B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers

‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’

Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith has apologized for changes in the decor of council chambers that included the removal of a portrait of Elizabeth II.

“I sincerely apologize for not communicating these changes at the time they began,” he said in a prepared statement read out during the Oct. 15 council meeting. “I didn’t want to appear as trying to score reconciliation points, and I intended a shorter transition period. We should all look forward to the Sidney [council chamber] being more inclusive of our history with the First Nations piece, the Queen’s Portrait, and the Sidney Town Crest hanging here in the coming weeks.”

While the statement did not give an exact date, McNeil-Smith had earlier talked about December.

RELATED: Sidney’s acting mayor says no one noticed removal of Queen’s portrait

McNeil-Smith said in the statement that it was his decision to remove the portrait. “I decided to temporarily take it down until the Sidney Town Crest and First Nations piece were ready to go up together with the Portrait,” he said.

McNeil-Smith said he never intended to permanently remove the portrait or replace it with a piece of First Nations art, adding he respects Canada’s status as a constitutional monarchy and a hereditary sovereign as its head of state.

“The current Queen’s Portrait represents this fact,” he said.

McNeil-Smith said in his statement that he visited many communities with crests hanging prominently in their council chambers. “I believe it would be most appropriate to have the Sidney Town Crest hang on the wall behind me,” he said.

(By way of background, McNeil-Smith said in his remarks that Sidney commissioned a crest in the late 1960s. A large carving hung in council chambers for many years until it became damaged. A small replica of an updated crest currently sits on his desk).

READ ALSO: Monarchist League of Canada calls Sidney’s removal of Queen’s portrait ‘lamentable’

“From where the audience is sitting it cannot be seen well or seen as what it is supposed to represent,” he said.

McNeil-Smith also talked about the importance of relations with local First Nations in noting that the WSÁNEĆ people have lived here for millennia.

“While we have nothing significant acknowledging Sidney in our Council Chamber, I also reflected that we have no acknowledgement of our connection to local First Nations,” he said. “Council approved an allocation for First Nations art in our council chamber and in early summer I decided to commission a First Nation’s piece.”

McNeil-Smith’s statement also addressed the question of why he did not leave the portrait behind him or move elsewhere until the town crest and First Nations piece were ready. “To be honest, giving the First Nations territorial acknowledgement felt empty with only the Portrait, which yes, represents our Constitutional Monarchy, but is also seen as a symbol of our colonial past,” he said, in pointing to the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which he says speaks of “decolonization and reconciliation.”

McNeil-Smith said one could have chosen to remove the portrait altogether. “I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history,” he said.

READ ALSO: North Saanich resident fears for pedestrians near neighbourhood roundabout


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Courtenay Hero Wall gives thanks to frontline workers

People wanting to thank frontline workers in the Comox Valley can add… Continue reading

Comox Valley Transition Society available for women who need help throughout pandemic

“We anticipate more women than usual will access our resources, but we do have plans in place.”

Clothing store in Courtenay closes doors after 23 years

Trousers owner Shelley Greenup says the time was right to say goodbye

Hip tradition sing-along planned again for Canadians April 2

The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois is encouraging all to join him virtually in a’Porch Session.’

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

Comox Valley grocers going extra mile during coronavirus

We have had numerous requests to post a fluid article directing consumers… Continue reading

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Tax collectors, auditors to help field ‘historic’ numbers of benefit-seeking callers

‘If you work for CRA, people think we are just there to take money from your pockets.’

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Park users concerned about tree cutting in Comox conservation area

During a recent visit to the Northeast Woods in Comox, a woman… Continue reading

Most Read