Cheers for new mayor of Victoria .. some day this quirky country will stand up and surprise people, all by itself

Dec 16th, 2014 | By | Category: In Brief

Mayor Helps at her inauguration.

Some time ago now I was assigned the task of congratulating the new mayor of Victoria, BC,  Lisa Helps — for declining to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II during Mayor Helps’s inauguration the week before last.

Maybe just because I’m getting older and slower, in the midst of the very rapidly gathering holiday season, I am only managing to say “mission accomplished” just now.

In any case, congratulations also go to Mayor Helps’s three council colleagues who joined her refreshing refusal to carry on with an oath to a British monarch in an independent multicultural Canada : Marianne Alto, Ben Isitt, and Jeremy Loveday.

Marianne Alto (in red!) on the steps of Victoria City Hall.

The refusal has been so refreshing because it took place in Victoria  —  “in a city named for a monarch, where afternoon tea can still be had at the famed Fairmont Empress.” Not surprisingly, there was also some immediate quasi-hysterical pushback from local monarchists. And Mayor Helps finally felt it prudent to offer “qualified apology for not making oath to the Queen.”

The mayor, however, also made clear that her apology “for causing offence” to some Victoria residents did not mean she was actually going to swear allegiance to the Queen.

City Councillor Ben Isitt on the campaign trail 2014.

Her explanation went on : “I think what people want in a leader is someone who’s going to be willing to say, ‘hey, we disagree, and I’m really sorry this disagreement has called offence,’ at the same time, people want a mayor who’s going to be strong in her convictions.”

Mayor Helps did not want to swear allegiance to the Queen “partly because she only wanted to take the oath serving the people of Victoria, and partly to reaffirm her commitment to the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations” on Vancouver Island.

For some broader and deeper background on an at least closely related issue across the country, see Randall White’s “Canadianizing the Canadian citizenship oath — a still dangling rite of passage in the home and native land,” posted on this site just this past September.

Lauren O’Neil ... a small town girl at heart.

Meanwhile, back in the darkest depths of anglophone Central Canada, I cannot resist noting that I recently quite accidentally bumped into a summer 2013 Lina Abascal interview with the always intriguing Lauren O’Neil.

Some may remember the counterweights editors on Ms O’Neil just this past August : “We’ve admired Lauren O’Neil ever since we bumped into her student think-piece on Harold Innis and the Owl of Minerva. (See ‘Minerva’s owl spreads its wings on Stephen Harper’s last gasp of the British monarchy in Canada,’ February 18, 2011.)”  And as also noted this past August : “More recently Ms  O’Neil has happily found a berth on the CBC News website.”

The Lina Abascal summer 2013 interview taught me some new and intriguing things about Lauren O’Neil. And I end here with some of her wisdom, on subjects that are no doubt also closely related to the struggles of Mayor Helps in Victoria : “For the most part [Ms O’Neil told Ms Abascal] Canadians are very polite and inherently sort of funny. Quirky. Our humour is part of our national identity, and I think growing up with the kind of weird tv shows and cultural programming I did shaped who I am. I may live in Toronto (which is Canada’s largest and, ironically, least Canadian-acting city) but I am a small town girl at heart … Whenever I get the chance, I drive home to my parents’ house in Chatham for a long weekend and do NOTHING but eat my mom’s food and watch their zillion TV channels.”

So … in any case again, congratulations and very best Season’s Greetings to all of  Lina Abascal, Lauren O’Neil, Marianne Alto, Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday, and the new mayor of Victoria, BC, Lisa Helps! Some day this quirky country will stand up and surprise a lot of people, all by itself.
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