A national organization promoting Canada’s constitutional monarchy says the removal of Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait from council chambers represents a “lamentable action” that will “reflect badly” on British Columbia.
Robert Finch, who describes himself as the Dominion Chairman and President of the Monarchist League of Canada, made those comments in a letter to Sidney council. Council considered the letter as well as other correspondence on the subject during its Oct. 15 meeting.
It was the same meeting during which Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith apologized for changes in the decor of council chambers that included the removal of the portrait.
“I sincerely apologize for not communicating these changes at the time they began,” McNeil-Smith said in a prepared statement. “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.”
McNeil-Smith said in a 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 letter from Finch were among several that council received on the subject. Finch called the decision to remove the portrait “absurd” among other points and appeared to argue that removal would actually undermine reconciliation with First Nations.
While it is outside the league’s mandate to “intervene in the politics and controversies” surrounding First Nations’ issues, “we can all agree that reconciliation amongst all Canadians is a good thing,” said Finch. “To remove the portrait of a monarch who has fostered close ties with our First Peoples throughout her reign, and who has no responsibility for the politics, law-making and actions of elected officials is simply illogical,” he said.
But if Finch expressed disbelief, if not indignation, about Sidney’s decision, he also warned league members in British Columbia to temper their criticism.
“Monarchists need to exercise great restraint in our language, though not in expressing the strength of our convictions, as we are protesting this unjustified act, so that our indignation at a distortion of reality not be seen as an impediment to reconciliation, or any insensitivity to the many and tangled matters surrounding First Nations’ issues,” he said.
Others were less diplomatic in their critique.
“Are we not a Commonwealth country?” asked Robert Westlake. “Is the Queen not head of state? Removal of her picture from a place of prominence is disgusting. As for wasting taxpayer money on some vague so called [Aboriginal] art, you should certainly not place it in a superior position to the Queens portrait.”
But if the correspondence on the subject was largely critical, the (temporary) removal also received support.
“I’m sure you’ll hear lots of whining about removal of the Queen’s portrait from council chamber,” wrote Hilary Smith. “But I applaud the move. We are big boys [and] girls, a colony no longer.”
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