cultures are far more likely to interact effectively when they are engaged in an activity that interests them and does not have intercultural interaction as its primary purpose.

Other Richmond Issues

Non-farmers have been buying up Richmond farmland in order to build mega mansions that make it difficult to farm the land. Farmland prices are beyond what any farmer can afford.

Details and lessons learned here.

The Richmond housing crisis is the result of housing being used as an investment rather than shelter. Investment demand has driven up prices and reduced the stock of multi-bedroom rental housing.

Details and lessons learned here.

Rezoning of the vacant main floor space in the six waterfront Onni buildings in Steveston has dragged on for years becoming a major saga. Community opinion has been sharply divided.

Details and lessons learned here.