The Municipality of North Cowichan’s coast of arms has been given the boot.
Council decided at its meeting on Aug. 18 to drop the coat of arms, which was adopted in 1989, because of perceptions it raises around colonialism, racism and gender inequality.
In a report to council by Barb Floden, the municipality’s manager of communications and public engagement, Floden said the coat of arms, which features a white logger and a white pioneer woman standing next to North Cowichan’s shield, is not in harmony with the 94 calls to action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, nor council’s 2019-2022 strategic plan and its call for more inclusion in the community.
At the council meeting, Coun. Christopher Justice said he recalls the day in 2018 when this council was sworn in and a picture was taken with its members under the coat of arms with Cowichan Tribes’ Chief William Seymour.
“I was thinking how inappropriate the symbology (of the coat of arms) was to what we stood for as a council and our desire to improve our relations with First Nations,” he said.
“At the time, I thought it needed to be reimagined. But maybe the idea of a coat of arms itself is too steeped in the history of colonialism to be what it should be. Maybe we should consider commissioning something altogether new like a piece of art of some kind representing who we are and being sensitive to historic truths while celebrating our desire to move ahead as a diverse and inclusive community.”
Coun. Tek Manhas said he’d also like to see the coat of arms revamped into something more appropriate, but doesn’t want to see it completely eliminated.
“The coat of arms symbolizes who we are and where we are going, and I don’t want to see something like a mural replace it,” he said.
“I don’t want what we do with it to be seen as counter culture.”
Coun. Rosalie Sawrie, who is acting mayor while Al Siebring is on vacation, said she understands Manhas’s concerns about being perceived as counter culture, but the Latin on the coat of arms mean “No Stepping Back” and that makes her feel that North Cowichan is stuck in the past.
“It doesn’t resonate with me in terms of council’s strategic priorities around inclusion and gender quality,” she said.
“The woman of the coat of arms is described as nameless and in the kitchen and I take offence to that. It’s important that we’re perceived as a community that’s forward thinking, that our relations with our Indigenous neighbours are important, and the coat of arms doesn’t reflect that.”
Council voted to retire the coat of arms, with Manhas opposed.