The Town of Sidney is moving a photo of Queen Elizabeth II in the council chamber to make room for Indigenous art.
“We literally have no recognition for local First Nations anywhere in the town hall, we felt that was not appropriate given reconciliation,” said Peter Wainwright, a Sidney councillor.
The move came after council discussed the idea in a bid for reconciliation. They hope it will make Indigenous peoples feel more welcome in the chamber.
“We weren’t doing it as a public reconciliation [to prove a point], I think we believe this more about walking the walk and talking the talk…. the intent is not to exile the Queen from town hall, rather to give some prominent recognition to the W?SÁNE? people,” said Wainwright.
“The Queen’s portrait is clearly a colonial holdover, and we are a constitutional monarchy, but the monarch’s role in our government is really limited… it is important to recognize the monarch as the head of state, Queen of Canada, but I don’t think it needs to be the most prominent position in our council chambers.”
The move has reignited an important conversation about how municipalities can work towards reconciliation.
Eddy Charlie, a residential school survivor, spoke Monday at Victoria’s Orange Shirt Day event. He says there is still lots more work to be done.
“While that is a step towards possible healing, it’s not the entire answer that we seek, it creates anger in between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people, while it is potentially good it is not the answer we sought,” said Charlie.
Last year, the City of a Victoria made national headlines for removing a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from city hall.
Macdonald was the first prime minister and established the residential school system.
“I applaud Sidney’s efforts, and the efforts of all local governments across this country that are making efforts at reconciliation, the steps we need today to take we heard today towards reconciliation have to be real, they cant just be words, they can’t just be lip service,” said Lisa Helps, Victoria’s mayor.
Sidney hopes the move proves productive, not controversial. The photo of Queen Elizabeth II will be relocated within the chamber and the Indigenous art will debut in December.