The Municipality of North Cowichan will consider retiring its coat of arms at this week’s council meeting.
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.
She said that when the coat of arms was adopted in 1989, it included two men, a logger and a farmer, but a pioneer woman was included to replace the farmer at a later date to represent the many nameless women who have played an important part of North Cowichan’s history.
“It can be reasonably argued that these pioneer women did, indeed, have names and that these pioneer women were predated by countless generations of Indigenous women who also had names and a lasting and continued impact on the culture and history of the area,” Floden said.
“In light of council and the municipality’s intentions around inclusion, and municipal direction related to Indigenous relations and steps toward reconciliation, the imagery and motto of the municipal arms does not appear aligned in spirit or sentiment.”
Floden said North Cowichan’s bylaw department is currently using a badge and vehicle branding that incorporates the municipal logo instead of the coat of arms.
She said a factor in the decision to use the logo in lieu of the coat of arms was the messaging the municipal coat of arms sent around a perception of gender inequality and a culture based on colonial settlement.
Floden added that the motto on the coat of arms, Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum (“No stepping back”) is also problematic in the era of reconciliation.
“The motto, together with the colonial elements and settler imagery of the coat of arms, makes no mention of the First Nations who inhabited the area at the time of first settler contact, and instead alludes to a ‘new’ era in which going back is not an option,” she said.
Flooded is recommending that council, at its meeting on Aug. 18, direct staff to retire the use of the coat of arms and remove, when timely and where feasible, all instances where the coat of arms is currently in use.
The City of Duncan decided last month to eliminate the position of town crier, which has been in place since 1995, for many of the same reasons outlined in Floden’s report.
In a press release, the city said that “as it moves forward in a post pandemic world, and with increased awareness of historical injustices, there is a need to re-evaluate the practices and symbolism of the past”, and one area Duncan’s council had re-evaluated is that of is that of city ambassador, which had been represented by a town crier.